Like many unlucky Aries’s, Chloe Grigri’s birthday in March of 2020 was almost guaranteed to be a bad one. Only a week after Philly shut down, Grigri, the owner of the Good King Tavern, and her husband were waiting for daily updates on the changing coronavirus pandemic, when her downstairs neighbor, sommelier Kaitlyn Caruke, found a small way to celebrate.
“She and her boyfriend threw me a belated birthday dinner by decking out their apartment like it was Palizzi Social Club,” Grigri recalls. Living in the same apartment building, the four friends became a lockdown pod. “There was a good chunk of time where that was the circle. We only saw each other,” Grigri says. “There was a lot of Yahtzee and lots of card games.”
Luckily, Caruke wasn’t just any old neighbor. When Grigri and Caruke met in 2017, the two wine professionals bonded over their restaurant industry experience and deep interest in and love for wine, but it wasn’t until a wine-tasting trip to France in January of 2018 that their friendship really blossomed. “We barely knew each other when we traveled abroad together, and that’s when [our friendship] really solidified.”
Traveling around France and drinking wine, Grigri began to share with Caruke her desire to open a dedicated bar à vins, separate from the Good King Tavern, which Grigri had opened with her father in 2013. Grigri remembers Caruke and the other two women they were on the trip with emphatically encouraging her to do it, and the seed began to germinate in the back of her mind. A year later, Caruke and Grigri took a second trip to France, this time just the two of them, and it was then that Le Caveau — the wine bar that Grigri opened in 2019 upstairs from the Good King — really began to feel possible.
“It was just a wild ride. Lots of laughs. I definitely cried. And Chloe hit her head on a pipe basically as soon as we got to France,” Caruke remembers. “I think that was even more when the gears were going for Le Caveau.” One split eyebrow and a drive from Paris to Champagne in a snowstorm confirmed what Grigri and Caruke already knew: that as long as they had each other, Le Caveau would be great. “Chloe put the whole wine program together,” Caruke says, “but I’m another set of eyes and a point person for wine information and wine conversation” in the space.
Le Caveau opened in October of 2019 and it was “jam-packed every second of every night,” Grigri says, with the win bar hitting capacity limits early on. Staff were turning people away. For six months, Caruke and Grigri saw the bar as a manifestation of the trust they have in each other, and as a result, it thrived. Then the shutdown happened, the bar closed, and, with no outdoor seating, Grigri decided to keep Le Caveau shut while the Good King Tavern stayed open, at least until things seemed to be improving.
Nearly a year later, Le Caveau is back open again. The duo — Grigri as wine director and Caruke as floor sommelier — are offering an extensive natural wine list, serving up charcuterie boards of comte and saucisson sec, and playing French disco over the speakers, making the bar feel like a real slice of France in the middle of South 7th Street. “There’s this inherent sense of trust between us,” Caruke says. “I feel like we have each other’s best interests in mind.”
That’s why Le Caveau works, Grigri says. “We’re constantly bouncing ideas off of one another,” Grigri adds. “If Kait is in that room and I’m not? Nothing is going to happen that I don’t want to happen.”
For their latest collaboration, Grigri and Caruke co-hosted September’s Eater Wine Club, all around the theme of friendship — among winemakers, producers, and growers. You can buy the wines they selected for September here.