CRAFT BEER AND HARD CIDER seem to be at the forefront of the libation scene here in Humboldt County. But make no mistake, there is a burgeoning wine culture tucked behind the Redwood Curtain and the Wine Cellar is an important part of it.

Located in the heart of Old Town Eureka, the Wine Cellar is a haven for oenophiles and the newly converted alike. Outside, bistro tables and an art deco facade are reminiscent of a Parisian wine bar. Inside, red brick walls, shelves of bottles, a handsome wraparound bar and a sleek leather lounge area reinforce the feeling you've been transported. "Humboldt really needed a place like this," says owner Ammiel Tanski, who has created a chic and inviting space for people to connect and enjoy wine, whether it be on a casual Wednesday game night or a class with the winemakers themselves.

"I was raised with wine. I come from an Italian family, so it was always a part of our meals," says Tanski, who is part of the family that launched Gabriel's and took over Moonstone Grill. The Wine Cellar opened in February of 2019, just before COVID shutdowns. "It was definitely an interesting start to running a business." Still, she navigated the pandemic well, leaning into her entrepreneurial spirit and seeing the need to bring an elevated dining experience home. For months, Tanski offered charcuterie boards and specially curated bottles sourced from all over the world to go. The Wine Cellar pivoted as restrictions were lifted, moving from pick-up and delivery to retail only, then to outdoor dining, before finally fully reopening for indoor service.

Orange crème brûlée paired with a Sauterne. - PHOTO BY HOLLY HARVEY
  • Photo by Holly Harvey
  • Orange crème brûlée paired with a Sauterne.

Now the Wine Cellar is well established as a local destination for the wine-inclined. This doesn't mean that the uninitiated are unwelcome; Tanski insists it's quite the opposite. Though the space comes with all of the trappings of an upscale wine bar, it comes with none of the pretension. "I love getting people into wine. And I love the idea of taking any 'snobbery' out of wine," she says. "A lot of people can be intimidated by wine; I wanted to make it approachable," she continues. "I love it when people tell me 'Oh, I don't know what I like.' I just ask for some [preferred] flavor profiles and I can pick out something they'll think is awesome. I love talking to people about wine and getting them into something they hadn't necessarily considered before."

It's this encouraging attitude that draws people to the Wine Cellar's Thursday night tasting classes. From 5 to 8 p.m., patrons are given handouts with instructions on tasting wine like an expert, offering guidelines for analyzing the appearance, nose and palate as they sip. "It really enhances people's enjoyment of the wine — you're not just drinking a glass of wine, you're experiencing it."

Those who are looking to expand their horizons can join the wine club, through which they'll receive two, four, six or 12-bottle packs distributed four times a year, custom curated for each client. "I help people source and discover wines. I get to know their flavor profile and taste, and can curate an experience," says Tanski. She also hosts Meet the Winemaker events, where producers from near and far showcase their wines. "We do a five-course small plate pairing, too, which is very popular. And sometimes the winemakers will teach classes."

click to enlarge Oysters, truffle mac and cheese, and charcuterie. - PHOTO BY HOLLY HARVEY
  • Photo by Holly Harvey
  • Oysters, truffle mac and cheese, and charcuterie.

There are lots of opportunities to experience wine on your terms and your budget. The weekly Social Hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, offers an abbreviated menu of reasonably priced wines and small plates. "I wanted to give people an alternative [where they can] get some really good wine and food and not spend an arm and a leg." Local oysters with champagne cucumber mignonette are among the most popular morsels on the Social Hour menu ($18).

Of course, there is a lot to get excited about on the regular menu, which features a rotating, seasonal assortment of both cold and hot small plates, much of which is sourced locally. Patrons can expect a range of charcuterie, and filling favorites like mac n' cheese topped with black truffle ($12). "We wanted to serve small plates that we can get out quickly, but are super delicious and pair well with wine." You can choose your own adventure or ask the sommelier for recommended pairings. The Wine Cellar also serves a few quintessential desserts and dessert wines for the folks who do dinner elsewhere, then make their way to the Wine Cellar for a sweet nightcap and intimate conversation. The crème brûlée made with fragrant orangecello ($8) and paired with a late harvest Sauterne is a standout.

click to enlarge Ammiel Tanski pours at Wine Cellar's bar. - PHOTO BY HOLLY HARVEY
  • Photo by Holly Harvey
  • Ammiel Tanski pours at Wine Cellar's bar.

When the Wine Cellar is open, there's a very good chance you'll find Tanski behind the bar. Occasionally, she'll take a working vacation to explore what other regions have to offer. A recent trip to Baja led to the discovery of some excellent wines. "I like to bring wine from all over the world, to showcase producers that people might not have heard of before. I also want to give local winemakers a platform to share their wine." Humboldt County wine production is an expanding industry that has been, in some ways, overshadowed by the region's famed crop, cannabis. "We're finally being recognized for our wine. Now, wine has a chance to shine. There's opportunity for growth and diversification," Tanski says. In fact, Humboldt County is becoming one of the finest wine growing regions in California. Because of our distinct microclimates, the region produces a variety of wines. With increasingly rising temperatures throughout the rest of the state, it's possible Humboldt's grapes and wine will be increasingly in demand.

"Wine can be fun," says Tanski. "It's a learning experience [that] brings people together through a commonality of interest. And it does draw you in. People get sucked into the culture and the vibe and the lore of the wine world." Certainly, the Wine Cellar is a space to do just that.

Pin It



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

more from the author

Farm Stand

Farm Stand @ Table Bluff Farm

Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

© 2024 Humboldt Insider

Website powered by Foundation