The philosophy of downtown’s new urban wine market and bar, Corkopolis, is simple: to provide wine that was meaningfully and thoughtfully created and sourced by people who care about the product, process and art form of wine-making.
“The artisanal idea of what people think is wine, that’s what we’re into,” says Daniel Craven, manager and founder.
Corkopolis makes the process of choosing good wine as simple as possible for everyone who walks into their shop, from the inexperienced to those who have cellars full of bottles at home.
“We want to be serious about wine, but we don’t ever want to be stuffy,” Craven says. “We always want to be approachable.”
Walking into the minimalist space on Main Street — designed by Craven himself — feels fresh; it’s a hip bar and bottle shop that wouldn’t feel out of place in Over-the-Rhine, but it’s something new for the Central Business District, a thoughtful approach to wine in a neighborhood where this kind of business doesn’t exist.
The bar is open until 10 p.m. during the week, 11 p.m. on weekends and until 6 p.m. on Sunday, offering a curated selection of more than 400 bottles for carry out, weekly wine tastings and a laid-back but high-craft gathering space in a part of town where plenty of places close when (or before) nine-to-fivers head home.
Between the “party shelf” offering various (but not an overwhelming amount of) staff-suggested wines to selections organized by the headings “Old World” and “New World” — including an island of rosé — the market aims to make any shopper or visitor feel at ease when buying a bottle or sitting down for a glass at the in-house bar. In fact, every wine in the shop is hand-selected by Craven for taste, quality and value.
“The thing we do here, the best way I can describe it, is a craft beer approach to wine,” says bartender Logan Brown. “You run into a lot of wine today at supermarkets where that wine is essentially made in a lab. We can literally pinpoint accurately where every wine in here came from; nothing came from a factory.”
Similar to craft beer, the bar at Corkopolis offers a curated selection of wine on tap, which is a fun novelty but also has its own benefits.
“It’s not going to go bad,” Brown says. “Most wines hold for a couple of days; some hold for a couple of weeks. Draft wine, you don’t have that issue. You have a keg of wine and it’s going to taste exactly the same in two months. We haven’t had wine last that long, conveniently, but that’s the beauty of it.”
Wine isn’t the only thing Corkopolis is bringing to the table (or bar top). They offer a fridge filled with a selection of beer — from foreign imports to local crafts — ready for carry out, as well as rotating brews on tap and hand-crafted cocktails, some without ditching the wine. Although the bar’s liquor selection is limited, Corkopolis has taken throwback cocktails and found ways to incorporate wine into them.
“We take a French 75 — a classic cocktail,” Brown says. “We do gin, lemon, lime, orange, lavender simple syrup and then top it with a sparkling rosé. We serve it in a wine glass, it looks kind of like sangria, and it’s everything you want on a summer day.”
Corkopolis also offers meat and cheese boards with products sourced locally from shops like Eckerlin Meats, Shadeau Breads and Avril-Bleh, including produce from Findlay Market. Because they are small bites, Brown says they get a lot of guests who come in before dinner reservations.
“Everything is hormone- and chemical-free,” Brown says. “Everything is all natural and healthy — we always want to present our guests with the best thing we can.”
Corkopolis takes a different approach to pairing methods, too, allowing guests to customize their meat and cheese boards with their choice of wine.
“We’re very much about, ‘If you like it, it’s a good pairing,’ ” Brown says. “We don’t lock ourselves into what people think are good pairing methods. It’s about walking people through that and helping them find what they’re looking for.”
Brown is as passionate about what happens behind the bar as he is about the people who sit on the other side of it. He sees Corkopolis as a place for those in the neighborhood to come together, hang out and talk with one another.
“From servers who stop in for a bottle on their way home to people who live across the street who stop in for a glass before heading into their apartment — it’s great to be a part of the community,” he says. “For a lot of people around here, this is their Cheers.”
And the opening of the streetcar line is already bringing more faces into Corkopolis.
“People aren’t exactly jumping off right here, but people also don’t walk Main Street a lot from downtown to OTR,” Brown says. “So just the visible traffic of people seeing that there’s stuff on Main Street is going to be really great.
“If you want to go to OTR, there’s plenty of things to do,” he continues. “It’s not that we want to compete with them, but the Central Business District has been neglected for a long time. We think this part of downtown is definitely up-and-coming.”
Craven agrees. “I think we picked a great time to open up something like this,” he says. “There’s no opportunity to buy serious wine down here. We want to be that opportunity.”
GO: 640 Main St., Downtown; CALL: 513-381-3752; INTERNET: corkopolis.com; HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 1-6 p.m. Sunday.