Navigating through a maze of wine selections can be disorienting and frustrating, especially when pairing wine with food. Should I drink red or white with that? Sweet or dry? And what about the nose? Is the wine fruity or woody? What is the mouth? It can be more disorienting than drinking a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck.
For Bryan Herr, owner of —formerly Wine Styles—it's simple: Drink what you like.
In business since November 2006, Naked Vine is a boutique wine store and tasting bar with artisanal cheeses from around the world and handcrafted salumi. Salumi is not the Italian word for salami. It's any of a wide variety of Italian-style cured or preserved meats—salami is one.
All this talk of boutique wines, artisan cheeses and handcrafted salumi may seem a bit highbrow, but Herr is not priggish about the selections in his store.
“We're not wine snobs,” Herr said. “You can become too boutiquey. Our premise has always been to drink what you like. My dad has his buddies over, and they sit in the garage, drink wine and tell lies. His favorite is gallon jug wine.”
While there's not any gallon jug wine in Naked Vine, a majority of their wines are in the $10 to $30 range. There are only 150 wines in the store at any given time, so they are selected carefully. Each one must be unique.
“The only way a wine gets on the shelves is I taste it,” Herr said. “It's gotta drink beyond its price point. It has to be from a smaller producer. Most of the wine is estate-produced, where they grow the grapes, bottle it and put on the labels at the same property. Basically, we're talking about farmers.”
Herr also offers customers a variety of opportunities to experience and learn about wines. Tastings are held on Thursday afternoons and Saturday evenings. Special events are also held throughout the month, including classes and Meet the Maker events, when winemakers from around the country share their knowledge and experience.
Naked Vine's wine club is another popular program. Members stop in once per month to pick up two bottles of wine, information on the wineries, tasting notes, food pairings and recipes.
“The Naked Cork club has over 300 members,” Herr said. “Being in our wine club is an inexpensive and fun way for members to venture out of their box—to try something different than they would have tried otherwise.”
The cheese and salumi offerings were added to Naked Vine's lineup in 2009, and Herr takes those as seriously as he does wine. Cheese is purchased by the wheel and sliced fresh every couple of days, Herr said. All of Naked Vine's salumi comes from Fra' Mani, founded in 2006 by Paul Bertoli of Chez Panisse fame, the restaurant largely credited with creating California cuisine. Even though the cheese and salumi has been popular with customers, Herr said he has no plans to expand food choices.
“We'll never be a full-fledged restaurant,” Herr said. “There'll never be an oven, but there's a real desire of people to have wine with cheese and salumi and nuts. Just to have a little bit before dinner or a movie.”