Add a new entry from James Beard Award winner Greg Vernick to the growing list of boutique wine stores in Philadelphia, as Pennsylvania very slowly brings its liquor laws into the modern era (see: Di Bruno Bros.’ Italian Market bottle shop, the new Bloomsday, the upcoming Wine Dive). The chef is opening Vernick Wine at 2029 Walnut Street, right next door to his hit restaurant Vernick Food & Drink in Rittenhouse, and it’s up and running as of Wednesday, November 13, with a retail shop that doubles as a private event space.
“We’re going for a very boutique, well-curated shop, with unique bottles from around the world. It’s a menu of wine that isn’t available at the state stores,” says Vernick. “It’s leaning Old World and French-heavy right now, but kind of like our food, we don’t really subscribe to any rules.” Expect natural wines, orange wines, and Old World styles, with an emphasis on small production wineries, on the list of 100-plus bottles overseen by Vernick Food & Drink wine director Ray Gazdzinski.
Set in a Rittenhouse brownstone that dates back to 1840, the new shop has an antique look that goes well with a Bordeaux, with its crown molding, plaster ceilings, and chandeliers. “We didn’t really mess around too much with the bones of the structure because it’s very classic-looking,” Vernick says.
He and his crew have been talking about opening something in the space for a few years. They initially wanted just the private dining room, since large groups are hard to manage next door — “the restaurant is so intimate, if you do a party of 10, it affects the whole experience for the other guests, so we’re always reluctant to do large parties,” Vernick says. “But the demand has been there.”
The financials for an event venue weren’t quite working out, until PA liquor laws changed in 2016, allowing establishments beyond the state stores to sell bottles and giving general manager Ryan Mulholland, who opened Food & Drink with Vernick, the idea of adding a wine shop.
For events, like private dinner parties or cocktail parties, Vernick, with chef de cuisine Robert Newcomb and pastry chef Michael O’Lone, can customize the menu with a mix of Vernick Food & Drink favorites and other in-season dishes. There’s room for up to 32 for a seated dinner.
This is Vernick’s fourth venue. The chef worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten before returning home to the Philly area for Vernick Food & Drink in 2012. Vernick Coffee Bar and Vernick Fish both opened within the last year at the new Four Seasons hotel, which also includes Jean-Georges Philadelphia.