Edmee CR Hasler
Bobby and Susan Baker, Salem locals, fulfilled a longtime dream by opening Stave & Cork, their winery and noshery, on Sept. 13. Inspired by Bobby’s graduate school days and fueled by their shared love for winery visits, the establishment offers a unique downtown Salem experience. “When Bobby and I were dating, we would spend our weekends traveling and visiting wineries all over Virginia,” Susan recounted.
“It’s been an evolution of putting the pieces and parts together,” said Bobby. The idea has grown into a total culinary experience unlike any in downtown Salem.
Stave & Cork, a culmination of research and education, stands out as a total culinary experience bridging the gap between full restaurants and local breweries. The philosophy centers on viewing wine as a storyteller, with carefully curated flights showcasing narratives spanning regions and cultures.
Operated like a winery tasting room, Stave & Cork invites patrons to enjoy themed wine flights curated by Susan, covering local, domestic, and international selections. “Internationally, we try to stick with a country, we’ve done Italy and France and we just finished Spain and we’re going on to Australia,” Susan said, “we try to move people around and expose them to new varietals.” Susan added.
The ambiance is deliberately minimalistic, emphasizing talking while sipping over loud noise and distractions. Bobby said, “we want the focus to be the wine and the conversation, we don’t want the focus to be on some game on the tv.” Susan added that they want the customers to feel like they can come in and sit with their friends and families and have wine and chill.
Open Wednesdays through Thursdays, Stave & Cork provides a gastronomic escape with a curated menu featuring paninis named after local natural wonders, such as McAffee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. Artisanal charcuterie spreads and an extensive selection of wines round out the fare.
Stave & Cork is not looking to compete with the established breweries and other eateries. What they do is help each other, “we want to support the other businesses on Main Street, we’re here to build Salem up, to make it a destination,” said Susan. “We consistently get referrals from some of the other businesses downtown and we do the same back to them,” Bobby added.
Patrons should visit Stave and Cork’s website for a virtual preview of their offerings. The taste room concept allows customers to explore wines without committing to a full bottle, promoting a travel-like experience.
Offering 12 wines monthly, Stave & Cork encourages patrons to feel like they’re at a winery, emphasizing the experience over a typical wine bar. The community’s overwhelmingly positive feedback and a growing number of repeat customers reflect the success of their venture. “If you only come in 12 times a year, you’ll get to taste 144 wines in a year,” Bobby remarked.
Susan added, “We really want you to feel like you’re at a winery, when you come in here, this is not a wine bar, it’s an experience, where we’re bringing the winery to you.”