Okay! So We Opened A Wine Bar. A VEGAN Wine Bar. Huzzah!

September 22nd, 2015 - filed under: Furthermore » Inspiration


I told you something big has been keeping me busy!

And this, my friends, is it. Last weekend we officially opened the doors to Five & 1/4, our brand new weekly pop-up wine bar. And it was such a success! All our hard work and worry and turmoil and set-backs and plans and failed plans and new plans and so many long nights, early mornings, and man, the frigging stress! But we did it. It’s open, and it’s beautiful, and people loved it!

And I bet you’re probably wondering how it all happened, yes? So let me tell you the story.


^^ Well that one right there? He’s a pretty amazing man. And just under a year ago, he opened his first small business, Still – Elevate Your Ethanol (can you guys believe it’s been almost a year already??!) And Still is located in this amazing old building built in 1925, that takes up an entire corner of a city block in downtown Santa Barbara.

And around the corner, in the same building, is a little French creperie called Pacific Crepes. So when Jeremy began renovating the space for Still, everyone from the building came by to introduce themselves. Including Yvan, the owner of Pacific Crepes. And over the weeks and months since then, Yvan and Jeremy have formed a real friendship.

So anyway, Yvan and Jeremy had talked about doing a wine thing together, like a wine night or special events or something like that, but it never really moved beyond the brainstorming stage. And then one day, late last spring, Yvan showed up on the stoop at Still.

“I’ve made a decision!” (you have to imagine his heavy French accent)

“I’ve decided to close my restaurant at 3 from now on!”

And Jeremy was super stoked for him. “Yvan, that’s awesome! You’ll have evenings with your kid, and most people want crepes for breakfast and lunch anyways – that’s a fantastic decision.”

And then Yvan said: “So, I’m giving you my restaurant.”


Essentially, Yvan has been doing the same thing for 18 years and he’s burnt out. He has a 4-year-old at home and he wants more time for himself and his family. And he makes enough during breakfast and lunch to afford the space. So, he was proposing to close every day at 3, and after that we would be free to use the restaurant in whatever way we wanted. As much or as little as we chose.

In the immortal words of this Frenchman: “I don’t give a fuck. I just want it to be clean for me in the morning. Otherwise, I don’t want to think about it at all.”

Can you even believe it?


We had to taste a looooot of wine in order to create a list that was tailored to our specific standards. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Yvan’s incredible generosity is actually an increasing modern phenomenon. “Shared space” businesses are on the rise – a direct result, I assume, of this dismal economy. And actually, the first time I ever went to Portland’s now-elite vegan hot spot, Portobello, it was tucked inside a tiny coffee shop, operating after hours! Almost the exact same situation that we currently find ourselves in.

So anyway, once we had the offer we were off and running. There was never any question as to what our concept would be — we knew exactly what we needed to do because there is a glaring, gaping hole in the Santa Barbara wine scene.

SB is a tourist destination. It’s wine country. And that’s what draws a lot of the tourism . . . which means that almost every single glass of wine you can buy in Santa Barbara is a central coast wine. Period.

Which is great for the tourists — but a little monotonous for the folks who actually live here.

And the interesting stuff – the “old world” style, more rustic, more geeky stuff that Jeremy and I both prefer – well in order to get a pour of that in Santa Barbara, you’re spending upwards of $17-25 a glass. So, ya know, cost-prohibitive.

But that’s where our uniquely modern share-space situation is really an advantage. Because we have almost ZERO startup cost. The kitchen is there. The liqueur license is there. The tables and the silverware and the building and the kitschy art on the walls — it all already exists. And since our business model is so different from the standard in this way, it means we’re able to offer our wines at much lower margins.


This Lebanese red is a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It tastes like dusty leather and dried fruit and new tobacco, and I think it’s one of the very best wines on our list.

Wine for the people!

And that’s what we want. We want everyone to be able to drink a really, really exciting glass of wine, without spending a small fortune. We want to honor all the wonder and fun and sensuality of wine, but leave behind all of the pomp and circumstance. So that’s what we’re doing.

Have you ever had wine from Lebanon? Or a Carricante from the northern base of Mount Etna, where the soil is so full of volcanic minerals that the wine tastes like salt and ore? Like a salty lemon delight?

And we have a Soave that smells and tastes like a tropical fruit salad. It’s bone dry, no sweetness at all, but it literally tastes like passionfruit and papaya in your mouth. I call it the “happy wine” because it just makes me smile when I drink it.

