After spending the past few years hunting down natural wine in Dallas, I was told by a number of local wine shops and big-box stores that it didn’t exist. “Do you mean biodynamic wine?”, they’d ask, and before I could explain “Well yes, but…” I’d be ushered towards something that didn’t exactly fit the bill. But in most cases the people I spoke with here in Dallas denied that natural wine existed at all.
This is ludicrous, of course. Natural wine does exist. I’ve had it in Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, London. Hell, I have a friend in Australia who makes it. So why are these people here in Dallas that are allegedly knowledgeable about wine saying it doesn’t? This question, sadly, remains unanswered, other than to say this is what natural wine looks like still for much of America: denial.
Thankfully, the existence of natural wine here in Dallas has been confirmed. It exists. And even more joyously, there is a now a place in Dallas that sells it, thanks to the new Bar & Garden, a wine, spirits, beer, and specialty supply store in the Bryan Place neighborhood near Old East Dallas.
The name Bar & Garden may sound familiar to traveling natural wine seekers. Opened in February, this new second location is an offshoot of the original excellent boutique in Culver City, California. And while Dallas may seem like an odd choice for an expansion, the decision to move was informed by familiarity and opportunity. Two members of Bar & Garden’s ownership team are from Texas, and Dallas spends the most on alcohol per capita than any other U.S. metropolitan area—no small feat for the ninth most populated city in the country. Combining those factors with a lack of natural wine made Dallas ripe for the proverbial picking.
Inside, the space is open and clean featuring giant windows on the northeast side of the building pumping in a lot of afternoon sunlight, which bounces off the white walls, giving the space room to breathe. Sea blue and light wood shelving lines the walls, with matching standalone shelves spread around the building. Small touches of color come from potted greenery and a floral-print wallpaper in the back bar area, where Bar & Garden hosts many of its tastings. The result is a casual and unpretentious space.
In addition to natural wines—which are a big draw—Bar & Garden keeps a tight but exceptional roster of hard-to-find spirits, bitters, shrubs, and beers. There aren’t really any throwaway bottles on the shelves, making the shop a sort of one-stop shop for the thoughtful imbiber.
General manager Julie Buckner Lane says that the reception thus far has been largely positive, and Bar & Garden has seen a large swath of locals coming in. “Dallas is an incredibly open-minded city! I attribute that to the many transplants or people that move from all over to make their homes here,” Lane says. “Our guests are the best mixture of young, old, knowledgeable, novice, adventurous, and cautious-but-open folks we could hope for.”
Even with an open and eager customer base, there can be a learning curve, especially for a city that loves big cuts of beef and tends to pair them with even bigger reds. “We do have to frame them appropriately when explaining the natural selections that we have,“ she says. “They are different and funky and weird and cool and not your average glass of wine.”
But for those willing to step out of their comfort zone, Bar & Garden has some really fun wines to try and an approachable staff that can help lead you to them. During my visit, Lane suggested a few wines she is currently excited about, including the Xarel·lo from Loxarel in Barcelona, which is aged in ceramic amphora vases. Lane describes it as “alive in the bottle” with “serious notes of sandalwood.” She also recommends the Populis rosé, which is light and delicate with a deep complexity, as well as the Babiole from Andreá Calek, which she describes as esoteric and ever-changing. “I don’t want to say funk because people may get weirded out,” she adds. But the funk is there; it’s just honed, on the one, more JB’s or early Parliament than a 25-piece P-Funk All-Stars jam, and definitely delicious.
Bar & Garden represents a different type of buying experience in Dallas. Most liquor and wine stores in the area adhere to the “bigger is better” selection philosophy, which can be intimidating, especially when trying something new. But with its inviting atmosphere and excellent stock, Bar & Garden is the kind of place you visit with an idea of what you want—an interesting rosé or a botanical gin perhaps—then let the well-curated list do the rest of the work.
While many of Dallas’s great mysteries remain unsolved (Who really shot JFK? Where do all those underground tunnels go? Why can’t the Texas Rangers ever win the World Series?), this much we know for certain: Natural wine is real. You can get it, along with everything else you would need to fit out a proper bar, at Bar & Garden. Case closed.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network, and a staff writer based in Dallas. This is Zac Cadwalader’s first feature for Sprudge Wine.