For people who are not knowledgeable about wine, picking out a bottle can be intimidating and going into a stuffy wine store can only make the experience worse. When Amanda and Jay Monger decided to open Downtown Wine and Gourmet in July 2004, their goal was to make buying wine fun. They wanted customers to be excited about the possibilities that wine can provide, and after over seven years in business, they are certainly accomplishing that mission.
Although Virginia has become a major player in the international wine scene in recent years, Harrisonburg did not feature a shop dedicated to selling wine until the Mongers opened their store. I found that amazing as I chatted with Amanda and store manager Rachel Chavez a few days ago, but as I perused the store, I figured the people of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County were getting to make up for lost time. Rachel and Amanda dealt with customers as I looked over the amazing assortment of wines the store carries, from traditional French and Italian wines to more recent imports from Australia, Portugal, and South America. I was particularly impressed that they seemed to have wines for all tastes, occasions, and budgets.
I was happy to see that the shop carried local wines. As someone who is a big fan of Virginia wines and wineries, it was nice to see wines from the Commonwealth, especially local vineyards Cross Keys and Bluestone. Bluestone, in nearby Bridgewater, is a relative newcomer to the scene, having opened in 2010, and is already making a big splash.
Not a wine fan? There’s still something for you at Downtown Wine and Gourmet. The shop carries a wide assortment of beers, including American microbrews as well as foreign imports. My eye was caught by the fact that they had a few beers made by Abita, a favorite of mine from Louisiana. And it just so happens that the shop is having a tasting of Abita beers on Monday, December 5 from 5 to 7 pm.
Speaking of events, Downtown Wine and Gourmet is an excellent place for free wine and beer tastings. The store has wine tastings every Friday from 5 to 7 pm and beer tastings every Saturday from 1 to 4 pm. They also have special events, including a dessert wine tasting on December 15 from 5 to 7 that will feature desserts from downtown bakery BitterSweet. To keep abreast of future events, check out their website (http://downtownwines.com/) and sign up for their free email updates.
Featuring an amazing and diverse selection of wines and beers, local gourmet foods, and even home brewing supplies to make your own beer and wine, Downtown Wine and Gourmet is a true gem of downtown Harrisonburg. As Amanda expressed to me, the shop is part of the downtown community that features close ties between the businesses and the customers. Come experience it for yourself. And while you’re at it, talk to Amanda or Rachel about the holiday gift baskets that are available. They sounded so good, I’m debating whether to buy some for people on my gift list or myself. Maybe both!
Downtown Wine and Gourmet can be found at 41 Court Square, Suite C, in downtown Harrisonburg.
Sarah Smitherman is a member of the HDR Promotions Committee.