This fall, Bar Brunello, a locally owned wine bar, opened in downtown Durham. We recently spoke to owners Estben and Cara Brunello to learn more about their long-term dream to open a wine bar and why downtown Durham was the lucky spot.
Esteban Brunello has worked in the restaurant industry for almost 20 years and always dreamed of opening his own small wine bar with a laidback, yet sophisticated vibe and an interesting and diverse wine program.
Growing up in Buenos Aires, Esteban watched his parents and their friends enjoy long spirited dinners on the patio – always with a good bottle of wine. It is this image that inspires the vision of Bar Brunello, along with Esteban’s love of making cured meats; he’s been making homemade charcuterie for the past eight years, and although his salamis are not featured on the Bar Brunello menu, he might let you sample a slice from his homemade stash if you let him know you’re interested.
BBC: Where did your love of good wine come from?
BAR BRUNELLO: We both come from Italian families, so good wine and delicious food are non-negotiable! We met nine years ago while working together at an Italian restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco, where we spent a lot of time eating and drinking our way through the city’s lively restaurant scene. Nine years and two kids later, we have enjoyed countless glasses of wine, traveled to wine regions in California, Oregon, Spain, Argentina, and Italy, all the while planning and dreaming of opening Bar Brunello.
BBC: How did you choose the location?
BAR BRUNELLO: When we first moved to Durham in early 2015, we began visiting local bars and restaurants to scout out neighborhoods for Bar Brunello. Ironically, we visited our current property when it was occupied by the previous tenant (Bar Lusconi) and loved the space! We even said to each other, “Too bad this place isn’t available; it would be perfect!” Esteban really wanted a small space (25 seats or less) with patio seating, and to be part of the downtown Durham scene. We checked out other properties in different areas of Durham, but when we read online that Lusconi was closing, we immediately contacted the landlords about the space.BBC: What’s the vibe inside and what is the menu like?
BAR BRUNELLO: The vibe at Bar Brunello is laidback. That said, there is an emphasis on quality of our products and service. We want to share the stories behind the wines in a way that allows guests to fully enjoy what they are tasting. Of course, we don’t want to burden guests with facts or elevated banter, which can be isolating; rather, the intention is to be inclusive, friendly, and simply share knowledge in a fun, approachable way. We want people to feel comfortable in the space, enjoy beautiful wine and friendly company, and come back again and again.
Like many wine bars, our food menu is small, but thoughtfully selected. Each menu item is high quality, delicious, and pairs well with wines and beers. Some menu items include cured meats, cheeses, patés, boquerones, and olives. Though small, our plates are robust, and depending on the item, come served with crostini or bread, pickles, mixed nuts, dried fruit, and marmalade. This style of menu allows guests to share a nosh as they enjoy a glass, or to create a full meal by ordering more than one menu item, similar to tapas-style.BBC: Tell us about your wine-by-the-glass list?
BAR BRUNELLO: Our carefully curated by-the-glass wine list offers 30 wines by the glass and 150 wines by the bottle with a focus on small producers, esoteric varietals, and old world wine makers. The wine list features selections from well-known wine regions such as those in Italy, Argentina, France, Spain, Portugal, and Germany, as well as wines from lessor-known areas such as those in Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Lebanon, Greece, Czech Republic.
The by-the-glass list will consistently change and evolve with time and the seasons. For example, we currently offer a flight of orange wines. Yes, orange! The menu of flight options will expand this month, as will the by-the-bottle list. We want guests to be able to try lots of different wines, and flights are a beautiful way to allow for a side-by-side comparison. Our expanded by-the-glass list will continue to include unique varietals from lessor-known regions, which are beautifully crafted, well-balanced, and not easily found elsewhere. We also have several outstanding beers by the bottle, including a current fall favorite – a smoked Hefeweizen from Germany that’s out of this world.
BBC: Do you plan to host events at Bar Brunello?
BAR BRUNELLO: Yes! In addition to private events, we are working on creating “Maker Monday” events featuring guest wine makers, as well as a “Tuesday Tasting” series with a fixed price wine tasting menu focused on a particular country, region, or varietal.