When Scott Evans decided to open a wine bar, his idea was to keep the atmosphere low-key.
“I wanted it to be a super-casual, neighborhood-y, really fun place,” said Evans, who is known for launching such upscale Salt Lake City restaurants as Pago and Finca. “My goal is to make it as comfortable and casual as possible, with a really good wine list.”
That’s the idea behind Casot (pronounced cass-AUGHT), a wine bar Evans recently opened in the 15th & 15th neighborhood on Salt Lake City’s east side.
“What I really want to do is allow people to taste some of the coolest, most interesting wines in the world, and not have to commit to super high margins,” Evans said. That’s why the higher-end wines are sold by the glass — so a customer doesn’t have to commit to buying a full bottle.
A ‘super-casual’ wine bar
Name • Casot
Address • 1508 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City.
Phone number • 801-441-2873
Website • casotwinework.com
Hours • Open Sunday through Thursday, 5-11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight.
“You can come in and buy a $5 Carlsberg beer and have a chill experience, and not feel like you have to buy a $13 glass of wine, but the next table might share a $150 bottle of wine. And they can co-exist in the same space,” Evans said.
So far, that approach has worked to attract a wide mix of people. On really busy nights — there have been times when Casot is so packed, they have had to turn people away — the crowd ranges in age from 20s to 60s, often including a group of neighbors with a standing date who play board games together.
That community feeling is in keeping with Evans’ inspiration for Casot. The name comes from Italy’s Piedmont region, for the little stone building at the center of every vineyard. The casot is a storage space for tools, and it’s where workers gather for lunch, to get out of the sun or rain, or to gather and talk.
Evans encountered those buildings about seven years ago, when he was touring vineyards.
“What I loved about that idea was it was a shelter among the vines, a place to gather and enjoy company and break bread,” he said. “It just stuck with me, and I thought, ‘I’m going to name something after this at some point.’”
It’s not just the name that’s been in storage for a few years, waiting for its right place and right time.
On the wall, Evans has mounted two 110-year-old grenache gris vines from the vineyards of Gibson Ranch in Mendocino, Calif. — a thank-you gift from years ago from a winemaker friend. Evans got the century-old bar from the late Utah Jazz center and restaurateur Mark Eaton, who imported it from Milan for a restaurant project that didn’t come to fruition.
“When I saw it, I said, ‘Don’t sell this — I’ll find a home for it!’” Evans said.
The building, formerly a dog wash, was stripped to the studs and has new floors, skylights, and a garage door that, come spring, will roll open for seating on the 14-seat patio out front.
The wine list focuses on small family producers of natural wines who use organic or biodynamic farming and no chemicals, with the exception of a tiny bit of sulfur as a preservative, depending on the grape and the region.
“And in the cellar, when you actually make the wine, it’s generally native yeast fermentation, rather than commercial yeast,” Evans explained.
Because a small vineyard may sell only 200 bottles a year, Casot’s wine list, which is about 50 or so deep, changes constantly and features wines not served anywhere else in Utah.
The types of wine Casot serves also set it apart: Two styles of sparkling wines — Méthode Champenoise, borrowing the method traditionally used in France’s Champagne region, and the “naturally sparkling” Pétillant Natural, or “pét-nats” — as well as orange wines (white wines fermented with the grape skin still in the juice) and chilled reds. “That’s a relatively new category,” Evans said. “It’s light reds that have low tannins, intended to be drunk at cooler temperatures.”
Casot serves appetizers, including house-cured olives, Marcona almonds, and an artisan cheese plate. Customers also can order from Finca’s full menu and bring it into the bar. (Finca is just across the street.)
“We’re also working on a secret menu that’s only available here, but cooked out of Finca. So we’ll have four or five little Casot-specific things that you can order online through Finca,” Evans says. “Just for fun.”
Once the wine bar settles into the neighborhood, Evans said, Casot will offer easygoing educational tastings, with wines paired with cheeses and snacks.
“We might have a sparkling wine class, and taste five different sparkling wines from different regions of the world, talk about how they’re produced, that kind of stuff,” Evans said. “It will be informative, not a lecture — just a way to compare and contrast things.”
Evans also is hoping to expand the bar’s hours, possibly including weekend days with brunch.
“But one thing at a time,” he said. “Let’s see how people are using the space, and how they want to use the space over time, and we’ll grow into that.”
Valentine’s Day at Casot
Casot doesn’t ever take reservations — not even for Valentine’s Day — so it’s first-come, first-served.
Here’s what they’re offering on Monday, February 14:
• Pago Chocolate Truffles paired with Vieira de Sousa 2017 Vintage Port, $25
• Finca Churros and Marenco “Brachetto D’Acqui, $20
Dessert wines by the glass:
• Marenco Brachetto D’Acqui, 3 oz: $7 5oz: $12
• Vieira de Sousa 2017 Vintage Port, Douro, Portugal, 3oz: $12
Reserve pairing :
• *Quintarelli “A Roberto” ‘07 Recioto de Valpolicella, Italy, 2oz: $30, 4oz: $60
This wine has never been served by the glass in Utah, and Giuseppe Quintarelli’s wines are almost impossible to purchase. As Casot’s menu notes, this wine “is made in a traditional manner called ‘appassimento’ where grapes are air dried on mats to increase concentration and sweetness prior to pressing and fermentation. The wine is only bottled in exceptional years, with 2007 being the last vintage bottled.”