Looking for a place to get together with friends, meet for a nosh before a show, or pull together some co-workers for a holiday party? Look no further than the aptly-named Gather Wine Bar.
Located in the Village of Arroyo Grande, Gather warmly inhabits the F.E. Bennett Building, a vintage structure dating back to 1897 that has been owned by the Bennett family since 1903. High ceilings, hardwood floors and a spacious outdoor patio all add their own patina of charm, as do the original shelving, safe and rope-pulley elevator left from the days when the family ran a thriving mercantile establishment between 1903 and 1960.
Owner Kari Ziegler opened Gather in March 2009, leaving behind a career in software quality assurance and armed with abundant enthusiasm and a lifelong desire to have “a little café a place that was comforting, felt good for you, and was where you wanted to be.” Impressed with the camaraderie of the local wine industry, she “decided to give the wine bar concept a try.”
Ziegler became acquainted with winemakers from smaller local labels, prompting a fun, eclectic approach to her wine list (and also resulting in “Winemaker Wednesdays” events, which will resume after harvest season). Each particular wine “is only here about a month, though we might still have other wines from that label,” she explained.
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There are at least a couple dozen wines on the Gather list at any given time, plus selected flights of three wines such as Rhônes, Big Reds or Sauvignon Blancs. Other drinks, such as sangria, are available as well, as are a couple of draft beers.
When it first opened, Gather made the most of its limited kitchen space, offering all the yummy nibbles you’d expect at a wine bar. You can still nosh on a cheese plate, marinated olives or house-made wine biscuits, and don’t pass up the popular bacon-wrapped caramelized dates filled with pecorino cheese.
Then, as Zeigler recalled, “about a year ago, Tim walked in the door.” That would be Tim Flickwir, who came in for a glass of wine one evening and ended up as Gather’s chef. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona, he also brings experience in such esteemed venues as Bradley Ogden’s Lark Creek.
Together with Ziegler, Flickwir developed several new dishes for Gather’s menu, which changes seasonally. The aim is to do “wine-friendly food, but local as much as possible too,” he said. “It’s lighter fare with fresh flavors, with the emphasis on smaller plates and tapas.”
One look at Flickwir’s plates tells you the focus is on artfully composed dishes as well, but that’s not to say this is ethereal fare. Take, for example, the velvety pumpkin soup with house-made cornbread croutons and lemon mascarpone, or the creamy mac and cheese (it’s rich enough on its own, but you can also add bacon or chorizo for an extra layer of decadence.)
Also available are a sausage sandwich on a pretzel roll with sweet and sour cabbage, a spinach salad with bacon and crab, and the inventive prosciutto cornucopias — essentially a prosciutto handroll delicately stuffed with arugula, shaved parmesan and square spears of canary melon and cucumber. Among the flatbreads to choose from are the apple bacon with arugula, and the unique roasted pumpkin with caramelized onion and mustard cream sauce.
“It’s been really fun to see Tim unleash his creativity on the menu,” said Ziegler. “We’ve been able to take comfort food and nudge it to another level with fun ingredients.”