Specialty bar Della Viti to fill Iowans’ glasses in a new way


Photo: Emily Harmon/Iowa State Daily

Della Viti is bringing new flavor to Ames in two weeks. Della Viti is a wine establishment featuring 12 wine stations. The customer chooses the wine, and the station pours the selection.

Cristobal Matibag

A veteran of Ames’ food-and-beverage trade is

banking on the city’s thirst for two things: wine and elegance. As

owner and manager of Della Viti, a wine bar set to open this month

at 323 Main St., Gerald Caligiuri will aim to offer both.

Caligiuri, whose previous employers include

Olde Main Brewing

Company, Summerfields and The Corner Pocket, expects his new

venture to fulfill demands unmet by Ames’ current nightlife


“There’s kind of a niche for something other

than a Campustown-style bar,” Caligiuri said.

More than just the location of Della Viti —

which takes its name from the Italian phrase meaning “of the vine”

— will set it apart from the bars that line Welch Avenue and

Lincoln Way. He plans to furnish the bar comfortably, favoring

leather-upholstered couches, love seats and coffee tables over bar

stools and fixed booths. He also plans to serve traditional wine

complements like cheese, fruit platters and crackers, as well as

premium beer and spirits.

“It’s like a coffee shop with wine,” he said.

“It’s very relaxed.”

Della Viti will further distinguish itself by

being the first Iowa business to use a computerized vending system

called a <a href=


which automates some stages of wine service.

Caligiuri said customers, upon presenting IDs

to a Della Viti employee, would be issued WineStation cards that

they could program with an amount of their choice and use to

dispense any of the wines available.

The WineStation at Della Viti will have 12

units, each accommodating four different bottles. At these units,

patrons will be able to fill their glasses with amounts ranging

from a mouthful to a full glass.

“In many ways, it’s a self-serve wine bar,”

Caligiuri said.

Jayne Portnoy, vice president of marketing and

brand strategy for WineStation manfacturer <a href=

“http://www.napatechnology.com/”>Napa Technology, said the

machines allow vendors to hold off good wine’s greatest

foes — excessive oxidation and drastic temperature change.

Portnoy also said the technology freed them to

sell “higher-priced, finer wines by the glass and be able to

preserve them and temperature control them for 60 days.”

“As an operator, you’re going to pour every

last drop of that bottle of wine,” she added.  

Blair Brewer, owner and namesake of the Ames

bar Brewer’s, said he was curious to see how customers would feel

about machines vending wine by the glass.

“There’s a lot of romance to serving wine, and

tableside service of specifically a bottle,” Brewer said.

“Definitely that’s taken out of the picture.”

Brewer questioned the appeal of such an

approach to older drinkers but said it might attract the business

of younger ones. 

“In a younger demographic — say a 21- to

28-year-old consumer — it may be OK,” he said. “For me it’s a

little impersonal, but I can see the niche.”

Caligiuri plans to reserve one WineStation

unit for a continually changing selection of Iowa-grown-and-bottled

wines. Matt Nissen, manager and winemaker at <a href=

“http://www.prairiemoonwinery.com/”>Prairie Moon Winery in

Ames, sees this as a potential boon to vintners in the state.

“It could be a good way to get people to try

Iowa wines that usually don’t,” Nissen said.

Chris Hudnall, co-owner of <a href=

“http://snushillwine.com/”>Snus Hill Winery in Madrid, Iowa,

said he would welcome the success of a bar like Della Viti but did

not quite see the advantage of leaving so many facets of wine

service to machines.

“You have to have staff there anyway to

monitor consumption,” Hudnall said. “I guess I just don’t see the

need in a machine to dispense the wines.”

Though they’d made no arrangements to supply

Della Viti, both Nissen and Hudnall said they’d happily do so.

“It seems like an interesting concept, and I’d

love to participate,” Hudnall said.

Caligiuri expects his bar to do more than just

interest customers. He said it would offer them an unprecedented

range of wine choices.

“The machines allow us the flexibility, at a

moment’s notice, to change what’s on the system,” he said. “There

really are none that are going to be like this in Ames.”