And the Susumaniello! Our most popular red from our opening weekend, it’s so rare that in all of his 15 years in the wine world, Jeremy had never tasted a Susumaniello until he sampled it for Five & 1/4 (all the wine reps love us because they’re finally getting to open all those bottles they’ve never been asked to open before). Our Susumaniello strikes that perfect balance between musty barnyard and ripe red fruit, and it’s my absolute favorite red that we sell.

The point is, we want everyone to taste these weird and wonderful wines, because that’s what wine is about, right?! About hanging out. Breaking bread. And experiencing something new, together.


Ethiopian-spiced popcorn. I used the ye’wot qimem spice blend from Kittee’s cookbook, Teff Love.

And the “Five & 1/4″ is for Waits, of course. We were trying to come up with a name for the project, and everything wine related – “Trellis”, “Vine”, etc – was UGH so played out and pretentious sounding. So we just thought, what if we name it something totally random and unrelated? We toyed around with calling it “Dime” (for no particular reason), and then someone asked Waits how old he was and he answered, “Im five and a quarter!” (that quarter is SO important, you know), and Jeremy turned to me and said “I think we should call it Five & 1/4″

And that was that.

And it kind of turned into a theme. We open at 5:15. And our list will always include one white and one red which will sell for $5.25 per glass (I told you, we mean business about keeping our prices affordable), and they won’t be crap “house wines” either. We work hard, search high and low, to find those rare gem value wines.

Our liqueur license requires us to serve food as well, so we do. Small plates, entirely plant-based (although it’s kept a secret for now, and we chose “accidentally vegan” dishes that wouldn’t raise any suspicions). This has actually been the hardest part of the whole venture, since it’s just Jeremy and I. No kitchen staff, no prep line, no nothing. We had to get real creative.


Warmed cashews with avocado oil, rosemary, and cayenne. We keep these warm in the dehydrator and they are SO GOOD.

And Pudla! Yup, we put pudla on the menu, and after this weekend, it’s the thing that everyone is raving about. Who’da thunk it?

We’re starting small, with 8 whites, 8 reds, 1 bubbly, and 5 little nibblies to choose from. But we have lots of plans to expand. This is only the beginning!

I wish I’d taken more pictures of the space, and the food, and the wine, but well – it was a busy weekend. I’m sure I’ll have more to share soon, since this is sort of my life from now into the indeterminate future.

Five & 1/4 is open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 5:15 – 10(ish). Maybe some day I’ll see you there?

Until then — cheers!


  • http://www.cadryskitchen.com/ Cadry

    Aaah! This is so cool! Congratulations! This has been my dream for a few months now – opening a vegan wine bar with nibblies. I love the concept of unique wines at an affordable price. Plus, what serendipity and generosity on the part of Yvan. Best of luck!

  • http://www.vegansandra.com/ Sandra Vungi

    Super awesome!! :)

  • Sarah

    How exciting, congratulations! And I love the community spirit of this project- how wonderful of Yvan to open up his space to you and Jeremy. It’s the antithesis of the cutthroat big business attitude, and I love it. Wishing you all the success in the world- if I ever find myself in Santa Barbara, I’ll definitely be paying 5 & 1/4 a visit!

  • Rachel in Veganland

    WOW! Congratulations on your new endeavor! A truly amazing adventure awaits. Can’t wait to see more photos and hear all about it! Glad to see pudlas on the menu. I”m sure people are going to rave about them!

  • yogadogwalker

    Wow, congratulations! I love Pudlas, I actually learned of these on your blog, and now it’s one of my favorite breakfasts! This is an amazing adventure, and what a great way to turn people on to vegan food! Woot woot!

  • Shannon

    Congrats! Wish I lived closer to visit :)

  • lysette

    !!So cool – congratulations!!

  • Lindsey

    Congratulations!! How exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://marketstreetvegan.com/ Amanda

    *Uncontrollably happy dancing for you*

    Everything is amazing, and now I’m trying to figure out how to convince one of the many, many places downtown that closes early to strike a deal with me. I also can’t believe I’ve never kept nuts warm in the dehydrator. You’re an unending source of inspiration today!

  • Lacy Davis

    OMG YESSSSS. SO stoked for you!

  • Sarah C.

    Congrats! This looks so much fun – too bad I’m hundreds of miles away or I’d be over asap! (And you guys are so incredibly adorable together, by the way). May it be a smashing success!!

