Carytown is known for its unique mix of hole in the wall shops, cafés, restaurants and bars. A variety of cultures are represented in the colorful collection of businesses that line West Cary Street, stretching from Boulevard to Thompson.
With so many different banners and signs fighting for passerbys’ attention, it can be hard to see everything the street has to offer in one afternoon. Businesses such as Real Richmond organize guided food and drink “tours” throughout the city, where people are taken to a series of restaurants or bars in one evening and get to try out their menu for a discounted price.
Co-owner of Real Richmond Maureen Egan explains that what makes tours and crawls so attractive to residents and tourists is getting to visit new places and get an “insider’s look” at each venue.
Also known as a bar crawl, this concept is not a foreign one. Cities nationwide are offering bar crawls as a way to attract tourism and promote their local businesses. A crawl typically consists of a group of people – friends or strangers – meeting at one location and traveling through multiple bars in one night.
Carytown is taking a classier twist on the crawl idea and hosting Richmond’s first wine crawl on Tuesday, April 19. More specifically, the crawl will focus on Riesling – a certain type of wine originating in Germany.
“Anything that local restaurants do to showcase Richmond’s tremendous variety and quality of cuisine is a great thing for the city and the particular restaurants/food purveyors,” says Egan about the Carytown Riesling Crawl.
Since Carytown is home to so many distinctive wine bars, they have all decided to work together and pull the corks on the finest Riesling’s in their collection and give Carytown crawlers a tasty, educational wine tasting experience.
The International Riesling Foundation claims that Riesling is currently the fastest growing white wine and is more in demand from consumers than ever before. The style ranges from very dry to sweet – ideal for a wine crawl full of people with different tastes.
Secco Wine Bar owner Julia Battaglini decided that a Riesling crawl would be perfect for the Carytown community.
“I love Riesling – it’s a great food wine with huge variety. So, I thought it’d be fun if some of the different Carytown restaurants that have a good wine program did a Riesling crawl, so we could each feature one kind of Riesling – either sparkling or dry or sweeter style,” says Battaglini.
The Carytown Riesling Crawl will be informal and open to anyone. Battaglini expects the crawl to begin around 5 p.m., though an official start time will be released during the next week. Both Riesling lovers and those who have never tried it before are welcome to attend. There is no cost to participate in the crawl, only for the wine consumed.
The four bars participating in the crawl are (in crawl order) Ellwood’s Café, Amour Wine Bistro, Can Can Brasserie, and Secco Wine Bar. Crawlers will start at Ellwood’s Café and then walk a mile east down Cary Street, finishing their journey at Secco Wine Bar.
“We’re only a mile long from top to bottom in Carytown so it seemed like it’d be easy and a little different, since no one’s really talking about Riesling right now,” says Battaglini.
View Carytown Riesling Crawl in a larger map
Crawlers will get to experience four different atmospheres and vibes throughout their night. Each bar has something special to offer and different wines for people to try.
Secco Wine Bar on the corner of Sheppard and Cary, for instance, is the traditional “grab a drink and go” kind of spot, according to their website. This bar is a happy-hour favorite for many who enjoy the “chic yet casual” décor and friendly attitude of the employees.
Secco bartender Matt Brehony explains that it is the laid back atmosphere that sets Secco apart from other places.
“It’s not pretentious – we don’t look down on people if they’re not wine snobs. You can come in dressed well or you can come in a T-shirt and jeans and it’s totally comfortable,” says Brehony.
Listen to Secco Bartender Matt Brehony talk about what makes Secco Wine Bar unique.
Secco Wine Bar opened up in May 2010 by the hands of Battaglini. The bar was created as an extension of River City Cellars, which Battaglini opened 12 years ago.
“I pretty much just wanted to put what we sell next door in a glass,” explains Battaglini.
A few blocks down you will find Can Can Brasserie.
Designed to replicate an authentic French bistro, Can Can truly gives visitors a taste of France in their wines. Their extensive menu serves authentic French cuisine and the wine to go with it.
Can Can is placed as the second stop on the Riesling crawl, but perhaps the most important in eyes of Can Can regular and wine enthusiast Mary Kate Maco.
“You cannot have a wine crawl in Richmond without including this place. You can just see by looking at the variety that they have that it just wouldn’t be complete without a stop here,” says Maco.
Maco has studied at the Wine Institute at Boston University as well as worked in a winery in central Massachusetts. Her love for authentic French wine is what keeps her coming back to Can Can every time she visits Richmond.
“Can Can is one of my favorite places in Richmond. I really love French wine – they’re the masters. Can Can has a fabulous French wine list…they also have a wonderful range of red wines as well from all the different regions in France. So, if you come here, it’s like a little taste of France,” says Maco.
For those craving even more French atmosphere, just cross Cary Street. The Amour Wine Bistro sits quietly across from the Cary Court Shopping Center, and can easily be missed if you’re not looking hard enough.
However, Riesling crawlers will not want to miss this stop on the tour. The interior resembles a luxurious French restaurant, which owner and Frenchman Paul Heitz keeps running smoothly.
Heitz and his Sommelier Shannon Thompson have their unique pairing wine with food process down to a science.
“This is unique in Carytown and really in the United States for the most part, especially on the East Coast. The idea is to let people experience wine in the capacity to have it with food, and experience all the different flavors that come out that way,” says Thompson.
Each month Amour Wine Bistro focuses on a specific region in France. On the date of the Riesling crawl, the Languedoc-Roussillon region will be in the spotlight, and the Riesling’s up for tasting will come from there.
“That allows for people to get a more detailed knowledge and experience of different places. It also means our menu is constantly changing,” says Thompson.
Last but not least, and first stop on the Riesling crawl is Ellwood’s Café, on the corner of Cary and Thompson. The café sits right across the parking lot from popular organic grocery store Ellwood Thompson’s.
Ellwood’s has a laid back, coffee-shop atmosphere to it and is the perfect relaxing location to begin the Carytown Riesling Crawl.
Just as Riesling has more flavors than any other wine, each bar in the crawl will offer something unique to its crawlers.
“We all coexist happily because we are all different from each other,” says Battaglini.
More information on how to sign up for the crawl can be found on Facebook as the event grows nearer.
Secco Owner Julia Battaglini describes the different Carytown bars that will be participating in the Riesling Crawl.
Watch an interactive Vuvox presentation of the bars participating in the crawl.