Two of the most promising rising stars in the wine industry, Master Sommelier Brian McClintic and Zagat’s’ “30 Under 30” award winner Sommelier Eric Railsback have opened Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, their new concept of a wine bar, in the center of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone on August 6, 2013.
Les Marchands, translated from the French, meaning “the merchants, ” is one third of the triumvirate that includes The Lark and Lucky Penny, and is a labor of love between two sommeliers, whose wine trips to Paris and Burgundy have inspired a dynamic and fresh vision of retail, dining and education. Les Marchands is centrally located within the Funk Zone, home to the Urban Wine Trail and will offer visitors an unparalleled opportunity to explore, learn about, and experience a glass of wine and share wine-friendly foods in a relaxing atmosphere, free of intimidation. And, hot off the heels of being featured in the 2013 documentary SOMM, about a group of friends studying for their Master Sommelier certification, McClintic and Railsback are eager to meet the public and talk about wine.
In what was once the thriving Santa Barbara Fish Market just a block from the train station and a short walk to Stearns Wharf, Managing Partner Sherry Villanueva, a founder and principal of Twist Worldwide, a boutique marketing and branding agency, imagined a new start for an historic building and the destiny of the Funk Zone, the colorful arts district of Santa Barbara. As a longtime Santa Barbara resident Villanueva envisioned the transformation of the once dilapidated area one block from State Street into a gathering place where locals and visitors could celebrate and honor both the past and the future. Most importantly, Villanueva built the foundation of her dream by recruiting the best possible talent and so convinced McClintic, Railsback and General Manager Dan Russo of the prospects in Santa Barbara that they relocated from San Francisco to map out their concept for the ideal wine bar and retail shop.
Les Marchands will offer wines from not only the Santa Barbara Country terroir, but from France, Italy, Austria, Germany and beyond, along with a locally inspired menu and a comprehensive retail selection by quality-conscious producers, back vintages and rare cuvees not often seen in the market. There will be over 400 selections of wine for purchase in the retail section; the wine bar will offer a rotating list of 30 wines poured by the glass and designed flights ranging from $9-20. Fresh additions will be made to the list daily with many selections of wines over 10-15 years of age. An astonishing 2700 bottle capacity, including 70 magnums, assures something for everyone without unnecessary pomp or circumstance.
The former Santa Barbara Fish Market has been painstakingly converted into new retail operations and restaurants under the watchful eye of designer Doug Washington, owner of four highly successful restaurants in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon and a 2012 James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for Restaurateur of the Year. Les Marchands is adjacent to The Lark, a full service 130 seat restaurant, and Lucky Penny, a free standing take out restaurant with an artisan wood-burning oven. As the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market owned by the Castignola family, the building had been a local landmark since the 1920’s and a favorite dining destination for fish in Santa Barbara.
Reminiscent of a Parisian wine bar with modern touches and nearly 1600 square feet, Les Marchands boasts floor-to-ceiling wine racks made of Douglas fir and cabinets made from solid hickory built by Design/Build Contractor Dan Bush. Details include a copper bar top, repurposed tin panels, and a hand-crafted library ladder. Of special note are custom chandeliers designed by Washington and fabricated by a small shop in Portland, Oregon inspired by fixtures in Grand Central Station in Manhattan.
Managing Partner Brian McClintic was one of four subjects featured in the acclaimed documentary SOMM, which chronicled his journey to the elusive Master Sommelier title, becoming the 107th individual in the U.S. to attain this honor. Along with his domestic experience, Eric Railsback, winner of the 2010 Best New Sommelier by Wine & Spirits magazine, has a strong connection to the wines of Burgundy. Fluent in French, he brought his talents back stateside to Michael Mina’s RN74 – a premiere Burgundy-inspired restaurant in San Francisco. Railsback and McClintic are partners, along with local winemaker Justin Willett and fellow Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson, in Vallin, the Santa Barbara Syrah project that joins Eric’s other local label Lieu-Dit, focusing on the grape varietals of the Loire Valley. Railsback and McClintic share a passion for sourcing the finest products from the cellar to the kitchen.
In addition to wines, Les Marchands will offer a stellar cheese and charcuterie program, including Point Reyes Toma and Jamon Iberico. Fresh local oysters, pickled cornichons, salads and wine-friendly dishes will change on the seasonally inspired menu that includes House Marinated Olives with Orange Peel, Chili and Rosemary; White Asparagus with French Mayonnaise, Salade de Lentilles; Marinated White Tuna or Potted Pork with Crostini and a Riz au Lait with Caramel and Candied Almonds.
Les Marchands will be open Sunday through Thursday 11:00 am – 10 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 am – 12:00 am.