  • Redsalta

    This is so amazing! I am going to drive up from San Diego soon to check it out. Perfect excuse to visit Santa Barbara!

  • Rebecca Carnes

    So so sooooo exciting!!!! I love how you guys came up with the name, love the idea, love that it’s a shared space business – too cool! I’m seeing a road trip to SB soon;) Congrats!!!

  • Sarah G.

    This is so exciting! Congratulations :) I wish I lived nearby so I could stop in… but unfortunately I’m sitting over here in boring old MD -_-

  • https://twitter.com/Peterson_Rach Rachel

    The next time I get to California, this is on my list to do!!! Congratulations! SUCH an amazing adventure to watch and read about. I don’t always comment, but I read you pretty regularly and just had to say Hi and YOU GO GUYS!

  • Kristin

    LOVE!!! The name is perfection. So excited for you guys, such an amazing opportunity and love that you seized it. Cheers to you!!! Cannot wait to check it out my next time to CA.

  • spabettie

    OH MY GOSH, CONGRATS you two!! well, and Waits of course, what a sweet story about the name. I love it. I love it all! what a wonderful thing, I hope I can get to SB soon and come CHEERS you in person!

  • vegyogini

    I CAN HARDLY WAIT! I’ll come for a visit as soon as possible. Congratulations on your exciting newest adventure! :) <3

  • Emily

    I can say, with a lot of confidence, that I would come to CA almost solely to visit this place!! Congrats!!

  • http://taranoland.com Tara Noland

    That’s absolutely fantastic! You never cease to inspire me. :-) Thank you for that. And congratulations!

  • Santa Barbara Fan

    So far, every wine we have tasted (we’ve been there twice and always taste each other’s wine–that is four–no five wines :)) has been wonderful and different. We are lucky to have you both here in SB. Love from a fan!

  • B M

    Geez, if I didn’t already think you were the coolest person ever, this new adventure of yours has officially stamped you as “The Coolest”. Period. I should probably move to SB…Congratulations and cheers!

  • http://www.alvaradofrazier.com/ Mona AlvaradoFrazier

    I love wine and my son & his GF are vegan & this is just up the coast, so we’re planning a visit soon. Food looks great!

  • http://howtofeedawookie.blogspot.com/ WookieWifey

    This is so freakin’ cool and I’m so happy for you guys!! Shoot me an email. I have a bunch of extras of those vintage cocktail napkins, I’d be happy to send you guys for Still, if you’d like them for art or whatever.

  • Morgan (No-Longer-In-Japan)

    This is incredible! Congratulations!

  • Sheila Lambert

    What a great story! And, love the authenticity you bring! We’ll come down soon..

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much Cadry! It’s been so fun and a really cool experience. Plus, wine is a great bridge for subtle vegan outreach. You should totally do it!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Sandra!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    It real is so cool to have such a community venture. I think shared space is the future of small business — it make SO much sense from a financial as well as a social/networking perspective. Plus, it’s fun!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Rachel! I’m excited to bring pudlas as well as other “secretly vegan” eats to the folks of Santa Barbara. So far, so good!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I think it’s so cool to be able to share the pudla love with a bigger, omnivorous audience. Thanks for the congrats!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Maybe some day you’ll be out this way! =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Lysette!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you! It is soooo exciting!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, thank you Amanda! We have been doing our own little happy dances around here. And yes – nuts in the dehydrator is pretty awesome!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Lacy!! Will you be at Beer Fest this weekend???

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww thank you so much Sarah!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh that would be awesome! Make sure you introduce yourself when you come in, okay? I would love to meet you!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh that would be so cool Becca! I would love to finally meet you in person! (But seriously, we should plan a Gentle Barn trip sometime before El Nino hits!)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww we would love to have you Sarah! Maybe some day. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, HI RACHEL! So glad you commented and thank you for the congrats! Would love to see you next time you’re in California! ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much Kristin! Would love to see you when you’re in California!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yay, thank you Kristina! We would love to see you in the bar and feed you yummy vegan wine. But in the meantime . . . will I see you at Beer Fest this weekend??

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Would love to see you!! ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, thank you Emily! We would love to have you! =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Tara!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much secret fan, and I’m glad you enjoyed the wine! We worked hard on the list so that’s wonderful to hear. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Aww, thank you BM. And cheers back atchya!!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    YAY! Would love to see you and your family, Mona! Please make sure and say hi when you come in. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh that sounds awesome, what are the vintage cocktail napkins like? Are they paper or cloth? Sounds so cool!