We are Now Open at 100 Hanover!

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We are Now Open at 100 Hanover!

City Vino opened on May 5th, 2017, which was a First Friday. The 810 Caroline building was one of the stops for the trolley shuttle, bringing people into the building. What better fun than to have a sip of wine and be able to look through the City Vino glass hall windows at the art in the hallway? We sampled Celler de Capçanes Mas Donis Rosat from Montsant, Spain, that night. The beautiful label and the beautiful art in the hallway seemed to us a perfect pairing.

I have been asked how I began my wine journey. Like most people, we really did have less than a basic understating of wine. I had not known anything beyond what we found at the grocery store. Scott and I moved to Virgina 25 years ago, we met friends from church who enjoyed wine and took us up to Linden Winery, one of their favorite wineries in the state. Our son was a little kid, and going to wineries with a child was not as favored as it is now, but a seed was planted.

As our son entered his senior year of high school, Scott and I started looking at what it would be like to be empty nesters. We had our son immediately after marriage, meaning we didn’t have much time to be partners before being parents. So, the question became, "Who are you, and what would we like to do together?"

Around that time, Wegmans had just opened. As you walked in, you were greeted by the produce department. Beyond that was a pergola set between the produce and the cheese department, with a few high-top tables and a wine bar. On Thursday nights, we would have date nights at Wegmans, enjoying half glasses of wine and food pairings. The managers of our Fredericksburg Wegmans thought it prudent to have a trained wine staff who studied the wines for the weekend tasting. Our Wegmans pioneered this, and it spread to other Wegmans in northern Virginia for a while. The staff would tell us about the regions, climate, topography, and family history of each wine. It was fascinating, and we had a ball.

There was a pretty consistent group that came on Thursday nights, and we have remained friends with many of them. Two outcomes emerged from this experience. First, Scott and I were introduced to the Fredericksburg Wine Society, which coordinated wine pairing dinners with local restaurants. There, we learned more about the art of how flavors fit together. Secondly, we were introduced to the King George Wine Society, a chapter of the American Wine Society (AWS), which takes an educational approach to wine exploration.

I am an entrepreneur at heart and have started several home-based businesses over the years. As our son got older, I also dabbled in corporate life, but often found myself questioning why things were done a particular way, which sometimes got me into trouble. I had to ask myself what I was passionate about that could be more fruitful.

There was actually a couple wine bottle shops in the Fredericksburg downtown, both on Caroline St. The bigger of the two was the Virginia Wine Experience which eventually moved to Egale Village and then closed in 2014. I got a chance to chat with the owner to understand a bit of his experiences being in a retail shop – good, bad, or otherwise. Encouraged by his story, I thought how fun it is to reintroduce Fredericksburg to their love of wine and make wine buying an enjoyable experience. This became the mission of City Vino: To establish a destination where customers can meet up, enjoy wine, and feel encouraged to progress along their own wine journeys.

The thought was to start small and just experience what it would be like to be a retail store in Fredericksburg. At the 810 Caroline store, there was no sink, which meant we couldn’t wash a knife for cutting cheese or wash a glass. We dealt with these constraints as we tested the waters of being a retail store. From the very first summer, we had our eye on a bigger space with more capabilities. We had a customer who wanted a wine class for her and some neighbors, leading to the creation of an educational and entertaining class. From there, we had a lineup of private-home party classes, and partnered with nonprofits for fundraising events. We often partnered with the Fredericksburg Area Museum (FAM) and the Fredericksburg Theatre Ensemble (FTE) for wine classes on several topics. FTE and City Vino even have a signature series called “Voices and Vines,” a musical cabaret with a wine tasting component. The next one, "An American in Paris," has shows on July 4th and 6th at the Allstate Community Theater.

What led to moving the store was the vision of doing these things in-house, which requires a different ABC license than the one at the 810 Caroline Street location. Having been open for seven years, we had a wide customer base asking for this new format. The timing was finally right. The store changed from a “retail” ABC license to a “restaurant” ABC license. As a retail shop, we were constrained to offer only an “educational” two-ounce pour of wine. As a restaurant, customers can have a whole glass if they like the wine. Bottles are still our bread and butter, but we now offer charcuterie, cheese plates, and paninis, with plans to expand to light tapas. We are so excited to share wine with you in this fashion! Give us a bit as we are rolling out these new items. Going back to what I first got excited about in wines were the wine pairing dinners and the learning about new places and grapes. With that in mind, we are planning events starting in July.

We will miss Caroline Street, where there was a happy conglomeration of businesses. Between Jabberwocky, Dragon Fly, and C-street, it was a whole spa day concept. We had a fun community in the building, and the casts of both Stagedoor Productions and Fredericksburg Theatre Ensemble would often stop by on their way to shows and practices. And we really could not avoid watching the steady flow of families marching up to Kit Creative for their Christmas photos.

The Hanover House, as the building is called is brand new. When I signed the lease the ground floor was gravel inside. Which was actually a blessing as we could arrange where to put the water pipes for the kitchen without having to grind up concrete. It has been a mountain of effort to get the space to where City Vino can call it home. Soon, I want to have a Grand Opening Celebration at the new space. I still have to coordinate with Mainstreet and the Chamber, but we will make big announcements as these events come into focus.

I could not have done this without the support of the community and my staff. I hired Dori Weitz about four years ago. Her husband came into the shop on his way to a yoga class Dori was teaching, and mentioned that his wife would love to work here. Dori is great, with interests in cheese mongering and areas of wine that I haven't studied in-depth. Between the two of us, we can engage novice drinkers and experienced wine enthusiasts alike. Dori has been instrumental in moving to this new level of engaging Fredericksburg. Mark Bowling joined us more recently—this past October. He has studied wine on his own and is catching on well, despite the firehose of information. And most recently, we hired a talented charcuterie artist for the food element. We are still looking for a couple more staff members as we get busier.

For more information and tickets to "An American in Paris," visit Fredericksburg Theatre.

 

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