Go wine (to Richmond)
If the name of your business were “Vavino: The Virginia Wine Bar,” and it suddenly became harder to legally sell Virginia wines, you might feel you had a leetle problem on your hands. On July 1, new State laws will take effect that make it illegal for wineries to distribute their wares directly to retailers; instead, they have to go through wholesalers. (This must be a new way of thinking: Rather than “eliminate the middleman,” it’s “forcibly insert the middleman.”) Wineries, predictably, have opposed this regulation, but for now the General Assembly has declined to take their side on the issue. We caught up with Vavino partner Michael Shaps to see what this will mean for Downtown wine lovers.
First, the bad news: Many Virginia vintages will disappear from Vavino’s list. “As it stands now, due to economics, many [Virginia wines] are expensive,” Shaps explains. “People complain about the prices they have to pay for a glass of Virginia wine.” With wineries having to add distribution to their list of expenses, those prices will only go up. Then, says Shaps, “there’s a few wineries that haven’t lined up with wholesalers yet, so we won’t even be able to buy them.” Imagine it—wine made in vineyards as near to home as Afton Mountain Vineyards will no longer be for sale at our local Virginia wine bar. Restaurantarama doesn’t want to get all opinionated or whatever, but this is, like, stupid.
Though he calls the changes “a huge step backward” for the state’s wine industry, Shaps is putting a happy face on the situation where Vavino is concerned. To replace the lost local grapes, he’ll be adding wines from around the U.S. and the world. Herein lies the good news: With all these new choices, a visit to Vavino will now be cheaper. For example, flights (groups of four or so wines served in small quantities for tasting purposes), previously setting drinkers back $10-13, will now be $2 or $3 dollars less. Look for guest bartenders, who until now came from local vineyards, to hail from around the East Coast instead. And, in general, less local means more global: Shaps says he’ll kick off Vavino’s new international format by declaring July the month of South African wines.
And what of the very name that graces his business’s grape-colored awning? After all, “Vavino” means “Virginia wine,” right? Shaps says he’s not changing it for now. “Vavino can mean ‘Go wine’ in Italian,” he says calmly. We like that optimistic approach. So go, wine, go!
It was just a few months ago, in February, when the Thai Dutch Exhange opened in Nellysford, and now the place has closed. For owner Eddie Keomahathai, the Exchange represented an expansion and a twist on his successful Thai ‘99 empire (there are two restaurants in Charlottesville and a third in Lynchburg), but apparently the multinational approach that’s so successful in the corporate world just didn’t pan out as a restaurant theme. We couldn’t reach Keomahathai to get the story, but we’ll stay on the trail and keep an eye on the Nellysford space, too.
Tea Time out
What’s up with the plastic-covered windows at Tea Time Desires? Reached by phone and asked if the Downtown dumpling emporium was closing, or simply remodeling, proprietor Dao Ming replied, simply, “Yes.” Further questioning yielded only this information: The closing is “temporary” and the reasons for it are a “long story.” Okeydoke. If the plastic comes down, we’ll let you know.
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