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Helen’s Bottle Shop made its debut last December in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Located in the center of town at 2 School Street, the soon to be not so hidden gem is owned and operated by Alexis Harwood, and sells wine, beer, and a selection of specialty items. 

Alexis was for several years the passionate beverage director for The Market Restaurant in Annisquam and Short and Main in Gloucester. Her shop is named after both her maternal and paternal grandmothers, who shared the same name, and with whom she was close. The former owned a wine shop and the latter, “appreciated beverages, and taught me how to drink scotch,” Alexis says with a smile.

The building dates back to 1850, and was recently restored, leaving several original fixtures in place, including the large wooden door, which has an old school mail drop box attached on the inside. Generously sized windows usher in a cascade of sunlight, which streams through the space, and on an early spring afternoon, a ricochet of prismic light dances off the hand laid section of small white and black tiles in the entry. They remind Alexis of the classic brownstones in New York City where she lived while working in restaurants before moving to Cape Ann. 

While modest in size, the high ceilings, whitewashed walls, and endless light make the shop feel more spacious. It perfectly accommodates the delicious cornucopia of provisions, including off-the-beaten-path beer, local cheeses, vinegars, chocolates, tinned fish, and other surprise finds. A small selection of sandwiches are also made to order. 

Wine is, of course, the centerpiece at Helen’s Bottle Shop, and local woodworker Winston Daddario, of Spire Woodshop in Lanesville, built elegant floor-to-ceiling wine shelves, along a wall, as well a sturdy ladder, which is used to retrieve bottles on high.

The selection of wines have their roots in the practices of sustainable winemaking and biodynamic farming, and are as naturally produced as possible. Alexis aims to support small production winemakers, importers and distributors. 

Arranged in the shop by their origin, be it country or region, the wines invite conversation. “I wanted to encourage people coming in to step outside of their comfort zone and try different grapes and styles of wine.” Adding to the charm of the shop are the stacks of additional wines awaiting a place on the shelves, but for now cradled in their open cases. The look is reminiscent of a well-kept, vibrant artist’s studio.

4 Recommended Summer Sips

+ A sparkling wine from Domaine Belluard, nestled beneath the Alps in France’s Savoie region. Vibrant and charismatic, it is made entirely with indigenous white varietal Gringet.
Brought in by Vineyard Road.

+ Winemaker Sandrine Farrugia is an importer turned winemaker. Her ‘52 Ares’, which hails from the Côtes du Marmandais in Southwest France, is an elegant and pure blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Brought in by Oz Wine Company.

+ Italian red varietal Ciliegiolo shines in the hands of Umbrian winemaker Leonardo Bussoletti, who makes vibrantly aromatic wines in Central Italy, which are polished, and full of grace.
Brought in by Mucci Imports.

+ James Erskine at Winery Jauma in Adelaide Hills, crafts a fine expression of South Australian Shiraz, which shows both opulent fruit and restraint. Akin to the red wines from France’s Northern Rhone Valley. 
Brought in by Violette Imports.

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