A matrix of winemaking decisions progress from the vineyard to the bottle. As a sommelier, Skye LaTorre sees her job to as carrying that process through to the glass and to her own patrons’ experience.
Now she has a new wine bar for all that to open up.
Pluck Wine Bar & Restaurant opened Wednesday (March 24) in the Central Business District, with a deep wine list and a kitchen led by Heathcliffe Hailey, who built his name as chef at the now-closed Mimi’s in the Marigny.
LaTorre developed Pluck with partners as her first restaurant and wine bar, after building a career in different facets of the wine business.
“This is the closest thing to making wine that I can imagine for myself, being thoughtful about how I represent wines that I love and winemakers I admire,” LaTorre said.
The wine list makes clear her own high regard for Champagne and Burgundy, two regions that get lavish attention at Pluck. But as she hired her staff and refined Pluck’s style and approach, her decisions were aimed at creating a wine bar that invites exploration and stirs curiosity.
“That opens it up for everyone,” she said. “Because wine is not just about the high end, there’s so much nuance in between. That’s what I like to show people.”
Pluck is focused squarely on wine. The bar has no cocktails, and just a small selection of beer.
The by-the-glass list runs to 20 wines; the bottle list runs to 14 pages. There are plenty of bottles under $50 and also what the LaTorre dubs “overachievers” that land higher up the curve.
“I like wine that’s priced to drink,” she said.
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Pluck is licensed as a restaurant, an important distinction under the city’s coronavirus rules.
Hailey’s menu is about food to make you want to drink wine, not necessarily about specific pairings.
At Mimi’s, Hailey essentially ran a late-night tapas bar, and some of that shows here, with goat cheese croquettes, wild mushrooms cooked with garlic and sauce verdejo and grilled lamb chops with romesco, the classic Catalonian sauce. The menu has cheese and charcuterie boards, of course, and includes a few sandwiches, like a traditional French jambon beurre.
The location is key. To LaTorre, a wine bar needs to be part of its neighborhood. She knows the CBD is a neighborhood that mixes residents, visitors and a lot of people in the restaurant business, at least when times are good. She’s banking on times getting better.
LaTorre worked in New Orleans restaurants from 1999 until Hurricane Katrina, after which she worked around San Francisco and New York in the wine business, earning sommelier certification along the way.
Pluck is in an old storefront that’s now part of a larger development by Sonder, the short-term rental company. It shares the block with Donald Link’s bistro Herbsaint.
It’s a snug space that still has distinct areas for different types of visits — small booths tucked into scalloped coves, a communal table (perhaps for when life becomes more communal again), and a small dining room area opening to a front patio.
Walls of thick white masonry evoke a wine cave, pearlescent tile floors add a subtle sparkle, and maybe a subliminal nudge to order more bubbly.
On one wall, a commissioned piece from local artist Ashlee Jones is a rendition of the wine aroma wheel that’s plucky in its own right, recasting the familiar industry tool for assessing wine qualities with pop art accessibility.
“I want this to be a place where people feel super welcome, where they’re coming for wine and learning more about what they like, which just makes us even more curious,” LaTorre said. “It’s important to have places like that.”
722 Girod St., no phone; reservations via resy.com
Initial hours: Wed.-Sun., 5-11 p.m.
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