Last May I introduced many of you to Thomas Boyd who planned to open a Wine Bar in The Daniel Building- though it didn’t have that name at the time. The Old City Wine Bar also hadn’t been named and Thomas hoped to open it last October. As often happens when dealing with construction and red-tape, it took a little longer. Otherwise, the vision he detailed nine months before opening is pretty much what you’ll find on his soft opening next Wednesday. The official grand opening is the following Monday, February 8.
I met Thomas earlier this week to look around and talk about the opening and was introduced to Court of Master Sommeliers certified sommelier Matt Burk. He’s most recently worked at Corks. Thomas laughed and said he brought Matt aboard so “I wouldn’t just stock all the wines that I like.” Also joining the staff is Master Chef Sadie Daniels who studied culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. Most recently she was a manager at Tupelo Honey. Staff will total eight people when the doors open.
The extent of food offerings is both surprising and delightful. Someone with a light appetite could make dinner of it and enjoy fine wines at the same time. While the wine menu isn’t yet online, the food menu is here and I’ve already spent time learning about Aubergine Terrine, Spiedies and Peruvian Ceviche (I’ll let you google them for yourself) and they all look great. Meats and cheese abound on plates and in dishes, but vegetarian options are also offered. Both meat and cheeses will be locally sourced.
Thomas explained that they built a larger kitchen than originally planned and they will also work with Jig and Reel just next door. He said the kitchen may expand later (remember the grease interceptor I mentioned yesterday?). Also featured will be in-house made crackers and rotating specials.
Beverages will, of course, focus on wines, but the decision was made to include eight craft beers on tap and about twenty different bottles since not everyone is into wine and they want to make everyone feel welcome. About 48 different wines will be offered by the glass – a large number made possible by a cabinet bottle preservation system replacing air with nitrogen as the bottles are used. It reduces waste by allowing the wine to taste fresh after opening for up to three weeks – by which time any bottle should be long used – while allowing a wider range of tasting experiences for patrons.
The goal for the restaurant is to develop a list of wines from around the world – while keeping them approachable. The staff will be educated and happy to teach, but the emphasis really will be on the joy of the bottle, flight or glass. Not intended to be stuffy and intimidating, the goal is a convivial evening with friends. The highest priced bottle carried will come in at right around $100 – and that’s the top of 150 bottles. Most bottles will run around half that.
The glasses will average around $10 or less and half pours will be available allowing for wider sampling without breaking the budget. Flights will also be offered and the hope is to appeal to a wide range of people who enjoy the grape – not to build a church for wine snobs. The collection should be a blend of new wines to the Knoxville market along with some more familiar labels. Thomas summed it all up, “At the end of the day, wine is just a fun beverage.”
As you can see from the photographs, the space is beautiful from the bar to the tables – both of which were built by Seth Rowlette. The metal accent tiles on the walls give the industrial space just a touch of elegance and the unusual light fixtures are fun. The wine cellar is a fantastic space and I’m really looking forward to seeing it filled with bottles. The table, which had yet to be finished when I took the photographs, is my favorite physical feature of the new bar.
Utilization of the lower space is an interesting side-story. It will be used for groups by reservation and will also be the site of educational events if you really want to let your inner wine-geek out on occasion. Details haven’t been sorted out for public access to the room on a regular basis, but I bet if you ask for a peek you’ll be accommodated happily.
Beginning with the soft opening February 3, hours will be 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM Monday through Thursday and 4:00 PM to midnight Friday and Saturday night, with a day off for staff on Sunday. That said, Thomas pointed out with a bit of a chuckle that they will stay open later if people are there and still enjoying themselves.