Ready for a rose? Maybe a Malbec? Or perhaps a pinot noir? Sarah Rivera and her new downtown Cedar Rapids business Della Viti Wine Lounge have you covered.

Whether customers knows exactly what kind of wine they’re looking for or want to try different things, Rivera is ready to help. She and her husband, Scott, opened Della Viti on May 23 near the corner of First Avenue SE and Second Street SE.

They wanted to offer a different bar experience for downtown, where sports bars abound.

“We thought this was something Cedar Rapids could use,” Rivera said. “We would go to shows at Theatre Cedar Rapids or the Paramount and just wanted someplace to sit and relax.”

Their friend Gerald Caligiuri opened the first Della Viti in Ames in 2012 and now has a location in Des Moines. The Riveras are licensing the Della Viti name from him but own the Cedar Rapids location themselves.

Scott was active duty in the Navy for 20 years while Sarah was a full-time mom. They moved several times, and ended up in Cedar Rapids when he retired from the Navy and took at job at Rockwell Collins. The timing seemed right for her to open the business.

“Through all our travels, we liked to go to wine tastings and developed a greater appreciation of wines,” she said. “I decided to jump in with both feet.”

In a way, the wine bar takes the building back to earlier roots. Local historian Mark Stoffer Hunter told Rivera that in the 1920s it was a speak-easy, a cigar and soda store that served covert extra products in the back. More recently it was office space, but renovations uncovered brick walls, a tin ceiling in the back of the room and other historic touches.

Now comfortable chairs grouped around small tables fill the space, with wine bottle pouring stations lining the walls. Along with wine, the bar serves craft beer and liquor and a few snacks, including meat and cheese, hummus and chocolate plates.

“We want this to feel like an extension of our living room, or other people’s living rooms, where they can just sit and relax and enjoy time with their friends,” Rivera said.

The pouring stations are self-service, designed to facilitate sampling. When guests arrive, they check in and put money on a card that can be swiped at each station for the wine they want. Wine can be poured in 1-ounce taster sizes, half glasses or full glasses.

“You can spend your whole night trying things or decide, ‘Oh, I really like that,’ and have a full glass,” Rivera said. “Our tagline is taste, explore, relax.”

The system nitrogen seals the bottles after each pour to preserve the wine longer. That means there is little waste and Rivera can have more kinds of bottles available and open at any given time without worrying she’ll have to pour out a lot of product.

Tasting notes are provided at each bottle station, and she said staff are happy to discuss wines with customers — the self-serve system doesn’t mean people who come in to learn about wine will be left to their own devices. Rather, Rivera hopes the system allows customers to feel free to try different things. 

“We want the experience to be a certain level of education if the patron wants it,” she said.


DRINK up!
WHERE: 203 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday
DETAILS: (319) 409-7421, dellaviticr.com