It’s an hour before closing at Methodical Coffee in Greenville, South Carolina and I’m nursing the last few sips—long since room temperature—of a pour-over of a Kenya, Kirinyaga. Like many cafe dwellers, I need to stretch this study session out for another half hour, but I’m past the point of consuming caffeine. In the background I can’t help but overhear a barista explain the wine menu to another customer and my interest is piqued. Small producers? Minimal intervention? I glance at the time. Not only is it five o’clock somewhere, it’s in fact five o’clock in Greenville, South Carolina and a glass of natural wine sounds nice.
As I peruse the the three-page wine menu, the barista recommends a Sauvignon Blanc from a small producer in Hawk’s Bay, New Zealand. My previous experience with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc makes me wary about dropping $11 on what might prove to the heavily manipulated lemongrass-forward product that quite simply I can do without. (I later discover that Decibel, the American-founded winery that produced that wine, is anything but the recipe-driven industrial winery I feared.)
Scanning the reds, I spot a familiar name: Morgon—perhaps my favorite of Beaujolais’s ten crus. The domaine, Domaine Bulliat, is new to me, but once in my glass it drinks like an old friend. Silky but structured, it has that distinct cherry flavor one gets from carbonic maceration. It’s youthful, but drinking well. Coffee shop or not, it’s an exceptional wine I would be happy to order anywhere.
“We’re a coffee bar and a wine bar,” says Will Shurtz, Methodical’s co-owner. “We’re not necessarily a coffee bar with wine.”
It’s a bold claim, but Shurtz is no stranger to thinking big. At only eighteen years old Shurtz started a mobile pour-over stand under the moniker Vagabond Barista. His enthusiastic service attracted business partners, which led to Methodical Coffee opening its retail location in 2015. It’s barely been two years, but they’ve already received accolades as prestigious as Imbibe Magazine’s Best Coffee Shop, and now Shurtz and company have turned their sights on wine.
“Most people when they hear a coffee bar has wine are going to automatically assume the owners of the coffee shop just were throwing darts at the wall,” says Shurtz. Instead, the menu was built around a strict criteria. “First we want to understand these farmers are sustainably farming their grapes. If it’s not organic, and most of our wines are organic, we want them in some way to be sustainably farmed,” says Shurtz. “We’ve chosen all small producers and wines with little manipulation. Most of our wines are aged in stainless steel or concrete tanks.”
Like the decision to start roasting coffee, the decision to add wine to the menu at Methodical was born more out of passion for the product than boasting revenue. “The three of us that started Methodical, myself, Marco Suarez, and David Baker, we’ve always enjoyed wine,” says Shurtz. “Marco travels a lot. He’s got to experience a lot of fun wine bars.” Methodical enlisted the help of wine distributors McCarus Beverage Company and Grassroot Wines to assemble their list. Like many entrepreneurs, the program was started with a leap-before-you-look audacity based more on enthusiasm than experience. Shurtz admits there’s been a fair amount of learning as they go. “I’m not a vintner,” says Shurtz. “I’m just now getting into this industry.”
The decision to launch a wine program came within a year of Methodical starting to roast their own coffee. Shurtz admits it was a lot to take on, but he welcomes the challenge.
“In the past year I’ve been roasting coffee for Methodical. I’ve been cupping and evaluating coffee flavors a lot more,” says Shurtz. “Naturally, that had me diving into wine in the same way we dove into coffee.”
Shurtz was surprised to discover unexpected connections between coffee and wine flavor.
“It’s wild. I didn’t know before we started our wine program I would have very similar preferences for wine and coffee, says Shurtz. “When we were tasting wines, I would always pick the wines with lighter bodies and higher acidity. I tend not to like wines that have been aged with oak. In the same way, I love coffee with high acidity. I love coffees that are clean and complex. I guess I also don’t enjoy coffee that has been aged in barrels.”
High acid and light bodied certainly would describe another wine I enjoyed at Methodical: Fiefs Vendéens Blanc from vintner J. Mourat. This Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc blend was intensely floral with a steely zip, which makes for some light, refreshing summer drinking. Methodical boasts a wine from this Loire Valley producer in all three sections of its wine menu: white, rosé, and red.
Although a natural-leaning wine list in this style is still rare in Greenville, the community has been responsive so far.
“Our wine list might be slightly more expensive than most of the restaurants around us,” says Shurtz. “If we want to offer these producers, we need not to be so afraid to charge a higher price and trust that people will be open to us.”
“We’re trusting that the community will pay to have this new experience. And so far they have,” says Shurtz. “We want to contribute to the wine culture in Greenville. It’s a big journey. We’re still figuring out what it looks like.”
Michael Butterworth is a coffee educator and consultant based in Istanbul, Turkey.