By Russ Lay | Outer Banks Voice on August 9, 2021
There’s a new kid in town in the Manteo waterfront district. Judging by the early consumer response, it will fill a long-vacant niche for visitors and residents on Roanoke Island in search of a new wine experience.
NouVines, a combination wine bar and wine shop, opened quietly in July and has quickly garnered a following of regulars and a steady stream of visitors during this short period.
Garret Cameron and Lori Wilkinson came to the Outer Banks by taking an unexpected turn after retiring from careers in the Washington, D.C. area. Cameron retired as a Senior Security Engineer for the U.S. Supreme Court. At the same time, Wilkinson left a career in the life sciences sector. She helped start-up technology firms spun off from university-based research concerns become viable businesses.
With their careers behind them and a desire to leave D.C. metro area for a slower-paced lifestyle, the couple found themselves in Hertford, NC. “We purchased our ‘forever home,’” Wilkinson says. “The house was beautiful; it was like living in a sanctuary.” But after two and a half years, “we were bored, and Garret and I said to ourselves, ‘We now do what?’”
Wine had been an interest of theirs. Lori relates that while in the D.C. area, “we drank our fair share of wine,” taking advantage of the region’s offerings. Cameron explains they had a friend whose family owned a vineyard in Napa, and he often took them to D.C. restaurants, exposing them to different varietals of wine and pairing techniques with food. “I’m not a sommelier,” Cameron says. But she enjoyed trying other wines and sharing that knowledge with friends.
And so the journey began to the Outer Banks. One might think that pivoting from wine lovers to owning and operating a wine bar would constitute a slow evolution. Still, Wilkinson tells us it happened in a “surprisingly short period of time — about a month, in fact.”
They had frequented a small wine shop in downtown Hertford that was owned by a husband-and-wife team. One day, they went into the store and discovered it had been sold to new owners. “That was when the thought came to us—if we had known it was for sale, we might have considered buying it.”
That thought led to a decision to pull the trigger. The couple didn’t want to compete with the new local owners in Hertford. The same situation existed in nearby Edenton, where an established wine store operated in its downtown area. Elizabeth City looked promising, but a new wine store/tasting bar opened while they were looking, and they took a pass there. But Wilkinson and Cameron watched the progress of the River City operation and were encouraged by its early success.
A phone call to Manteo, where their eldest son lived, showed promise. He told them the only place to buy wine on Roanoke Island was the grocery stores. And it would take to trip to Kill Devil Hills or Kitty Hawk to find a specialty wine store, much less a wine bar.
NouVines isn’t just a wine bar and retail shop. Cameron and Wilkinson sought to create something unique, and the wines they carry are the keys that differentiate their offerings from similar venues.
“Ninety-seven percent of our wines come from small-batch vineyards who handpick these grapes for limited production bottlings,” Cameron told us.
These small-batch wineries typically produce between 50 and 5,000 cases for each label they issue, making the wines extremely hard to find in grocery stores or other wine shops.
Small-batch production is not the only feature of NouVine’s wine selection. “Because they are small batch, the grapes are handpicked. And close to eighty percent of those wines are either certified organic or sustainably grown,” Cameron says. “They don’t require the chemicals, additives, and preservatives that mass-produced wines contain.”
On the retail side, NouVines carries 126 labels at present, with price points ranging from $16 up to $400, with the average bottle price falling into the $20 to $40 range. The typical wine styles — red, white, rose, and sparklers — are offered, as are most varietals associated with traditional wines.
The major wine-producing countries are also well-represented, such as France, the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany. You’ll also find some surprises from lesser-known wine countries such as Slovenia, Macedonia, South Africa, and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
The wine bar side consists of a traditional bar area, tables for larger groups, and an inviting section of sofas and comfy chairs at the front of the store where one can lounge and chat with friends in a living-room setting. There is also outdoor seating available.
Wines can be ordered by the glass or sampled with flights. Twenty-six wines are available at present — 10 red selections, 10 white, and six other types such as sparkling wine. There are also beer selections, non-alcoholic choices and some wine-based cocktails, including mimosas and margarita-flavored offerings.
Wine-by-the-glass prices run $7 to $14, and flights check in at $13 to $40 depending upon the wines chosen for the flight.
If you want an authentic wine experience, trying these hard-to-find wines with food pairings is a must.
NouVines offers two types of tasting boards to pair with your wines — a cheese board and a cheese and charcuterie board. Each board also comes with various chocolates, fruits, jams and crackers to enhance the tasting experience. Even better, the chocolates and jams come from Simply Delicious, a local company. You can also buy their products in the gift section of the store.
The interior of NouVines also tells a story, which landed the venue on the Historic Manteo Walking Tour.
The new owners sought to keep as much of the historic feel of the space as possible.
The bar where you sit began its life at the Buffalo City General Store at the turn of the last century. Buffalo City was a famous logging site and settlement in what is now the Alligator River NWR on mainland Dare County. In the 1990s, the bar was the centerpiece at the Green Dolphin Pub, one of Manteo’s most iconic, if not infamous, watering holes.
The new owners also preserved the original exposed brick and wood, going as far as to seal over a blackened section of brickwork scorched in the last major fire that consumed much of downtown Manteo around the 1950s.
And on the walls, there is art for sale — all of it supplied by local artists showcased at the nearby Dare County Arts Council.
Presently, NouVines is open seven days a week — from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. Their location is 105 Budleigh Street in Manteo, NC. You can also find them on the web at https://nouvines.com/
If you’ve been looking for a quiet, adults-only spot (no one under 21 is permitted to enter, including children) to taste wine, meet a business client, or finish off a night of dining, NouVines should fill the bill.