In terms of atmosphere, a new addition to downtown Glen Ellyn is the equivalent of a cozy book nook.
It doesn’t keep the late hours of the other nightspots on Main Street. It’s a place made for lazy Sunday afternoons or intimate evenings with friends to the sounds of acoustic guitar and clinking wineglasses.
“When you walk by, especially in the evening, and you peek in the window, it looks like the kind of place you really want to come in and have a nice glass of wine and nice conversation with friends and family,” Doug Flannery said.
About a month ago, Flannery, a retired Navy commander, and his wife, Lacie, a Glen Ellyn native, opened ko-ze after a major restoration of a historic building space. It’s not so much a wine bar, but a wine tasting room with all the warmth of home.
Flickering taper candles, houseplants, original wood floors and a lush rug create the coziness behind the name of ko-ze. The idea is to detach from phones and distractions and savor fine wine from around the world.
“We really wanted to create more of a tasting room experience so people can feel like they get a mini vacation and can try some wines from Argentina or France or Italy and take a mini getaway,” Lacie Flannery said.
The Flannerys have curated a thoughtful and extensive wine list favoring small-production wineries. The Glen Ellyn couple wants to intimately know the winemakers, the family traditions, the story behind each bottle.
“We can speak to every single bottle we have in here, about the vineyard or about the producers themselves,” Lacie Flannery said. “Most of them are family-owned, and they’ve been handed down generations. I think sometimes we open a bottle of wine, and we don’t think how did this come to be? To us, it’s art in a bottle.”
Art and winemaking are intertwined in one of the featured wineries, Villalobos, from Chile’s Colchagua Valley. All of the Villalobos labels are painted by artist Enrique Villalobos, and the winery is run out of his sculpture studios, as noted by a ko-ze Instagram post.
Lacie and Doug Flannery consulted the Glen Ellyn Historical Society to restore a Main Street building space for their new wine room. The couple preserved the original tin ceilings and a brick wall.
– Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
To pay homage to organic winemaking, another priority for ko-ze’s owners, an artist hand-painted a mural of foliage, and a banquette was painted a vibrant green.
“All of these winemakers are first and foremost farmers, so we wanted to put that vibe into our space,” Lacie Flannery said.
Many of the winemakers put their passion into small production yields of anywhere from 200 to 1,000 cases.
The U.S. selection features labels from California wine country to Walla Walla, Washington. The Flannerys also spotlight wines from France’s Loire Valley, Slovakia, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa. In total, around 80 bottles are on the wine list.
“It’s an interesting wine selection that we don’t think you can really find in the suburbs,” Lacie Flannery said.
Lately, she’s been gravitating toward a Grenache Noir from Argentina’s Ver Sacrum winery ($12 by the glass), which can be served lightly chilled. Another personal favorite: a Scribe Winery pét-nat (short for pétillant natural) off the menu’s sparkling wine section.
“They do a really beautiful rosé,” said Lacie Flannery, who’s developed her expertise through traveling and formal education provided by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, or WSET.
Opening ko-ze was a labor of love and career pivot brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
A year ago, the Flannerys helped organize large-scale marathons, events that would be forced to shut down during the pandemic.
Seeing the writing on the wall, the couple decided they wouldn’t wait any longer to pursue a dream they had envisioned for their retirement years.
“First and foremost, we wanted it in Glen Ellyn,” said Lacie Flannery, a Glenbard West High School alum.
The result is a wine room that’s already been embraced as a place to mark milestones.
Lacie Flannery gives an example: Neighbors, good friends of the couple, made ko-ze their first stop after they were fully vaccinated. They celebrated with a glass of bubbly.