By Julie Horner
Doug and Ann Marie Conrad celebrate an anniversary in May. “We bought the wine bar in 2017 under a different name, Cava Wine Bar, and rebranded it to Capitola Wine Bar in May of 2018,” Ann Marie said. The Conrads, residents of Felton and former owners of Boulder Creek Hardware are living a dream as successful merchants of specialty wine and curators of art and music in Capitola Village. “We enjoyed wine, going to wine bars and wineries, having that whole experience,” Ann Marie said. “So when we were thinking of the next thing to do…it’s a lot easier to work doing something that you like. And if you can be more passionate about it, you can put more behind it.”
“This is a great location,” Ann Marie said. “The folks who started this in 2006, people still talk fondly of them.” It was the first wine bar in the Village. The logistics seemed prime but the building had fallen into disrepair. Doug said, “We can save it. Have you ever seen the show Bar Rescue?” Ann Marie said, “It just needed some love.”
The Conrads take pleasure in visiting boutique wineries to secure bottles that are only sold at the vineyard tasting room. “We will taste with the vintner to see if it will be a good fit. We’re always looking for the next great taste, what’s new in wine.” The world of wine is big. “There’s too much wine out there not to find other fabulous tastes and to share new discoveries.” With a selection of close to 100 bottles to choose from, Capitola Wine Bar carries unique vintages from local wineries like Beauregard, Byington, Barghetto, and Armitage and acquires small-batch offerings from all over California, out of state, and overseas. “We do comparison flights,” Doug said. There’s always something new to taste.”
With clear passion for the product, the Conrads are ebullient about what they do, fiercely dedicated, and eager to share their knowledge. “Wine is ever alive,” Ann Marie said, “from the grapes to when it turns into the bottle, as it sits in the bottle waiting to get out, and once it’s in your glass; it’s still alive as you take it into your body.”
The shop has qualified as a certified green business, a step that commits Capitola Wine Bar to conserving resources and curbing waste. Doug demonstrated how they effectively sell wine by the glass using an argon gas technology system that allows them to tap the liquid without uncorking the bottles, which keeps wine fresh indefinitely, depending on the varietal. The clientele is diverse and the regulars are devoted.
Choose from a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, flatbread and artisanal spreads, and other uptown picnic supplies to accompany your bottle for a stroll on the beach. Or stay in to meet fellow appreciators around the welcoming L-shaped bar, or take your drinks to the fireplace. Doug recommends selections from Arroyo Grande’s Kynsi Winery, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Double Lariat Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa County, and a Santa Cruz Mountains Petit Mountain Cuvee only available at the Wine Bar. The Beauregard Vineyards Pinot is another recommended favorite. For those who prefer suds to wine, there are local craft beers on tap and in the can to go such as the popular Socks and Sandals from Humble Sea Brewing Company.
A nearby public pay lot provides ample parking. With a quieter vibe in the Village than visitors might find elsewhere in the county, Capitola Wine Bar provides live music on weekends, trivia on select Thursdays, and a cozy hideaway in view of the water with warm, wood-grained ambience indoors and seating on the patio in the fresh ocean air.
Capitola Wine Bar, 115 San Jose Ave., Capitola. (831) 476-2282
Featured photo: Ann Marie and Doug Conrad at Capitola Wine Bar by Julie Horner