Wine bar offers unique approach to dining in Stahlstown
Twenty-five years ago Virginia Robertson and Diane Martz met while working in Washington, D.C. For 15 of those years, they talked about one day opening a wine bar together.
At 5 p.m. Friday night, those years of dreaming and preparing will become a reality when they officially open the doors of The Main Street Wine Bar in Stahlstown to the public.
“Our goal is to create a comfortable environment to gather with friends and enjoy great wine and food,” said Robertson.
While in Washington, both women worked for the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz, Robertson as a scheduler and Martz as a statewide case worker. Both women eventually moved to the Pittsburgh area and worked for the Heinz Family Foundation.
Robertson said her experience as an event planner provided the perfect background she needed to pursue her dream for the wine bar.
Martz said years of traveling all around the world for her job allowed her the opportunity to learn about wine.
“Wine was often a topic of conversation with Mr. Heinz,” said Martz. “I've had 25 years of learning and tasting and listening to other people talk about wine.”
Martz's responsibilities for the Heinz Family Foundation now include management of the family's wine cellars.
After Robertson moved to the Stahlstown area, she began looking for a location for the wine bar.
“The mountain thing is a great thing,” said Robertson. “We love this area and it just happened.”
Two years ago they discovered the vacant Brass Duck Restaurant and decided it would be the ideal place for a wine bar.
“It was already kitted out to be a restaurant and at a location that people knew about,” said Martz. “So, Virginia bought it and we started renovating.”
For now, the first floor has been redesigned. There is space for another dining room and a banquet room on the second floor.
“If business is good, we want to expand the dining area,” said Robertson. “We can seat 34 now.”
Martz said they want the bar/restaurant to reflect a 1930s atmosphere.
“We want people to feel comfortable and offer a relaxing place to enjoy wine,” said Martz.
The wine bar held a soft opening last weekend for family and friends.
“We want people to relax, we want people to feel warm and comfortable,” said Robertson. “It is a casual dining place to talk and have a glass of wine and great food.”
The wine bar offers a list of wines that can be purchased by the glass or by the bottle. The list features detailed information about each wine to entice people to try something new or different.
“I think people are adventuresome and they like tasting different wines,” said Martz. “It's supposed to be fun.”
The offering includes wines from Argentina, France, Italy, Austria, Australia and the United States.
“We try them all, then we sell them,” said Martz. “It wouldn't do us any good to sell something we did not taste.”
Menu highlights for Friday's opening weekend include a cheese board with Morbier, Beemster XO, Lamb Chopper and Barely Buzzed cheeses served with bread and organic honey. The weekly small plate special is butternut squash mac and cheese with white cheddar, sausage, sage and brown butter walnuts served with arugula tossed in oil and vinegar.
The food is prepared by Chef Elise Wigle of Ligonier. The 1998 Ligonier Valley High School alumna said she got her start preparing food for the public at the Ligonier Country Market, where she has operated the Bad Girl Burrito food booth for the past three years. Her sister, Reda Wigle, is a waitress and sous chef at the wine bar.
Chef Wigle said she makes everything from scratch. She uses family recipes and is always creating new dishes.
“When we go out to eat, we call it research,” said Elise Wigle.
One of Wigle's favorite dishes is the margherita flat bread pizza, made with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. They also offer a hand-cut filet with cherry black pepper sauce.
“Our steaks come from Hoffer's Meats, right here in the Ligonier Valley. They are fresh-cut and prepared just the way we want them,” said Wigle.
Reda Wigle, a 2004 Ligonier Valley High School alumna, brings her experience working in restaurants in Colorado, Key West, Fla. and Greece to add variety to the menu.
“Colorado was a great place to learn about food and Key West is a super fooding destination,” said Reda Wigle.
She suggests trying the Greek tzatziki plate or the Key West inspired prosciutto wrapped dates from the sharing menu.
Elise Wigle said she is looking forward to offering a menu that will be pleasing to people who want to eat food that is good for them. Growing up in Ligonier, she said she knows people have the opportunity to enjoy good restaurants there and not the fast-food atmosphere of other towns.
“I think the wine bar will do well in this area,” she said. “People want to try things from everywhere else.”
The menu also features desserts, including biscotti and chocolate tiramisu, prepared by Mary Warmbine of Pittsburgh.
Located at 4147 Main St. in Stahlstown, the wine bar is open 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“This has been our dream and my husband Wayne has been behind me all the way. We've all been wanting to do this for so long,” said Robertson. “I worked in a office, now we are doing our thing. Every one wants to do that once in their life, right?”
For more information, call 724-593-WINE (9463) or go to email@example.com.
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.