By: Allison White
The red doorway on the powder blue corner building of W. 2nd and Jefferson St. transports anyone who enters to Europe. Wine + Market is a wine boutique unlike any shop in Lexington. The first bright, airy room displays cheeses and charcuterie along the back (cut to order,) with deli list, best seller #9 (ciabatta, turkey, goat cheese, rhubarb strawberry preserves,) and #12 (turkey, country ham, comté, Dijon, pickles,) following second. Mirrors reflect white subway tile light against the register, café and menu along the left with specialty groceries and chocolates, coffee, craft beer, chilled wine, fresh bread and unique sweets filling the entry. An opened doorway leads to the second half of the boutique, a cozy cellar-like vibe with artwork hung above shelves of painstakingly curated wines and spirits.
Renée Saunier Brewer, 38, and Seth Brewer, 39, have owned Wine + Market since November 2011. Though born in Lexington, European lifestyle prevailed in Renée’s home as her mother, Catherine Jaubert, grew up in southern France (also artist of displayed work.)
My parents had wine at the dinner table every night,” Renée said. “It was just something I never even thought about, it was never ‘taboo’.
Renée grew up drinking water mixed with a touch of wine, and around 16 was allowed sips of undiluted wine. She attended the University of Kentucky with a double major in French and Agricultural Economy (emphasis: international travel.) While at UK, Renée traveled to France as a teaching assistant, also receiving dual citizenship with plans to live and build her profession in French wine. Alas, the arrival of true love changes your life. Seth, born in Huntington WV., came to Kentucky through his alma mater, Centre College. They met working in the tasting room of Equus Run Vineyard the summer of 2004, their “summer of love”. Seth said he saw Renée while she was training, and fell immediately.
“It was a very special summer,” Renée said.
Renée left in the fall to pursue her Masters through the International Organization of Wine and Vine with a focus on international wine marketing and management. Though supportive, Seth said he was devastated. Before the age of social media, international communication was made possible through phone cards.
“I racked up a fortune in phone cards,” Renée said. “I found all of them the other day, and it definitely made me tear-up.”
The next two years in OIV drove and flew her around wine regions of the world, blossomed her palate and opened her eyes to the monstrous world of wine.
“Each region was interesting in its own right, but the South African wines blew me away,” Renée said. “It was in South Africa that it clicked— my eureka moment.” (The unforgettable red wine blend was Trilogy of Warwick Winery.) On the last leg of her two years, Renée traveled to Napa, helped crush grapes at Blankiet Estate under acclaimed winemaker Helen Turley before taking a job at a wine marketing firm. All the while, Lexington pulled her heart.
“It was hard to leave California,” Renée said. “But it was harder not to be with the man I loved.”
She moved back home taking a job at Bacchus Wine & Spirits becoming sales manager. Fast forward to visiting the Jauberts in southern France with Seth. After an al fresco Sunday meal, they went for a walk to let their stomachs settle.
“She didn’t know I had an antique family ring in my back pocket,” Seth said. “In the gallery of scenes from my life, it plays on repeat in a room all its own.”
Today, among managing other business, Seth orders craft beer and spirits for W+M, something he became interested in during college.
“During visits to snowboard with a friend in Colorado, I found out about the small local breweries there,” Seth said. “I would clink my way back home with a car full of beers we couldn’t get in Kentucky.”
Fat Tire was his first favorite craft beer. “I saw the reverence that the locals had for it. It didn’t hurt that it was excellent, and more substantial than anything I could find in the cooler at the gas station.”
Renée’s favorite way to share knowledge is through wine classes, which are held the last Monday of each month (capped at 32, $20.) She also offers a monthly wine club with 2 versions at $34.95 or $95.95. Renée handpicks wines for both, including information about each bottle, selections from all over the world, styles ranging from red, white, sparkling, dessert, even sake.
“At the end of the day, it’s price to quality ratio,” Renée said. “Whether someone buys a $9 or $75 bottle of wine, when they drink it, they will think it was money well spent.”
The Brewer’s also offer single barrel picks, choosing a bourbon barrel after visiting local distilleries tasting ages throughout the rack-houses. Their first was a Four Roses barrel in 2012, and have since gained a reputation for fine picks.
“We are incredibly lucky to have the support that we have from our community,” Seth said. “We decided to put something in Lexington, to make our town what we want it to be. Cheers from all of us to everyone who has graced our doorway and ensured that the doorway stays there.”
See for yourself that entering the red Wine + Market doorway saves you a trip across the pond.