By Joe Bargmann
It’s one thing to know and love wine. Lots of people in Charlottesville do. But a rare few make their knowledge and passion for the grape their life’s work. Will Curley and Priscilla Curley Martin are two of our fair city’s foremost evangelists for great vintages. As the new owners of The Wine Guild of Charlottesville, Will and Priscilla have created a haven for oenophiles in their little shop on Carlton Road. Blink and you’ll miss it—so don’t blink. Go in with eyes wide open, take a seat on the couch, listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong spilling out of the retro-looking record player, and settle in for some smart conversation and delicious drinks. Want some cheese and crackers and charcuterie? Please, help yourself.
Some of you may wonder, what the heck is a wine guild? Think of it as an enthusiasts’ club. The annual fee to join earns you bottle discounts and—through frequently scheduled tastings and special events—the opportunity to learn about and taste great wines.
Relax, you are in the hands of experts. A few years back, Will came to Charlottesville from Chicago, where he worked at The Purple Pig, a Michelin-recognized restaurant. Here, he served as general manager and wine director of Brasserie Saison, the shiny bistro on the Downtown Mall. Priscilla, a certified sommelier, is the wine director at Tavola, which has held a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2016.
The couple got married—it was love at first sip. Now, through their shared and separate endeavors, they are helping more of us fall in love with wine. In addition to holding events at the guild, Will partnered with chef John Shanesy of Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar, and Shanesy’s brother, Scott, the chef at Manhattan’s She Wolf Bakery, for a series of wine-and-food pop-ups called Bar Naturel. The name is a reference to Will’s specific interest in wines made from organic, biodynamic, and sustainably grown grapes.
He and Priscilla are on a mission, and they would like to enlist you as allies. Go ahead. You won’t regret it.