Running a wine shop isn’t easy. Margins are often surprisingly tight, something’s always breaking, vintages vary in quality, people’s tastes change constantly, and it can often seem impossible to compete with the prices in the big grocery chains that keep popping up all over town. A number of local wine shops have closed in the last few years, but Table Wine in South Asheville seems to be thriving.
Josh Spurling and his wife, Lynn, opened the store in 2010, aiming to sell quality wines from all over the world. But Spurling also wanted them to be natural, organic or biodynamic — which makes it that much more challenging. Still, you’ll rarely hear him mention that a particular wine is sustainably produced. “We haven’t made it about being holistic: We just take that as a given,” he explains. “We are a purveyor of fine wines first and foremost, and it just comes with the territory that a lot of the wines are sustainable as a result.”
A biodynamic farmer, for example, might raise pigs to feed the workers; the pigs’ waste makes the compost that feeds the grapes, and the leftovers from the grape pressing help make the slop that feeds the pigs. Every element across the farm is recycled and reused. For a long time, these wines were mostly made in the rural parts of Europe, but they’ve started popping up in the States now, particularly California. And Spurling seems quite excited about the changing West Coast scene.
“Having come from a very European background [in wine], my favorite stuff right now has been what’s coming over from California and Oregon,” he reports. “Jon Bonné, who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, calls it the ‘new California.’” Bonnee’s book, The New California Wine, documents the changing production methods on the Golden Coast, with particular attention paid to those implementing biodynamic practices.
“Some of the most progressive wines available here are being sold in the most conservative part of Asheville: South Asheville,” notes Spurling. “You wouldn’t believe what we sell down there!”
He recommends checking out Arnot-Roberts’ Watson Ranch chardonnay, which boasts thirst-quenching acidity and little to no oak. That’s a rarity for California chardonnay, which has a history of buttery malolactic fermentation and blatant abuse of new oak barrels. “It is the least intrusive way to make wine,” adds Spurling. “Little to no filtration, little to no oak, and that’s what you’re seeing more and more of in California now.”
Spurling also recommends the Peay pinot noir, which takes advantage of natural techniques and the cool climate at the chilly edge of Sonoma to produce a less sugary grape, resulting in a much more complex and developed wine. And if you’re looking for a rosé, you might be interested in Lioco Indica, which Spurling says is “all carignan and tastes like a glass full of strawberries.”
Table Wine has nearly doubled its inventory recently, expanding its boutique selection to include many wines under $15. “I felt like, having been a wine rep for six years, there was no one really pushing the envelope in South Asheville,” says Spurling. “There was such great opportunity. There is a tremendous pocket of wealth here; there are a lot of people that are really into wine that I used to service when I worked at the Asheville Wine Market. And a lot of those people don’t have time [to seek out good wine]: They work all day. But it’s my job to sit around and taste wine all day, and these folks need someone to filter out the good stuff and sell it to them.”
Nonetheless, he continues, “It’s really challenging at times. People have preconceived notions and always want something like Caymus or Silver Oak, and I just try to show them that I can get them something half the price that is way better. And for most people, that works.”
Table Wine (1550 Hendersonville Road) is open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturdays 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with free tastings from 2-5 p.m. It also offers paid tastings and classes. For details, visit tablewineasheville.com.