With everyone wondering what this potential hot spot will offer, EatingOxford.com intern Leah Hawkins tracked down Lee Valentine and family along with manager and partner, Kevin Brooks, who are busily preparing for a mid-summer opening.
Read on to find out why the foursome chose to set up shop in Oxford, and how the restaurant’s unique offerings will help to set The Wine Bar apart from other bars and restaurants on The Square.
Leah at EatingOxford.com: Why did you choose to open The Wine Bar in Oxford?
The Valentines: As Ole Miss Alumni, and long-time supporters of the Oxford community, we feel like The Oxford Square is a quintessential southern destination for shopping, eating and nightlife. We wanted to add to the sophistication and charm of The Square by bringing it something unique and different.
Partnering with manager Kevin Brooks was the first step in making this dream a reality. Kevin brings years of experience in managing restaurants, country clubs, and wine & spirits shops. He’s a certified whisky expert and is equally knowledgeable when it comes to wine, having been a student of wines of the world for the better part of a decade.
What is The Wine Bar exactly? Is it a bar/lounge? What will the atmosphere be like?
The Wine Bar is a bar and restaurant with a 1920s, speakeasy feel—something that is very unique to the Square. We want our guests to be able to experience everything a bar and restaurant has to offer, combined with an upscale, elegant aesthetic reminiscent of a bygone era. The low-key yet sophisticated atmosphere will allow patrons to enjoy conversation in a relaxed, welcoming environment.
What types of wine will you offer?
The Wine Bar will offer a very eclectic array of wines from all over the world. We are going to focus on the very best grapes from the best regions, which can change seasonally or annually. Our selection of wines will truly run the gamut. We have relationships with some of the top wine providers and will have access to exclusive wines that you will only find at The Wine Bar.
Will The Wine Bar serve food?
Yes. We are privileged to feature executive chef John Burge (you may know him from his work at Lenora’s). He brings with him decades of experience cooking as well as teaching food and wine classes all over the United States. He’s been instrumental in helping us craft our food vision. We believe that wine should dictate the dish, so as our wine offerings evolve, so will our menu.
Every wine region in the world has food indigenous to its area, so we will recreate that, or at least, pay homage to it. Our menu will generally feature small plates and tapas-style items, but won’t be limited to those barriers. Each dish will be prepared from the freshest local ingredients. We are dedicated to supporting local farms and our food will be an inspired farm-to-table experience.
Will The Wine Bar offer beer?
Despite what our name may suggest, we are much more than just wine. In addition to favorite domestic and imported beers, our guests will be able to enjoy the best ales, pilsners, lagers, and stouts the country has to offer, with a focus on supporting the many micro-brews from around the South. Like our wines and whiskeys, our beer selection will change seasonally to provide the best and freshest beers available.
What about specialty scotches, etc.?
Yes, keeping with the theme of varied and unique drink offerings, our whisky concentration will include all the regional Scotch whiskeys such as Speysides, Highlands and Islay styles. We’ll also carry the malted whiskeys of Japan, Canada, and the U.S. Irish whiskeys and American Ryes are a special offering to show how far American whiskeys have come. And, we’ll of course offer Bourbons—be it Kentucky or West Coast, we’ll have them at The Wine Bar.
Will you offer wine flights for those wanting to sample wines?
Yes. We will have wine, whiskey, and beer flights along with flights/samplers of certain food items.
Will private parties be accommodated at The Wine Bar?
Yes, absolutely. The Wine Bar is the perfect venue for private events of all sizes. We will also have a room called “The Cellar” that will specialize in smaller private events for up to 16 people and there are plans to possibly add another private room in the future.
Can we look forward to any special events such as wine tastings, wine and food pairings, etc.?
Yes! We will have special events of all kinds, ranging from fun wine, beer, whisky, and food tastings to engaging wine classes for those who want to expand on a beverage and food experience. The best part about our events will be their accessibility. They will cater not only to the casual enthusiast but also to the most obsessed connoisseur.
What will your business hours be?
We plan to be open seven days a week from noon to 1:00 a.m. (or midnight depending on the day). On Sundays, we will likely open early for wine and champagne-paired brunches.