When you enter the building at 40 Cannon Street, in the heart of downtown Poughkeepsie, the tendency is to head up the stairs towards a café that’s serving in the morning, but if you were paying attention to the name (which I wasn’t), you’d know to head downstairs to the cellar that 1915 Wine Cellar calls home.
The cozy, brick lined room is well worth searching out. There’s a long bar along one side, with plenty of seating and a chance to peer at all the current bottles. There are some high tables and scattered around the room, cozier lower tables for more intimate convos.
The staff (it’s primarily a family affair) is warm, welcoming and most importantly, knowledgeable. Part of that is because the owners, Kai, Elke and Russel Beck are trying to make staffing the bar/restaurant a professional occupation, using models he’s picked up on his travels through Europe where being waitstaff is an honorable profession. They are paying them a living wage “We think it’s really important that our folks have income security” and one of his bigger goals, will be offering paid vacation and healthcare. Russel comes from a corporate background and thinks restaurants should have corporate benefits.
The wine list was compiled through lots of tastings (hard job but…) “I wanted to have wines that were familiar but not common. I want to have a Malbec, I want to have a Malbec that you’ll understand, but not a Malbec that’s esoteric”, says Russel. “It was really a lot of trial and error, making sure I had really good varietal specific, varietal correct wines that weren’t necessarily things that you might recognize, but things that I knew were well constructed, well made.”
To make it easier to choose a wine or wines, they have dropped the wine list down since the beginning because he was afraid the list would be a little daunting and not everyone wants to study a wine list for 30 minutes before choosing (or throwing in the towel).
“It’s really easy to throw grapes at a bottle and hope it sticks and see what happens. Sometimes it doesn’t work. If you’re trying to do something funky with it, it’s just not going to be what people want.”
Besides the regular wine list, there’s also a cellar list, where the names might be more familiar. People don’t necessarily want to drop big bucks for a bottle they’ve never heard of.
“It’s a very specific person who is going to take joy in being in here and we’ve found a lot of them and I think we’ve found a lot of them and they’ve found us.”
There’s a carefully curated menu, with chacuterie, cheeses, olives, and even some sweets, designed to go with any of the wines on the list. We ordered the Grand Cru, a beautiful platter of charcuterie and cheese served with local honey, jam and bread. It was a great selection, with a chorizo that I could have eaten all night long! Every week there’s a different grilled sandwich and we eagerly devoured that day’s special of Brie, (lots of) bacon and arugula.
Not to worry if you’re not a wine enthusiast, there’s a good selection of (mostly local) beers and ciders, which are treated with as much respect as the wine.
We recommend that you sit back, tell them what you like and/or are in the mood for and let the excellent staff take good care of you. We did and had a wonderful evening!
1915 Wine Cellar
40 Cannon St. Suite 4
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
Open Tuesday through Saturday.