One-half of the dynamic sommelier duo who opened Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant with much fanfare in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone neighborhood last year has left the building, as Eric Railsback is severing ties with the business and taking over as wine director at Mattei’s Tavern in Santa Ynez instead.
The 29-year-old — who started his wine career at the Wine Cask on Anacapa Street while a student at Westmont College before heading to San Francisco to work at RN74 — is passing his portions of the Les Marchands business to his friend and co-founder, Brian McClintic. McClintic, whose path to becoming a master sommelier was featured in the documentary Somm, will continue running the bistro/bar/retail shop, which has fetched headlines in most of the country’s major food and wine magazines since launching in August 2013.
Railsback also plans to sell back his interest in the recently launched Notary Public wine brand to Sherry Villanueva, founder of The Lark Restaurant, which is adjacent to Les Marchands. But he will retain his role in the Vallin and Lieu Dit wine projects.
“I thought I’d be way more bummed, but I feel pretty relieved now,” said Railsback on Monday afternoon. “It was a pretty sweet thing to put together, building one of the coolest wine bars and bringing attention to Santa Barbara.” Railsback said that he was excited to be working with Mattei’s owner, Charles Banks, a Santa Barbara resident who has invested some of his considerable wealth in quite a few legacy wineries through his Terroir Selections company. Railsback also implied he was parting on good terms with McClintic, explaining, “We probably talk more now than we did before.”
Villanueva similarly cast the move with optimism. “The separation is positive for all and an opportunity for Eric to focus on his other interests,” she said via email. “Brian McClintic will continue to lead Les Marchands as Santa Barbara’s favorite local wine bar and retail shop and nationally as one of the most exciting wine concepts in the U.S.”