The owners of R Wine Cellar decided to locate their urban winery in the Strip District in order to take advantage of the area’s resurgence with its eclectic mix of shops, eateries and bars.

It turned out to be a good decision. So in November, the Russell family of Mt. Lebanon opened Cellar on Penn, a basement bar in the former Casa Reyna Ristorante Mexicano at the corner of 21st Street and Penn Avenue.

The new spot is a block away from the winery’s Smallman Street production facility, where patrons can sample products and purchase bottles and cases seven days a week.

“The demographics of the Strip are changing; more people are living here and looking for a place to spend time,” says Connor Russell, who runs the business with his parents, Kathy and Steve. “We wanted a larger space to sell wine by the glass and provide the services we can’t do at the winery itself.”

Cellar on Penn is open Thursday through Sunday and can accommodate up to 84 people. There are 16 of the family’s brand wines (and one rotating guest red) available by the glass, bottle or flight, as well as draft beers and specialty cocktails.

Connor Russell loves experimenting with different recipes, mixing his family’s vino with locally made spirits.

There’s a Mimosa and other sparkling beverages, such as the French 75 made with RWC Bubbly, Wigle Barrel-Rested Gin, simple syrup and lemon. Strip Tea is a still cocktail combining RWC Diamond, Kingfly Spirits vodka, ginger syrup and Earl Grey tea.

Guests also can snack while sipping.

Cellar on Penn’s cook, Romeo Kihumbu, creates shareable plates, bruschetta, dips, salads and crepes.

Photo courtesy of Cellar on Penn.

Pair a glass of Fiona Peach, a sweet white wine with a Madeleine Platter of French butter pastries and a variety of whipped creams, mixed berries and bananas. Dive into a Charcuterie Tray as you enjoy the house Carménère.

Kihumbu is as much of a fan of the Russells’ wine as they are of his cooking.

A native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was one of R Wine Cellar’s first customers when it opened in 2012.

The Russells now consider him family and are proud supporters of his nonprofit organization, Foundation Bon Samaritan. The charity builds water wells close to schools and empowers African youth through education and mentorship.

Kathy Russell hopes Cellar on Penn will be the site of various fundraising events, meetings, pop-up dinners and celebrations fueled by her family’s hand-crafted wines. She’s happy to be in the heart of the bustling Strip District.

“We opened the winery here because we love this neighborhood,” she says. “It’s been fun watching everything that’s happening.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.