By Judy Garrison
As I enter Wild Common Wines & Spirits at 49 Main Street (former home of Chace-Randall Gallery) I am greeted by the cute little shop dogs, Lupita, a Chihuahua, and Stella, a terrier mix. The shelves, labelled with handwritten descriptives, emanating personalized and knowledgeable detail, also invite the visitor, beckoning her to take a closer look.
The proprietor, Kortney Lawlor, who will make you feel immediately welcomed, explains she chose the word “wild” as she favors raw or natural wines, that is wine with no factory-made yeasts or other offenders that are typically added to wines or used in their processing, such as sugar, wood shavings, eggs or gelatin. These, she explains, are not required to be listed, just as the amount of sulfites added is not divulged on the label. “Common”—in addition to having two “m’s” that subliminally evoke mountains—reflects her belief that wine is best drunk with a meal in an everyday kind of way. Wine has the ability to make food “jump off the plate,” she says, and everyone should have access to wine (which these affordable choices make possible) as common as a loaf of bread. Knowing her point of view, it becomes clear why she has hand-selected small production wines using minimal intervention and eschewed the commercial brands.
What also becomes clear is what a good fit this new venture is into the Andes-Bovina axis, where the food and cider-based businesses and farmers’ market vendors all evince a similar spirit: an adherence to the tenets of small, natural and known origin of what we consume, local when possible. And where also our storefront businesses represent the passions, and individual sensibilities and talents of the entrepreneurs and artisans.
Kortney grew up in Austin, Texas, studied botany at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, later moving to Seattle. One senses how fittingly the strands of her work life have combined to bring her to this place and business. One strand: helping to open the celebrated Japanese restaurant, Uchi, in Austin, as front-of-the-house manager and wine buyer, sometimes bartending, also in Austin immersing in cocktail culture at Pesaio. Another strand: working as a botanist in gardens in Oaxaca and Guanajuato, Mexico where she lived for a time, learning about mezcal and absorbing its pervasive influence on the culture. Yet another strand, seemingly disconnected, but not really, was travelling extensively, much of it during her many years as a set costumer and costume supervisor in film and TV. (A Google search tells me she was wardrobe supervisor for the 2010 movie Letters to Juliet, which I loved so much I watched it 3 times!) Whenever she had the opportunity, Kortney would explore the locality where she found herself—the wines, food and getting to know the people. Naturally she has chosen in more depth from those countries where she grew familiar with the terroir (the soil conditions in which grapes are grown), including Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Germany and Greece.
Do engage Kortney in conversation as you browse. Looking over the Nero d’Avolas I read a label which said, “with a note of cherries, berries and black pepper. Made in Sicily by a female natural winemaker.” In chatting we discovered each of us had forebears in that region of Sicily, which we both had also visited and grown fond of. Here, as elsewhere, her familiarity informed her choices. I’m certain that each patron will draw out different stories and interesting facts in these easy exchanges with Kortney.
What brought her and her husband of 10 years, Jason Shurte, to our town? They fell in love with the area on weekend getaways from Brooklyn and bought a place between Franklin and Walton 4 years ago. Kortney is delighted to put down roots and engage in a reliable routine after the exhilarating, but also hugely tiring, demands of travel and meeting film deadlines. Her friend Sarah Cuno recently purchased the building, and a lease to Kortney made sense to both. Jason, with professional bartending background, helped launch the bar at Wayside Cider, and is enthusiastic about his wife’s new venture.
I overhear her talking to a customer about the new orange wines or “skin contact wines,” which have more of “the mouth feel of a red;” she explains whole cluster fermentation to another. There are clearly benefits to shopping here beyond acquiring a good bottle of wine or spirits to savor. Kortney intends to keep her stated hours, even during light activity. (Cheer her up with a visit in February!)~
Mon. – Sat. 12-7; Sun. 12-5