By Nicole Alvarado | Photos by Jessica Shea
Origin Wine Social in Norfolk has been open for less than six months, but already people are raving about its wine selection and service.
Owner Matthew Emborski, a Hampton Roads native, grew his culinary chops at the Oceanfront before moving to Washington, D.C., where he served as wine director and manager of Bastille Brasserie and Bar, a popular French eatery in Old Town Alexandria.
Emborski got his hands dirty in the kitchen, working alongside chefs, and plotting out menu pairings. Along the way he earned international certification by the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers. (If you’ve seen the documentary “Somm,” you know how difficult it is to earn such a distinction.)
After spending a few years behind the scenes working on the import and distribution side of the business, he decided it was time to take the leap and open his own place.
And what a lovely dream it is. Sitting in the space that once housed Quintin’s Tea Emporium on West Bute Street, Origin Wine Social is cut from the same period-piece cloth as the rest of the Freemason historic neighborhood.
It mixes the rustic charm of the Old World with distinctive modern touches (think: dark wood accents, dim exposed lighting, rich mahogany upholstery and — one can only assume — many leather-bound books).
“I didn’t want it to feel like a store. We took time with the atmosphere. The [bar] stools only come out during the classes.”
It’s an intimate setting in which you can’t help but recall a forgotten time when hosts ushered guests into salons after dinner to serve drinks, play music and games, but mostly just enjoy each other’s company.
The shop offers a tasting room, regular events like Free Wine Tasting Friday, wine classes, and cellar consulting. Its decadently decorated lounge areas are available for private parties and reservations, and there is a constantly rotating schedule of classes like How to Taste 101 and The Yoga Wine Social.
Don’t think of Origin Wine Social as a place to go lush it up. Think of it as a place to learn more about the culture of wine and make new friends.
“My favorite part about the shop is that I’ve gotten back to that small-town feel I had at Bastille,” Emborski said. “To see someone light up over a bottle personally chosen for them because I’ve gotten to know them and see them regularly.”