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First look: Dilworth Tasting Room to open soon with wine, beer and more

As a Dilworth resident, I could not be more tingly with anticipation about the opening of the European-influenced Dilworth Tasting room this month. No exact date has been named, but sommelier Jaffer Kovic is confident about early January.

The space, formerly inhabited by Dilworth Billiards at 300 E. Tremont Ave., looks ready. The brown paper covering the windows has been taken down, revealing a simple line of tables and chairs in front of the sweeping windows facing Tremont Avenue. The floor is shined to a glossy finish, a monstrous wine rack fills the length of one wall to hold retail bottles (and no corkage fee, hallelujah), the copper bar is gleaming (that and the tables were built by Kovic’s father) and the jungle-like patio is swept clean.

Kovic, a former wine director for Del Frisco’s in Houston and a restaurant consultant in New York, just moved to Charlotte with his family to bring this concept to life. He envisions a laid-back ambiance (the long red and navy couches and low coffee tables sprinkled inside will help). There will be little extravagance and minimal art.

“We want be known as the neighborhood wine bar and café,” Kovic said. The menu will feature cheeses, meats, salads and other items. The staff will help people pick what to pair with their wines and beers from all around the world.

There will be 22 bottled beers to start, as well as 30 different wines by the glass. For the wines, expect $8-$40 a glass, and mid-$20-$300 a bottle. The wine list will feature some well-known names, and some not-so-well-known.

“We want to approachable, we want to be very fun,” Kovic said, adding that he still wants people to find items here that they might not find elsewhere in the area. He also said the beverage offerings will change fairly frequently depending on availability and season.

Back to the menu. Croatian-born chef Ivana Bekavac, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is helping design platings and pairings.

“We are really trying to focus on a lot of specialty cheeses imported from Europe,” Bekavac said. “We’re going to pair them with some beautiful wines, of course.”

Later on, in the first quarter of 2017, Dilworth Tasting Room may also offer pastries and coffee in the morning.

As for why Kovic chose this neighborhood, which already holds Sunflour Baking Company (for coffee) and Foxcroft Wine Co. (for wine), he said, “I’m a romantic and I love history.”

He was drawn to the Dilworth Billiards space after it closed in 2015, for its history of once being an old dry goods store and for the fact that the business, owned by Eric Sprouse, was in operation for more than 30 years. It also reminded him of a place you would find in old-time Brooklyn.

To honor that history, the tasting room will feature a “memory lane” photographic montage of Dilworth Billiards.

“It’s nice to see the new life brought into this space,” said Sprouse, who still lives on the second floor of the building. He said he got a lot of positive feedback from neighbors who wanted a wine bar in the area.

The space will be able to fit about 80 people inside and 30 outside. And endless conversations and stories told over drinks.

“In every empty bottle of wine there’s a story,” Kovic said. “When you finish it, there’s obviously a story associated with it that happened while you were drinking it, which got you to the bottom of the bottle.”

I call that a good enough reason to walk in.

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