Have you ever flipped through a wine magazine and coveted those lavish cellars with organized rows of mouthwatering varietals and vintages? Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to know someone with such a luxury, but find the cellar is shown off while the bottles remain closed. Thanks to Pebble Beach Resorts, the Peninsula now has a community wine cellar we can all enjoy – and, most importantly, taste.
Stave Wine Cellar at Spanish Bay, named for one of the strips of wood that form the sides of a wine barrel, is part wine lounge and part wine shop, providing a luxurious but casual space to explore the world of wine.
Stave’s Aug. 1 opening was the culmination of a multi-year vision championed by Wendy Heilmann, a former IT professional who left her cubicle during the ’08 economic downturn for a tasting room job. Now a Level 2 sommelier and Pebble’s director of wine & spirits, she is enthusiastic about Spanish Bay’s “newest amenity for the connoisseur or the curious.”
Designed with a dual-sided, central fireplace, dark wood, soft lighting, and a variety of seating options from bar stools to tables to fireside lounge chairs, it’s a cozy, unhurried haven.
Some 250 wines await purchase by the bottle. A rotating list of 30-40 wines are available in 2-ounce tastes or by the glass, as are a handful of carefully selected beers. Heilmann, who started at the Pebble Beach Market but lamented its legal restriction on tastings, likes the immediate feedback of the “try before you buy” concept and plans to change the menu often, leveraging Pebble’s substantial wine collection and purchasing heft.
For those yearning to taste a Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Burgundy or Screaming Eagle Cabernet but are unable to swallow the price tag, Stave provides unique access to several rare and exceptional wines via the Coravin System, one of the better inventions since wine itself. Coravin’s slim needle draws wine through the cork while replacing it with inert argon gas, preserving the remaining wine in the still uncorked bottle. At $26, the Opus One Overture taste is still plenty pricey, but Coravin delivers the experience sans blow-the-budget bottle cost.
Michael Sellers, Stave’s wine manager and a Level 2 sommelier, enjoys seeing people peruse the shelves with glass in hand, asking questions, zeroing in on their selections. He also recognizes many would-be enthusiasts are nervous ordering, and so he’s striving for an approachable environment: “We’re not snobby.”
He did just that while decoding my wife’s basic predilection for light, crisp whites, suggesting a ’14 Sigalas Assyrtiko ($6/taste; $16/glass) followed by a ’14 Bisci Verdicchio ($5; $13), both previously unknown to her and both winners. The Assyrtiko, from Santorini, Greece, was the “Geek of the Week” selection – a specially featured, off-the-beaten-path wine identified by an eyeglasses logo on the menu.
Michael’s enthusiasm led me to tastes of a ’13 Cantine Valpane Barbera del Monferrato ($4; $12) and a ’12 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf du Pape ($8; $22) before settling down with a delicious glass of ‘13 Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Premier Cru Chablis ($7; $20).
Familiar labels like Shafer, Caymus, Chateau Montelena, and Silver Oak dot the artfully designed retail cubbies. The Santa Lucia Highlands are well represented by local jewels ROAR, Boekenoogen, Morgan, Bernardus, and Talbott. Chilled whites are available, and rare/expensive bottles from the likes of Peter Michael, Harlan and Lokoya rest safely in high-end EuroCave wine storage units to preserve their integrity.
When asked about Stave’s more interesting bottles, Michael highlighted Varner, which he described as “California Chardonnay done right,” a Brunello di Montalcino from artisan producer Sesti, a 100-percent Nebbiolo Roero that rivals some of the best-known Barolos, and a Paul Bara Grand Cru Rosé from the village of Bouzy that surpasses more venerated Champagnes like Billecart for less.
Current menu prices range from $4-$9 for tastes, $10-$25 for glasses, and $32-$68 for bottles, while Coravin prices vary widely. Guests can consume any retail bottle on premises for $10 corkage.
Stave currently offers a few wine-friendly snacks like imported Puglia olives ($8), Marcona almonds with black truffle salt ($15), a four-cheese plate with fig jam ($25) and an artfully presented cheese and charcuterie platter ($30). With Spanish Bay kitchens nearby, let’s hope they expand their food options.
Special Flight Nights offer tastings and interaction with invited guest wineries ($20, 5-7pm). Past wineries include Far Niente and Plumpjack, and upcoming events feature ROAR (Oct. 13), Robert Craig (Oct. 27), Miner Family Wines (Nov. 12), and Lanson Champagne (Dec. 2).
Cellar Walk-Arounds let guests taste selected offerings at four stations – a deal at $20. The next (5-7pm Nov. 17) features wines for holiday feasts.
Fire pits, a sunset bagpiper, and Sticks’ tater tots give reason to dig Spanish Bay. Stave Wine Cellar simply ups the love.
STAVE WINE CELLAR AT SPANISH BAY 2700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach •11am – 7pm daily •644-7997, www.pebblebeach.com/dining/stave-wine-cellar