Story by Belle Crawford | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
Lauri and Barrett Nichols have a long, creative career history in Asheville. Before opening District Wine Bar, the couple produced some of the largest corporate events in the region. As exciting and successful as their event planning business was, however, they decided to make a career shift in order to pursue what they love most: wine, which they call “bottled art.”
This past Valentine’s Day, the Nichols opened District Wine Bar in the Wedge Studios building in the River Arts District. Since opening, the wine bar was featured on Travel Channel and placed third in Mountain Xpress’ Best of WNC awards after being open only a few months.
“The Wedge building is part of both of our histories here in Asheville,” says Lauri. “My grandfather used to purchase his feed and seed from the very spot that District Wine Bar is in now when it was the Farm Federation.”
The couple, along with friends and family, transformed the late artist John Payne’s metal art studio into a charming, one-of-a-kind wine bar. “John Payne is a legend in the River Arts District,” says Lauri. “He created truly amazing pieces of art and we loved the idea of continuing that positive, creative energy. Even the new fire pit outside is part of the studio’s old steel door.”
Everything in the space was custom-built, from the massive bar the couple made from Old Crow Distillery beams to the large community table in the back made by Lauri’s father, Chuck Norman. “You can immediately feel the love and creativity the moment you walk into the space,” says Lauri.
District Wine Bar carries small batch, organic or biodynamic wines not found in grocery stores, and the Nichols are constantly refining the menu to best reflect the time of year. “Obviously, the big varietals like cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are popular due to their familiarity,” says Lauri, “but we do a lot of tempranillo and even an orange wine from skin-fermented pinot gris.”
Two of their most popular wines are South African, but with more than 60 wines available by the glass and many more by the bottle, customers have a lot of choices. For non- wine drinkers, District offers a small European beer selection not found anywhere else in Asheville.
Popular food items include the house-made pimento cheese, the ploughman board with charcuterie from The American Pig and cheeses from around the world, as well as the Roots hummus trio.
The real goal at District Wine Bar? “To overcome the pretentious nature historically held in the wine world,” Lauri says. “We try to curate a highly approachable list of wines from small producers around the world. We’ve also put together a great team of bartenders who make customers feel at ease and pride themselves on helping each find just the right wine for the right moment.”
District Wine Bar is located at 37 Paynes Way in the River Arts District. Hours are Sunday, 2–8 p.m.; Monday through Thursday, 2–10 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. to midnight. For more information, visit DistrictWineBar.com.