The best new wine stores invite you in to stay awhile
Bibi Ji, a combination restaurant and bottle shop, is a partnership between Rajat Parr, one of the country’s best-known sommeliers, and Australian-born chef Jessi Singh. It has quickly joined the list of Santa Barbara’s most intriguing culinary destinations. Singh’s menu is joyously, fiendishly eclectic, anchored by Indian street-food snacks and “unauthentic” dishes that take advantage of Santa Barbara’s abundant seafood offerings, like uni-smothered biryani rice and tandoor-cooked spot prawns. Parr’s wine list is short but wide-ranging, focused on crunchy, gluggable wines, most of them local or French, though, for chef, he carries a compelling selection of Australian wines, like Blind Corner’s 2017 Margaret River Semillon–Sauvignon Blanc. All of the wines are available for takeout, or you can uncork anything on the shelf with your meal for an additional $20.
Elise Loehr and Wendy Burch, who have run the French bistro Table 3 for almost eight years, opened the Wine Market in late 2017. The small, shotgun space next to the restaurant gives them the chance to broaden their mostly French list, ranging into Germany for Pfalz rosés, the Canary Islands for listán and Italy for Montepulciano from Simone Capecci. Stop in before dinner to see what they are pouring; if you spot a bottle you’d like to drink at the restaurant, corkage is just $10. A stellar selection of half bottles, about 25 strong, stands out, as does the store’s assortment of vintage stemware and silver-plated ice buckets and platters, which Burch has collected or pulled from estate sales and auctions.
Sandwiched between Pancito & Lefty, a mezcal-heavy taco joint, and Leon’s Oyster Shop, an auto body shop turned oyster-and-fried-chicken mecca with cheap beer and grower Champagne, you’ll find King Street’s newest gem, Graft. Owners Femi Oyediran and Miles White met on the team at Charleston Grill; Oyediran had clocked nearly a decade at the restaurant and became one of seven advanced sommeliers in South Carolina; meanwhile, White went off to work harvests in Oregon and Western Australia and spent a year working the floor at The Modern in NYC. At Graft, they’ve lined two walls with 220 selections of some of their favorite bottles—Bruno Duchêne Collioure, Etna Rosso from Tenuta delle Terre Nere, pinot from Becker Family in Germany’s Pfalz as well as Oregon’s Antica Terra. And if you want to stay awhile, $15 corkage will get you a comfy seat, a Gabriel-Glas for your wine and the chance to chat with the resident somms. Bonus: Oyediran is fanatical when it comes to music (check the décor and neon “It was all a dream” sign) and will bump some live albums at night.
Tucked into an office tower in Boston’s Financial District, Common Vines packs a lot into less than 900 square feet. A marble counter, used for daily tastings, dominates the space, backed by a couch and a children’s nook. Floor-to-ceiling racks line the walls, with 450 selections especially strong in smart finds in the $15-to-$25 range, like Gen del Alma’s Ji Ji Ji, a blend of pinot and malbec from Mendoza, at $17. There are also plenty of off-the-beaten-track finds like Kiralyudvar’s dry furmint from Tokaj in Hungary, and Bisson’s Marea from Liguria’s Cinque Terre. The shop is run by Jennifer Scott and Chris Hsi, who live across the street with their three children; they also run Taste Wine Bar & Kitchen around the corner form the store, where you can taste the wines over a plate of charcuterie and cheese before you commit to buying a bottle.
It’s just a wine shop, albeit a beautiful one, with high ceilings and a honeycomb of pinewood cubbyholes where the wines rest protected from all the natural light. But your eyes will inevitably stray to the bustling bar, where John Stanley has assembled a crack collection of wine and sake cocktails and seductive glass pours and flights, from “French Whites” to “A Study in Orange.” You can also nosh on conservas, charcuterie, cheeses and snacks. Plus, anything in the shop can be opened in the bar for a $4 corkage fee, making it one of the better wine deals on the West Side.
Melissa Winkler was traveling through Europe studying ceramics when she took an introductory wine class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris on a whim. She’s since spent more time exploring clay in soils than sculpting it, working in retail while studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She opened Winkler & Samuels last summer in a 1901 paper-box factory in downtown Buffalo, making the most of the industrial space, with its exposed ductwork and bare brick, to create an airy gallery for her 700-plus selections. Her tastes run toward the Old World, with classics like Giacomo Conterno Barolo alongside new names like Cap ô Sud, an old-vine carignan from Beaujolais master Jean-Louis Dutraive. Her selection of new-wave Californians is locally unmatched, and includes bottles like Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola from Mendocino, Dirty & Rowdy’s Skinner Stoney Creek Mourvedre, and Duke & Ella, an unusual blend of riesling and viognier from Amplify Wines in Santa Barbara. Drop by on Fridays to see what she’s pouring, or sign up for one of her frequent wine classes.