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Wine Enlightenment: Les Marchands

Fran Collin, www.francollin.com
Fran Collin, www.francollin.com

Les Marchands is the sort of library that wine geeks dream about. With its mod-vintage aesthetic and rolling library ladder, the Santa Barbara wine bar and retail shop breathes an ether of literary intrigue. And while the ceiling-high shelves house bottles rather than books, owners Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic explain that each bottle contains stories--of farmers, winemakers, places and years--written in juice.

“These wines are each made by our good friends--people that we go visit each year or that come spend time with us,” says Railsback of the shop’s curated collection. “Wine is personal for us. We’re not buying this label or these points. These are stories we’ve selected and are happy to share.”

Both Railsback and McClintic starred in the hit documentary Somm, which chronicled the attempts of four wine professionals to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam. Audiences cheered as McClintic was awarded his MS status after arduous study. Railsback achieved acclaim for professional roles at Gordon Ramsey and Michael Mina’s RN 74 in San Francisco. With Les Marchands they have combined their talents and wine knowledge.

In fact, together they bring over 25 years of wine industry experience--insight that has helped them refine their business model and develop impeccable standards of service. “We decided in the beginning that we should be on the floor,” explains McClintic. “We love restaurants where the chef is in the kitchen every day.” They thoughtfully work one-on-one to guide guests and ensure that they are drinking something engaging and memorable.

Which shouldn’t be hard. Les Marchands’ wine list is vibrant and ever-evolving. It highlights stunning old-world wines as well as terroir-driven gems from local producers. Both Railsback and McClintic are firm believers in the Santa Barbara County’s potential as a wine region. In fact Railsback began making wine in Santa Barbara County in 2010, before they had considered opening a wine bar. Today with the expertise of winemaker Justin Willett, they produce Lieu Dit, a lineup of Loire-style wines and Vallin, a Rhône-focused label that they’ve partnered on with fellow sommelier Dustin Wilson of Eleven Madison Park.

The heart of their goal, however, is to elevate Santa Barbara’s wine culture. “What Stucky and Zimmerman have done for Boulder is what we’d like to accomplish here,” says McClintic, adding that they plan to offer an inspiring wine education program. “We’d like to get people drinking good wine, talking about it, and tasting new things. That’s how you nourish a rich wine community.”


 

Main Image: Left: Eric Railsback Right: Brian McClintic Credit: Fran Collin, www.francollin.com

Les Marchands Wine Bar and Merchant

131 Anacapa St. Santa Barbara,California

www.lesmarchandswine.com

 

 

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