Coastal Wine Brings First Wine Bar to Ocean Isle Beach
Wendy Li and Frank West share their love of fine wine at Ocean Isle Beach’s first wine bar.
Most of the retirees who move to Brunswick County retire not only from their snow shovels and wool socks, but also from their jobs. Brunswick County’s warm climate and beautiful beaches are the escape they’ve worked toward all of their lives and they can’t wait to relax, slow down and let go of the daily grind.
For Wendy Li and Frank West, however, their retirement plan wasn’t quite that simple. Former residents of the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, the couple fell in love with the island of Ocean Isle Beach after years of vacations that began in 2005. In 2009 they purchased a home on the island, and in May 2017 they opened the doors to the Coastal Wine Room, the first wine room on the island.
“Our retirement plans needed to include a way to meet new friends and activities that would be a service to the residents and guests who visit the island,” they share on the wine room’s website.
Wendy, who has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford University and UCLA, hails from California, where she worked at Energizer Battery before moving to Ohio. Frank retired as an x-ray technician from University Hospitals St. John Medical Center. One commonality for the co-owners is a passion for wine.
Amidst the impressive 300 labels Coastal Wine Room has in stock, you’ll find hints of Wendy’s California roots alongside wines from around the world. Everything is painstakingly selected from large and small vineyards, and most are not offered by other local retailers.
“Our inventory features something you won’t find anywhere else,” Frank says. “We really try not to overlap from what’s offered in grocery stores, with a wider price range.”
Coastal Wine Room offers wine flights (four sampling glasses each), ranging from Rieslings and sparkling wines to a pinot noir, Malbec and cabernet spanning the globe from California to Spain, Germany, South Africa, France and Argentina.
Two of Wendy and Frank’s favorites on their shelves right now are from Rombauer Vineyards: the Chardonnay and California Cabernet
If you’d like some food to go along with the grapes, Coastal Wine Room also offers a menu of small plates. Choose from a tasty spinach and artichoke dip served with tortilla chips, chips and salsa, pot stickers, a cheese board (with nuts, fruit and chocolate) and pretzels and hummus.
Weekly tastings of featured wines give customers an added insight into what’s in their glass, from the actual wine-making process to the complexity and personality of each wine.
“We always hear that this is something the island sorely needed,” Frank says. “It’s new, unique and creative. And it’s not a sports bar – we won’t have the football game on here! Husbands actually need to pay attention to their wives now.”
If wine isn’t your preference, six taps rotate local craft brews that can be poured by the pint, half pint or growler. The beer menu taps into the local breweries (and some that are Ohio-based).
Locals love to gather at the second-floor bar perched on the corner of East Second and Halifax streets for special events. During regular hours, Wendy says, many visitors to the island make this their first stop after check-in.
“It’s nice because we’ve always had a social life centered around wine tastings and wine socials,” Wendy says, “but now we’re focused on the business side of wine. We quickly integrated into the local community and we’re able to meet new people this way, rather than just being retired.”
Cheers to that! Here’s to mingling and meeting new friends through an appreciation for the creative art and science of fine wines. It’s an ancient practice that never grows old. And it’s a heck of a way to retire.
Want to go?
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you make your trip to Coastal Wine Room:
– They host a special wine event/tasting each month in the off-season; during the summer, Coastal Wine room holds weekly wine tastings, wine pairings and more activities.
– If you join Coastal Wine Room’s Wine Club, you will receive two wines selected by Wendy each month; it’s a great way for members to broaden their palates.
– Wendy and Frank can special order most wines by the bottle or case and usually have it within 24 hours.
– 12-bottle cases receive a 10% discount.
Coastal Wine Room
20B E. Second Street, Ocean Isle Beach