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By David Zivan | Photo: Shop photo by Nathanael Filbert; Humidor photo by Libby Dinwiddie | March 14, 2016
A new wine, spirits and smoke shop charms its neighborhood—and also becomes a destination.
The best wine and spirits store, of course, is the place where they know your name. Same for smoke shops. Because if they know what to call you, they know also what you like to drink, and they might reliably offer a good guess as to which of the new breed of bourbons will pair best with your favorite Cohiba. Such a place, already, is Punt & Plume, which opened this past autumn on a quiet corner in the Wrightwood Neighbors area west of DePaul.
The proprietors’ connections with their customers is no accident—it’s what they set out to do. “When we started, what we wanted to become was a neighborhood wine shop that met the needs of this area, largely with boutique labels,” says Douglas Geyer, one of the store’s three partners, and its wine and cigar buyer. “We seek out better-value wines from smaller vineyards—say, a wine from a region that borders Sancerre but offers more bang for the buck.” The approach yields a curated selection largely from the major producing areas but with exciting finds from still-emerging areas of Spain and Argentina. And Geyer is unafraid of advocating for blends over classics like big cabernets or a Burgundy. “The Prisoner [a $45 hard-to-find Napa cuvée] is a good example,” he says. “The Ridge Lytton Springs zinfandel blend ($41) does very well for us. And what’s interesting is that our customers travel to these regions and learn about the wines, and then they come back and educate us.”
The wine and spirit offerings all sit boldly on custom-built metal and wood fixtures. A separate wood-wrapped humidor houses a classic (and growing) selection of cigars, including some vintage sticks. Wood from a recycled bowling alley anchors the main light fixture in the center of the store. (Credit for this rough-hewn contemporary style goes in part to the second partner, Arthur Holstein, owner of the handsome Isle of Man boutique.)
A particular strength on the shelves is an assortment of the eclectic whiskeys from local distillery Koval and beers from the upper Midwest. “Most of our beer is craft. Same for our spirits selection,” says Daniel Allen, the third partner, who began the venture after closing the Black Duck, a longtime neighborhood bistro. “We like to do things local, for sure.” Tastings every Thursday, 6-8pm, 1324 Wrightwood Ave., 773.698.6290