While I have always enjoyed a glass of wine, the only thing I really knew about wine was that I preferred white in the summer and red in the winter. So when I stopped by Brix Nouveau Wine and Cheese Bar, located in my own beautiful neighborhood of North Chattanooga, I was relieved to find the atmosphere non-intimidating and the staff down-to-earth.
The interior of Brix Nouveau - pronounced "bree new-voe" - is inviting and stylish with an eclectic collection of modern art that includes a wall of matted images taken by a local photographer and several paintings done by owner Rosabelle Gorman. There are a number of high-top tables, each adorned with a single pink rose placed in a wine glass. Out front is a spacious patio with a recently added rooftop and fireplace.
Brix Nouveau has become a popular place to host private parties, wedding and baby showers and bachelor and bachelorette parties. "We even had a group come in for a cancer-free party," manager and recent UTC graduate Kat Olinger told me. "It was really cool. At the end of the party, the woman ripped her wig off and everybody was like, 'Yeeaah!'"
Naturally, the wine and cheese bar is also a popular spot to celebrate anniversaries. In fact, Brix Nouveau is about to celebrate its own anniversary marking one year in business. I asked Rosabelle how she planned to commemorate the occasion.
"Well it's going to have something to do with sparkling wine and Champagne," she said, smiling. The details may still be in the works, but Brix's anniversary party will likely be more of a tribute to the customers. "I want to say how much I appreciate the community's support," said Rosabelle.
Aside from its wines and select beers, Brix Nouveau also offers an assortment of finger foods. The day I visited, Kat brought out a plate of warm and fresh-smelling bread to my table. Next she brought a "basic plate," which includes the customer's choice of three meats and/or cheeses as well as three accompaniments. This particular plate featured smoked salmon, Gouda with candied ginger and Cowgirl Triple Crème as the meats and cheeses, and fresh seasonal fruit (blueberries and peach slices), sun-dried tomato tapenade and Marcona almonds as the accompaniments.
"The Cowgirl Triple Crème is Rosabelle's favorite," Kat told me. "When it gets to be room temperature it is astonishing." She was right. The tapenade, pureed sun-dried tomatoes seasoned with salty capers, was also particularly delicious.
Other menu items include breads, salads and desserts like the espresso ice cream served in an edible chocolate coffee cup. Some customers choose to substitute dessert with dessert wines, which, I learned, are much sweeter than other wines.
"They taste more like raisins," Kat explained. I also learned that dessert wine has about 5-6 percent more alcohol than most wine. "Do you get a lot of people like me that come in and ask dumb questions?" I asked. Kat said some customers actually end up teaching her about wine . "Others,"she continued, "don't even know the difference between zinfandel and white zinfandel."
"I want people to come in and ask 'dumb' questions," said Rosabelle, who says she is stil llearning too, which inspired her to start Wine Tasting 101. The classes feature a tasting and lesson, with the topics changing twice monthly. The series has gotten so popular, Rosabelle said she would like for it to become a biweekly event. Regardless of how often they occur, the classes are held on Wednesday.
LOCATION: 301 Cherokee Blvd.
HOURS: Tuesday-Thursday from 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5-11 p.m. and Sunday from 3-8 p.m.
It's easy to understand why the classes and wine bar itself have become so popular. I had walked into Brix Nouveau with only an opinion. An hour later I had been entertained by Brix's easy-to-talk-to staff, sampled fancy cheeses and learned a few rudimentary things about wine, which, I'll admit, included the difference between zinfandel and white zinfandel. ?