Funny thing wine bars are in this town. For the most part, they really don’t exisit downtown unless they are attached to a restaurant. Midtown Savannah Wine Cellar is a great place to sample great wines and have your questions answered. Downtown, Circa 1875 comes to mind. Great gastropub. To be fair they were a bar before they were a full-blown restaurant, but the food was always very good and part of the attraction. The wine list at Circa is one of the best in town. One of those places that unless you know, you don’t know. Part of the reason why I enjoy it so much. Wine bars as a stand alone? Not so much in Savannah. The latest if I recall correctily was Bacchus Wine Bar. Originally on Liberty Street, then moved to Congress and the City Market area where it eventually met its Waterloo. Now there is a new entry in the “Wine Bar” game. On Bay Street, underneath Churchill’s. It’s called Winston’s Wine Cellar. Owner Andy Holmes says this one will be different. “We had a space downstairs with really nothing going on” he says of the former banquet area in the basement at Churchill’s. “We built a beautiful banquet space upstairs and now everyone wants to use that, so this was just sitting here.” “After lots of thought about what we could do with it, we realized Savannah doesn’t really have a wine bar.” he said.
Immediately, I become cynical. Savannah doesn’t really have a wine bar, or support a wine bar because the wine drinking clientele are all going to higher end restaurants. With the younger crowd the pattern usually evolves as such: Girl wants wine, boy follows girl
but wants beer. Repeat. Next thing you know the place is full of 20 somethings and the older wine drinking crowd isn’t attracted to that. So they take their wine money elsewhere. I hit Andy with that scenario and he didn’t flinch. His answer just rolled off his tongue “You know, Churchill’s upstairs has always enjoyed a little more mature crowd. I think we will be fine down here, I really do.” He spent a nice chunk of money giving the space a facelift. There are a couple of TVs up for your ‘keep an eye on the game’ type of thing, but there will be no loud music. “80s, maybe jazz, some Rock and Roll, but no rap or any heavy rock he says.” At which point I giggled at hearing someone with such a thick British accent talk about rap in a wine bar. The space is beautiful. There is a wine ‘closet’ if you will inside were guests will be escorted in if they’d like to take a look at a bottle or two. It’s not all wine either, full liquor and some bottled beers. “No drafts downstairs” he tells me. “It just doesn’t fit with what we are trying to do.”
The wine list is extensive. Put together with the help of a couple of friends. One here locally. Another, a restaurant owner in New York City. “We wanted to put something on here for everyone.” He tells me. He also says they priced the higher end restaurants in the area and are offering some of the same wines for less. “Some of the wines you may pay $80 for over there, our plan is to offer them for $50.” Andy says. California, French,
Italian, Spanish, German and more. “We have bottles in the 20s and much much higher if you want to splash” he says. Giving the wine list a quick look most of the bottle prices are $21 to $42. Which is very reasonable if you do the math at 5 glasses per bottle. (4 at my house)
Food will be a plenty as well. Up and running from day one. They worked on the menu during their regular food service upstairs in the pub. Cheese plates, small plates “Girl Food” Andy called it. It is quite extensive.
Big plans he’s got for wine dinners. Wine tastings and wine parties. “We will still do banquets down here.” “It’s just a different type of atmosphere we offer than the third floor.”
The basement at Churchill’s was one of my favorite out of the way places in town. Loved watching a game down there because it was beautiful in brick and never crowded. Now, we have a whole different reason to like it.
There is a ton of potential down there. Let’s hope this wine bar sticks.