Side Dishes: Cork Wine Bar & Market opens in Waterbury
Waterbury’s 1 Stowe Street address has seen its share of culinary action lately. First Blackback Pub and Fly Shop merged with Stebu Sushi.  Now, upstairs from Blackback, the village has gained a wine mecca, Cork Wine Bar & Market .
The spacious Cork is the brainchild of Stowe native Danielle Nichols, 34, who spent the last 10 years as a traveling ski coach based on the West Coast. In many of the places she visited — Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Austria among them — Nichols cultivated her love for first-class wines, which eventually blossomed into the idea of a wine bar. “I loved the concept, and I thought it would be a cool thing to do in Vermont,” says Nichols, who moved back to her home turf this year.
The 1700-square-foot space used to house Third Planet Windpower, which moved up a floor. Nichols built on its open concept, adding galvanized steel fixtures, tables, a shiny wooden bar and salvaged shelves for a vibe her sister calls “industrial farmhouse.” She met with distributors to build an unusual portfolio of affordable wines from some of the world’s emerging wine regions. “It’s a cool, pretty eclectic group of wines. I specifically chose wines that are tasting far beyond their price points,” says Nichols.
On one side of the low wire wall that divides the shop, browsers can pick up a bottle of Chilean carménère, Spanish Ribera del Duero or Austrian Zweigelt; in the bar area, they can have the wines uncorked (for a fee) and poured. Or they can order from a rotating by-the-glass list and a range of small plates, including olives, local cheeses, panini pressed on Elmore Mountain Bread and soups from Montpelier’s Two Guys in Vermont.
Nichols is passionate about positioning Cork in the robust web of local food producers. She sells Vermont-made cheeses, crackers and other sundries in her market. Some of her staffers crafted those morsels, including Douglas Brown of Slopeside Syrup and Marisa Mauro of Ploughgate Creamery, who is taking time off from cheese making after a fire devastated her creamery a few weeks ago.
Everyone is pitching in on all sides, from retail to serving to education. “Wine can be a pretentious subject. Our goal is to make it less scary,” says Nichols.
Cork Wine Bar & Market, 1 Stowe Street, Waterbury, 882-8227