There’s a tasty duo on Minnetonka Boulevard that’ll have you taking a bite—and a sip—of something new. When the space opened up in 2006, brothers-in-law Chris Eriksson and Ryan Sadowski—who were both financial services brokers by day—opened the Wine Shop to provide a wider selection of wines to the community.
“I’ve always been inspired by local wine shops on my travels—these esoteric, unique places that sold interesting wines,” says Sadowski. “My brother-in-law—who actually doesn’t drink wine at all—kind of shoots from the hip. He said, ‘Let’s just do it,’ so we did it!’”
Approximately a year later, Eriksson opened the restaurant Spasso in the space next door. “It’s a scratch kitchen—everything is made in-house, from the sauces to the pastas to just about everything else on the menu,” says Spasso general manager Shannon Clancy. Steaks are hand-cut by the chef, and the meat is never frozen. An Italian oven reaches 500 degrees and fills the space with the delicious smell of pizza.
While the menu features top-notch, fresh flavors, there’s a casual, laid-back vibe in the space. “Come as you are—we’re not fine dining, and not just a wine bar,” says Clancy. “People come in from Life Time Fitness in their workout clothes, they bring their families. There’s no dress code. You can spend $3 on a glass of wine at happy hour or buy a $200 bottle and a $30 steak.”
Just as the clientele is all over the map, Spasso’s 150-plus wine list offers something for everyone. The two businesses are a bit of a family affair, so guests get retail pricing on bottles of wine at the Wine Shop and don’t pay a corkage fee at Spasso when they choose a bottle from the shop next door to accompany their meal.
(Left: Ryan Sadowski; Right: The Wine Shop offers small-batch wines and unusual finds, some from local wineries.)
Sadowski left the brokerage in 2011 to focus more heavily on the shop, and his proximity to the wine industry has given him an interesting vantage point on trends in the wine world. “Overall, the price points have fallen. People are becoming aware of the fact that there are way more wines available than there used to be,” he says. “If someone comes in who likes big Napa reds, and I tell them the wine they just tried is $10 a bottle, they’re shocked. Once people open their eyes to the world of wines, they learn they can be content with something on the shelf for $20.”
The shop curates a mix of familiar, widely available wines stocked alongside a small number of local varieties like Chankaska Creek, winery vintages and a bevy of unique, small-batch wines from every corner of the world.
The business has changed in recent years as more sellers have moved into the market. “There’s a major pricing war going on in the Twin Cities, and big-box stores are a huge force,” says Sadowski. “There are a lot of smaller wineries out there who don’t like to sell to larger stores because of the manipulation of pricing. We’re all in the same business, but it’s a different model.” Whether folks are stopping in to splurge on a nice bottle of wine to go with a celebratory dinner or stocking up for a lake party, the Wine Shop team can offer personal expertise and guidance that’s just not possible at bigger wine stores.
That fairness is a big driver on the restaurant side, too. “I go out for dinner sometimes and know exactly the [wholesale] price of a bottle of wine. Sometimes the restaurant is charging the cost of a bottle—for one glass! The markup is sometimes 400 percent. I just don’t think that’s fair,” says Sadowski. “If I’m getting ripped off, I don’t want to know about it. This is like any other business. You have inventory and profit margins to think about, but you want to be fair.” Cheers to that!
Picks for Best Pairs
The folks at the Wine Shop and Spasso dish on their favorite meals and the wines they’d pick to go with them.
Want a salad?
The black and blue Cobb features New York strip on top of greens with generous helpings of gorgonzola, avocado, bacon, tomato and egg and a delicious citrus herb dressing. It’s a perfect combo with the ever-popular rosé. A rosé offers the best of both wine worlds, with the round, rich flavors of ripe berries and a bright freshness that can stand up to the citrus herb dressing extremely well.
Try it with: Miraval rosé (France): $8 glass, $25 bottle.
Feeling like a burger?
Check out the bacon and white-cheddar burger. This big, juicy burger calls for a big, juicy red! Try it with a ripe, round merlot or petite sirah. These wines have all of the flavors red-wine drinkers love: blackberries, ripe plum, blueberries, and delicious notes of vanilla and cedar from the oak, which complements that applewood-smoked bacon.
Try it with: Markham merlot (California): $8 glass, $24 bottle; or Michael David Petite Petit (California): $7 glass, $22 bottle.
Want to try one of the specialties?
The Spiendino features grilled jumbo shrimp and sea scallop skewers on a bed of spaghetti vegetables topped with a smoky tomato beurre blanc sauce. Ever heard of the grape vermintino? It’s from Sardinia, about 150 miles off the coast of Italy, and this wine has amazing aromatics of orange blossoms and fresh citrus. The palate is weighty and lush, which marries well with the grilled shrimp and scallops.
Try it with: Seghesio (Sonoma, California): $20 bottle.
Looking for a steak?
Whether you are in the mood for a filet mignon or New York strip, you can never go wrong with the classics. The massive clarets from Bordeaux or their California counterparts will enhance the meal tenfold. Wines from Coravin are new to Spasso and an absolute must-try. You can “enjoy the wine without pulling the cork” and try some of the wine world’s high-end, once-in-a-lifetime wines.
Try it with: Dominus (Napa, California), available in 2 oz., 4 oz and 6 oz. pour; or Torbreck Run Rig (Australia), available in 2 oz., 4 oz. and 6 oz. pour.
Spasso also has a private dining room that can accommodate 60 people for sit-down dining or up to 200 for an open house experience. Guests can also take advantage of Spasso’s car service, which offers round-trip rides to and from the restaurant, up to 30 miles, without charge, except tip.
(Left: Spasso’s pizza oven reaches 500 degrees and grills each pie with a crispy-chewy crust; Right: A savory black and blue Cobb salad with a cool glass of Miraval rosé)