Asheville’s newest wine bar has opened in the River Arts District, owned and operated by Lauri Nichols and her husband Barrett. District Wine Bar’s doors first opened on Valentine’s Day. “We have such wonderful local support from out new ‘regulars’ that my heart swells every time I think about it,” Lauri Nichols said. In mid-May Travel Channel included District Wine Bar as a “must see” in a production on Asheville, soon to be aired.
With over a hundred varieties from which to choose, District Wine Bar’s by-the-glass program is one of the largest you’ll find in Asheville, and people can taste before they buy. “There are some wines from larger producers, but we try to mostly bring in estate grown, sustainable, biodynamic wines from smaller producers, with some organically grown. We want people to come enjoy and appreciate wine without the pretension in a relaxed environment,” she said. For guests that desire guidance, two sommeliers are on staff.
Barrett Nichols informs customers about District Wine Bar’s beer. “We serve a British pale ale, our most hoppy brew, a Scotch ‘wee heavy’ ale, and Old Motor Oil black ale which won a world’s best porter award in 2010. It’s exudes a chocolaty, roasted goodness. We have light, medium and heavy Belgian brews, and a Doppelbock beer from Germany,” he said.
District Wine Bar opened their cold kitchen on April first, making available cheeseboards, charcuterie including salami, cured meats and fresh sausages from local and regional producers, fresh baked breads from a local French baker, and spreads such as spinach dip, and pimento cheese made in house, and pate. Root hummus made in the RAD is also a popular item.
Lauri Nichols’ father, Chuck Norman has told her a lot about their long family history in what is now the RAD, and did a lot of the work to get the wine bar open. “Back when this building was the Feed & Seed for the Farm Federation, my grandfather used to come here to buy provisions for his cattle and horses. My father also ran the original gas piping for this building.” Norman worked then at Public Service North Carolina in an office where the RAD Visitors Center is now located.
In addition to featuring “rare and geeky” wines and hard to find beer, the Nichols have long been supporters of the RAD artists. They will display work for sale from various local artists, changed out every two months. “We’ve been coming to the Wedge Studios since they opened. This particular spot was John Payne’s studio. He created the dinosaur outside, and all these wonderful metal dinosaur puppets on display for gallery tours in Europe these days. Sadly he died of a stroke at only 58 years old in 2008. You can still feel his energy here.” Payne made the spiral staircase in the room’s corner. “Because it no longer connects with the loft we keep it as a sculpture and call it the ‘Stairway to Nowhere,’” Lauri Nichols said.
To say that District Wine Bar is appointed with an eclectic variety of furnishings would be an understatement. It might be described as what happens when “steam punk” crosses the intersection of Victorian and Bohemian. Plush upholstered couches and chairs are offset by repurposed beams and 19th century Old Crow Distillery wood, Edison style light bulbs illuminate the bar, an ample community table made by Norman, and the bar itself and footrests at the bar were made from gas piping by Barrett. In the “cozy corner” there is even an Egyptian wooden bed made over a thousand years ago, the gift from a friend of the Nichols’.
Lauri Nichols said District Wine Bar is dog friendly. With their #DogsOfDistrictAVL program, while there, guests can take pictures of their dogs that will be featured on District Wine Bar’s Snapchat and Facebook galleries.
The District Wine Bar is located at 37 Paynes Way, suite 9. It’s open from 4 p.m. through 10 p.m. on Monday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
By Mark-Ellis Bennett