Since a 2005 Gallup poll showed that Americans prefer wine to beer, the noble grape has been on the rise, jumping to the dinner table ahead of hops in many bibulous households. Change isn't a bad thing, not even in auld Kansas City. Just look at the growth downtown, where the city's best new pinot peddler opened shop last year. Since First Friday in August 2006, the Crossroads' crafty, swanky Cellar Rat has dug out a warm nest in KC's palate. The place offers an ever-changing assortment of 800 wines, 70 percent of which cost less than $20 a bottle. Then there's the beer selection, which regularly includes O'Fallon, Warsteiner and Stella Artois. Under a high, wooden ceiling that looks like the inside of a barrel, the store's friendly employees guide aspiring oenophiles in tastings, opening the once-inaccessible gates of wine appreciation to the masses — and then stuffing them full of artisan cheeses. Cellar Rat also hosts wine classes, such as Wine Essentials, a sort of Wine 101 held the first and third Tuesday of the month. Even if it's Monday night and time for another spaghetti casserole, chances are the folks at the Rat will have just gotten in a delightful, inexpensive Argentine red that'll go great with a totally average American meal.