By Rick Riozza

Almost everyone in the valley has seen the large stand-alone Mediterranean-style building on the north side of Interstate 10 off of Cook Avenue in Palm Desert. Sometimes mistaken for a hotel, it is The Classic Club owned by the Berger Foundation and houses the celebrated golf club where play is on its renowned Arnold Palmer designed course. And what every wine lover in town should know is that the Bellatrix Restaurant and Wine Bar showcases one of the best line-ups of wine by the glass—along with really exciting pours.

I know—you’re asking what’s so exciting about “pours”. Well—this is what the Bellatrix Wine Bar has over all of the other wine bars in our valley: It allows everyone to sample as much wine as they wish! And even those world class, premium, exclusive-type wines that we can only read about—yes, we can have as little or as much as we like. This is possible because they have a “magic” wine machine that can divvy out whatever portion of great wine you wish to enjoy.

Even though we dream about drinking down a five-star bottle of wine, reality hits us and maybe we can more reasonably afford just a large or small glass of it, or maybe, sometimes we simply wish to taste an ounce or so, to experience what the wine is all about, and thereafter decide whether or not to enjoy the full glass or the whole bottle.

All of this gets the wine mind going. Imagine all of the variable ways to enjoy this Bellatrix Wine Bar. For instance, if there are a few of us out—we can do a fun wine tasting, where we all order just a one ounce pour of the same wine and everyone gets to discuss it and “vote”—so to speak. This allows everyone to get comfortable describing the wine and catching on to other people’s descriptions.

Along the same lines, we can order—let’s say, three one ounce pours of the same varietal so we can compare the individual winemaker’s product. Like three Cabernet Sauvignons—a couple from Napa Valley and one from Sonoma. So many ways to play this wine game. And of course, if we need to savor the wine a little more—we’ll order some more, maybe a 2 ½ ounce or 5 ounce pour. And if we think we’ve found the one to settle in with for the evening—perhaps we’ll just grab a bottle.

And the news only to gets better because aside from enjoying time at the beautiful and embellished wine bar, we can also delight in the great dining here at the adjoining Bellatrix Restaurant where we take pleasure in the same pouring choices.

Famed Executive Chef Gerald Burnett is right on point when it comes to featuring local and regional seasonal ingredients on the menu. He’s the artist in the kitchen when it comes to the perfectly prepared seafood as with his Granola Crusted Salmon with Black Mission Fig Gastrique and Tarragon Yogurt Sauce, Sesame Crusted Ahi, and filler-free Lump Crab Cakes with Cucumber-Sesame Salad with sweet Thai reduction.

Again—these pouring options work great in a dining situation where both a red and a white are desired. Once I saw the menu, I wasn’t going to miss out on the seafood. And the salmon, ahi, and crab cakes were screaming out for a glass of their Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc. But all day, my taste buds were craving a nice fat glass of red wine! Easy—I simply enjoyed a smaller pour with my appetizers and had plenty of room for my large glass of white. And maybe I’ll finish with a small glass of Pinot Noir for dessert. So there!—I’ve enjoyed three glasses wine, maintaining a fun sensibility throughout without the fullness or the “dullness”.

And as to my earlier comment that Bellatrix owns and operates a “magical wine machine”—don’t start worrying about things or question reality or your faith. It really is a machine; and it’s one of my bffs.

The wine selections are what’s trending, always reviewed, and considered by the cheerful wine director, Ruan Krugel and his knowledgeable staff to provide us vino lovers with some of the best stuff out there—and some lesser priced wines which the smart quaffer should know about.

Currently the “Wines by the Ounce(s)” list include, among others: Paul Hobb’s 2009 “Crossbarn” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2010 Rombauer ZinfandelNapa Valley, 2007 Silver Oak Cabernet SauvignonAlexander Valley, 2010 ContinuumCabernet SauvignonNapa Valley, and consider the 2010 Bogle Phamtom Red Blend Lodi & Amador where a large 5 oz. glass is only $6.50. Just go ahead and have a great time here! Cheers!

I recommend going on line at www.classicclubgolf.comto check out their outstanding wine-dinners scheduled for this season. A full selection of specialty cocktails and beers are also available, as well as an appetizing bar menu.

Open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. and dinner Tuesday through Saturday at 5 p.m.

Bellatrix at the Classic Club
75200 Classic Club Boulevard, Palm Desert, CA 92211 

By the way—Bellatrix Restaurant is part of the Wine Vault of the Desert’sCorkage Fee Waiver Program. In other words, being a member of the Wine Vault, you can freely bring in your own bottle to enjoy at dinner.

For you wine enthusiasts having a case or two, or twenty, or two hundred!  keeping wine in pristine condition is always a main consideration. ThereforeI always recommend the Wine Vault of the Desert to all my wine friends. Things are heating up so go on to their website and acquaint yourself to all of the services and benefits that await you and your wine!