There’s always wine at a Portuguese dining table.
That’s how Andre Santos and Michelle Rosa start to explain the name and purpose of Vinhos — the married couple’s new wine lounge and tapas destination in Downtown Merced.
Vinhos, located at 427 W. Main Street, opened last week with the sounds of cheers, laughter, jazz music and good times as the fine wine poured and poured into elegant glasses.
Santos and Rosa both grew up in the Portuguese Azores, a small cluster of islands located west of mainland Portugal, in the mid-Atlantic. Rosa was born in San Jose, California, and moved to the Azores when she was just nine years old. She stayed on the island for 26 years, studying, working as a teacher, and even opening up her own restaurant in the same place Santos was born, Pico Island. The couple have been residents of Merced since 2008, and are now dedicated to bringing a taste of their Portuguese culture to the city.
“We wanted to bring a little bit about what we know and what we have experienced to Merced,” Rosa explained. “There are a lot of things in our past that brought this all together. We have always wanted to have our own social place with music, food and wine. As we got older, we began appreciating wine more and more. We are also big foodies, and we love to travel.”
Vinhos is a wine bar first before anything else. Tapas are appetizers or small portions of food in Spanish cuisine. They are served with wine as an option of food, but are not necessary to enjoy the experience.
“It’s not really a restaurant,” Rosa explained. “The tapas pair with the wine, but not the other way around.”
The menu will feature a heavy influence on Mediterranean Cuisine including plates that are French, Italian, Greek, some Moroccan and even Spanish.
“Portuguese is the biggest influence on our menu but we want to cover the Mediterranean as much as we can,” she said.
Pica Pau, Feijoada de Marisco, Little Lamb Slider, Linguicia Bites, Crostine de Mare, and Poire Au Vin, are just a couple names off of their menu.
“Everything is amazing,” said Christina Silveira, an assistant in the kitchen.
The culinary team was pumped as they prepared and warmed baguettes for the grand opening event.
“We spent about a month training and it’s been great!” said Eunice Pinto, a hostess at the venue, as the team awaited the doors to finally open.
“There is nothing like this around here,” said Shelly Chavez, a server and bartender.
Bartender and server Nayeli Munoz added, “This is something new for Merced — being able to be a part of something like this, and to get to watch it grow is really exciting.”
Santos said the wine lounge was planned for nearly three years before opening night.
“We are excited to finally have this ready for Merced,” he said. “To have something that Mercadians are proud of.”
For the month of April, Vinhos will be open Thursday through Sunday. Thursday the restaurant is open from 4 p.m. through 10 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. through midnight; and on the weekends the lounge will be open for brunch, 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.
“We have fabulous brunch boards people can choose from with mimosas to go along with it.” Santos said. “We really want to give customers the opportunity to pair their wine with any food — any time of the day.”
There is always a reason to relax and celebrate, the couple emphasized.
For more information, you can reach out to Vinhos by phone at (209) 354-4365 or by email at [email protected].