With small plates and a big selection of wine, Enoteca is the latest addition to Jefferson Street
Seth and Renee Brewer, owners of Wine + Market on Jefferson and Second streets, had watched the building across from their shop change hands several times through the years. It was the site of an art gallery and a couple of different diners. This year, the site is home to what the Brewers believe will be a more permanent purpose—their wine bar and tapas restaurant, called Enoteca.
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The bar is a longtime dream for the couple—in fact, Renee Brewer said they came up with the name for the bar years ago, before they owned Wine + Market. The dream became reality last year when the building became available and a liquor license came up for bid.
The pair have worked to incorporate all their varied passions into Enoteca, and the result probably feels something like sitting in the Brewers’ living room.
“A lot of what we do here is stuff that we already do at home … we just made a place that we would like to go to,” Seth said.
They did most of the work on the building’s interior themselves with the help of family. Seth, who has experience restoring older homes in the area, took out his general contractor’s license and began working to update the building earlier this year.
He estimates that the house was built in the 1840s or 1850s based on the exposed original brickwork near the bar, and his research indicates it even predates Jefferson Street. Renee planned the interior design with input from Rebecca Burnworth, choosing the colors and refurbished furniture for the lounge areas. The wood floor is comprised of scrap wood Seth found destined for the burn pile.
Renee’s mother, a master gardener, brought color and greenery to Enoteca’s back patio. Her uncle did the metal work evident on the building’s doors and bar area.
The menu is peppered with their favorite things, too. Of course, the main feature is the wine, which has always been in Renee’s blood: her mother worked in a winery, and ancestors on her mother’s side of the family made champagne.
Renee is the curator of the wine offerings at Wine + Market and on the menu at Enoteca, and her expertise in the subject is clear. After getting her undergraduate degree in agricultural economics from the University of Kentucky, Renee received the equivalent of a master’s degree while studying the business of wine distribution and marketing in France, and she’s one of the only registered sommeliers in Lexington and the state. Wine has been the reason for her many travels across the world to study the industry, and in a sense, wine led her to Seth, whom she met while they worked at Equus Run Vineyards in Midway.
“I grew up drinking wine, because my mom is French so we always had wine, so it was sort of an organic build of interest,” Renee said. “It’s my passion. You can match a wine with any type of food or occasion, so it’s just the perfect beverage.”
At Wine + Market, Renee has sought to build a group of eclectic choices from all over the world. The ever-shifting wine list at Enoteca is an extension of her goal at the store.
“My favorite (wine) always changes,” she said. “I tried to build the list to feature key grapes or key wine styles from all over the world. But it’s like books or movies, you can’t have it all on the list, so that’s one reason why it’s changing—there’s always so much to choose from.”
It was on one of their many travels to Italy that the couple thought of naming the bar Enoteca, which is simply Italian for “wine bar.”
“Enoteca in Italy is ubiquitous,” Seth said. “We really liked the name but also the style and the value of wine in the social culture over there.”
The bar also reflects Seth’s interests in quality bourbon and craft beer.
Elizabeth Maggi, Enoteca’s chef, was born in Spain and moved to Lexington, giving her a mix of experience with Spanish and Southern food that is the perfect flavor for the tapas element of Enoteca. The cheese and meat plates are the most popular items on Enoteca’s menu, which includes small bites ranging from $3 to $12. Renee makes the ice creams and sorbets that appear on the menu.
“It’s just something to tide you over, but a lot of folks come here and make a meal out of it,” Seth said. “Our original concept was that because of the other restaurants on the street, we didn’t want to go after a full-on restaurant. We wanted to be a wine bar and have enough food to satisfy folks who needed a little something.”
Enoteca is located at 191 Jefferson St. and is open 4 p.m. - midnight Mon. - Sat. and 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sun. For more information, call (859) 687-0346 or find the restaurant on Facebook.