It seems like with all the great wineries and vineyards in the Willamette Valley, that there'd be more than a couple of wine shops in a city the size of Salem. While small towns like Dundee have a wine bar or tasting room on every corner, Salem seems to get overlooked. Tim Wallace and Debbie Reaves decided to change that, and recently opened up a new wine shop and bar at 1130 Royvonne Ave. in South Salem called Papa Di Vino. My first impression of the location was that it just wouldn't work. The parking lot is odd with a drive-thru coffee stand in the middle, and the neighbors are a quick-mart, Fresh Salad Express, and a European grocery. It just seemed to be a weird spot for a wine bar. But, after several very pleasant and friendly visits, I'm inclined to believe that Tim and Debbie could make their wine bar work wherever it landed.
The wine selection isn't overwhelming. You won't wander for hours, walking down aisles, reading labels, and trying to decide which bottle of pinot noir is going to work best with your New York Steak. However, Tim or Debbie will stand there with you, and help you pick out a really good bottle that you are guaranteed to enjoy. They'll show you the wines that they personally like, and the ones that they feel are the best wine for your buck. They'll take the time to educate you about wine and the wine-making process, and they do it in a language that anyone can understand. When you're done, you'll feel like you're buying wine from a friend.
Since this is a wine shop, wine and atmosphere take precedence over food. The light appetizer menu has quality snacks that pair well with wine -- bread, meats, olives, cheese, bruschetta -- all for about $5-8 per appetizer. If you're really hungry, this menu is not for you. I recommend eating a meal before you go, or making this an appetizer stop before dinner. I would like to see something of more substance on the menu, for example, some hearty desserts, or specific dessert/wine pairings... mmmm, cheesecake and port.
Their calendar stays relatively full -- on Thursdays, Papa Di Vino has a 5 for $5 deal where guests can taste 5 wines for $5, and most Fridays and Saturdays there's an event of some sort, usually a tasting from a specific winery, or a musical guest. They've got several "Last Minute" bands (scheduled at the last minute) who come in and play from time to time. Unless you go on an off-night, the place stays pretty busy. I haven't been there when there's music, but I hear it's a hoot.