It’s immediately apparent upon walking into the La Sorella wine bar that it’s unlike any other such venue Brownwood has ever seen.   

There is not, for starters, any countertop with stools facing a large display of various spirits. There are no flat-screen televisions or laminated menus, and the music trends soft and nostalgic rather than deafening and boisterous. The walls are decorated not with neon beer lights but with prints and canvases, most depicting animals or clever sayings like, “It’s not drinking alone if the dog is home.”   

And it’s all arranged in a former Austin Ave. rental house that, with its loose collection of comfy chairs and furnishings, still looks very much like a house. It is, essentially, a perfect distillation of Leona Cleveland’s favorite things.   

“Dogs and wine — those are my two passions in life,” she said.   

Cleveland, a former veterinarian technician, also began the Canines, Cats and Cabernet and Spay-ghetti fundraisers that benefit the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center. She said she originally hoped to open a dog kennel before exploring the possibility of a wine bar. It was her “wine sisters” that first inspired the idea.   

“A bunch of my friends, my wine sisters, would always get together on Wednesday nights for wine,” Cleveland said. “We always thought, we just wish there was somewhere to go that was relaxing.”   

La Sorella, which means “sister” in Italian, is designed to be exactly that — relaxing and informal, with three rooms of chairs and small tables creating an open, conversational space. A large chalkboard menu announces the offerings in the main living room by the front door, listing the beer, wine and finger food selections for the evening.    

Cleveland said she tries to keep a diverse selection on hand. She offers white, red and sweet wines, domestic and imported beers and foods like charcuterie boards and tortellini pasta. “My menu is going to change. Basically, I’m always going to have a charcuterie board, but every time I order it’s going to be different meats, different cheeses, different sweets. That sort of thing.   

“I like to change my wine, too. I don’t like to drink the same wine over and over again, so it’ll change,” she said.   

Cleveland’s love for wine stems from her time spent living with an Italian family in school. She’s “not a wine snob,” she said, but someone who enjoys trying new things. “The wine that I enjoy does not have to be $100 a glass,” Cleveland said. “I don’t care what you drink, be it sweet, white or red, as long as you enjoy it. That’s what wine is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be enjoyed among friends.”   

Cleveland’s bar has only been open for a couple of weeks, and she said she will continue to experiment and improve. Cleveland plans to fence the back yard space for the cooler months and host groups and events in the semi-private back room.   

On the weekend, she said, La Sorella will serve mimosa specials and she hopes eventually to open a mimosa bar as well.   

La Sorella opens at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It is located at 2803 Austin Ave. in Brownwood.