The success of any wine bar depends on an inverse ratio of spirits versus square footage. In other words, the list of drinks should be long, but the space should be tight — or “intimate,” in marketing patois. Such is the case with Wine Down on Main, a warm, low-lit nook ironically located a few doors down from sprawling Jamie’s Creole Brasserie, the vast upscale restaurant that recently closed.
The pun in the bar’s name might make word snobs roll their eyes: “Wine Down,” elsewhere referring to particular nights, e.g. “Wine Down Wednesdays,” has become a viral food-industry marketing phrase, and could perhaps use a rest. But such an exclusive attitude should really be reserved for the actual menu, because here, discriminating tastes are satisfied. The bar offers many dozens of local, national, and international reds and whites — from North Carolina, California, Spain, France, Germany, Argentina, etc. — and specialty drinks, including sparkling wine with sorbet and a classic, fruit-infused sangria that packs a hell of a punch (another pun, well intended).
Under new chef John Cesenaro, an expanded, inventive menu upholds the Mediterranean-rustic atmosphere while offering plenty of fashionable flavors to please the palate and line the stomach, the better to balance the inrush of alcohol. The artisan panini sandwiches — big ups to the hearty Italian with Capicollo ham, salami, pepperoni, roasted peppers, provolone, and basil mayo — are a nice choice if one wants something more filling than a small plate but less absorptive than a big meal.
An interactive charcuterie board lets guests choose from a list of meats and cheeses to assemble a custom plate, including local offerings from Spinning Spider Creamery in Marshall. (Cesenaro also sources produce from the Transylvania County Farmers Market.) The board is served with a delightful loaf of warm bread, and other items, such as an olive tapenade, hot pimento cheese dip, and soup of the day, are offered at a very reasonable price.
“Our most popular [dish] is my crabcakes,” says Cesenaro, who brought the recipe with him from his native Baltimore. “They sell out in hours, and I was proud to have a couple say it was the best meal in town.”
In this troubling era where so many restaurants skimp on the sweet end, it’s pleasing to see Wine Down’s long list of desserts. The cheesecake was delicate and not a bit chalky, and the chocolate cake got special attention with a scoop of kiwi gelato. In fact, Cesenaro, who also caters, says he produces cakes “in every flavor I can think of.” His “croughnuts” (a fried croissant-doughnut hybrid with crushed pecans and a caramel drizzle) are another customer favorite.
The place is run by a pair of Pattys, Patti Bowick Butler and her close friend and business partner Patty Fisk. Butler started Wine Down on Main in Columbia, SC, in 2011. “I had a great little business there, three years, but I really wanted to move to the mountains and be a part of a smaller community,” she says. “I’m a single mom, and it was very important to me that my son go to a small high school. My children and I had been coming to Brevard for years, to all the festivals, and we loved to camp at Black Forest Campground.”
One thing was missing, though. “Every time we visited, I had an overwhelming feeling that Brevard needed a quaint wine bar,” says Butler. “I bought a house, enrolled my son in high school, closed my business, packed my U-Haul, and moved. Patty moved from Anderson [South Carolina], we found our location, and began renovations.” Wine Down celebrated its third year in Brevard in May.
“I love what we do,” says Butler, who credits Cesenaro for his “creativity in the kitchen” and contributions to the cuisine. The frequently changing menu complements that lengthy scroll of beverage choices, including bottled and canned craft beer and cider. But there’s not a quick changeover of clientele. Diners are expected to sit, sip, nibble, and … okay … wind down.
“We don’t flip tables,” says Butler firmly.
Wine Down on Main, 28 E. Main St., Brevard, open Sunday through Wednesday, 3-9pm, and Thursday through Saturday, 11:30am-10pm. For more information, call 828-883-9463 or see Wine Down on Main on Facebook.