By Tanya Henry
“I’ve always been a social butterfly,” says Vines Wine Shop & Bar owner Desiree Richard, who moved to Marin with her family two years ago from Boulder and opened her shop last fall in San Anselmo’s Red Hill Shopping Center. The engineer-turned-retailer/wine educator couldn’t be a more enthusiastic ambassador for the industry.
“I want people to be comfortable and not intimidated—I want them to discover new wines they have never heard of before,” Richard says, adding that she will never stock wines that are sold in big-box stores. Instead, her intention is to educate folks about lesser-known varietals and bottles coming from further away than just our nearby famous wine regions.
A handsome and inviting 10-seat bar has replaced aisles filled with DVDs (from former longtime tenant Silver Screen Video). Tables and comfortable chairs share the space with the retail portion of the store, where wines are shelved alongside one entire wall.
Perhaps the most interesting, if slightly confusing aspect of Vines is just how many different options customers have. Flight tastings of three different offerings from the wine on tap system are available for a reasonably priced $8. If someone prefers to purchase a bottle and consume it at the bar, that’s also an option (there is an $8 sitting fee). In addition, 20 different by-the-glass selections are available. And finally, just stopping in to pick up a bottle for dinner or a gift is also encouraged.
As someone who is reasonably knowledgeable about wine, I was pleased to discover a delicious Damilano Langhe Arneis from the Piedmont region of Italy, made from 100 percent arneis grapes that Richard described as a wine that would be produced “if sauvignon blanc and pinot gris had a baby.”
For the retail side of the business, wines are primarily displayed by region. Bottles from Spain, France, Italy and South Africa all have designated areas. In addition, sparkling wines, champagne, proseccos and cavas are shelved together.
Along with a small menu of cheese, charcuterie and nibbles, more than 10 carefully selected beers are also available. But it’s really wine that is in the spotlight here, and with Richard’s gregarious personality, there’s a good chance that like me, you, too, will be introduced to something delicious that you never even knew existed.
Vines Wine Shop & Bar, 906 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo; 415/521-5500; vineswineshopandbar.com.