Driving through Wenham on a rainy afternoon, as late autumn’s moody beauty stuns beneath a deepening gray sky, I arrive at Vin Fromage, a new food and wine destination. With an antique bicycle parked outside, a little slice of European charm has made its way to Main Street. Tall windows filled with golden light cast an inviting glow on shelves rich with thoughtfully curated, small production wines alongside a vast selection of specialty goods from around the globe. The sound of soft jazz fills the space.
Beautifully designed both inside and out, the shop has an old world feel. The second floor, reached by a grand staircase, opens to a gallery space, home to a special collection of Greek products including an amazing display of Greek wines from Hogshead Wine Company, in honor of co-owner Maria Lekkakos’s Greek heritage. Antique wine prints adorn the walls, and a gorgeous glass chandelier rounds out the design.
“Wenham is lovely and quaint,” says Lekkakos, an esthetician who also owns M. Lekkakos Skincare, an elegant boutique next door. “I have always felt that we needed to develop a downtown in Wenham,” she says. “When my husband, Marc Harris, CEO of Salon Marc Harris on Newbury Street in Boston, and I bought this building, we began envisioning a concept. We knew we wanted to create something that was an extension of our aesthetic and love of Europe, the way of life there, and something lovely for the community here.”
When asked how they assembled the crew, Marc says, “Our connections go way back; some we only discovered when we came together to create Vin Fromage. It is a collaboration of passion and talent. Also, I am smart enough to surround myself with people who know what I don’t know,” he says with a big smile. The team consists of managing partner Dan McElligott, also the cheese and charcuterie manager, who has outfitted the shop with a decadent array of cheeses, charcuterie, and olives fit for a feast, the goal of which “is to source product from small, family-run farms in an effort to help them stay sustainable.”
In a perfect case of six degrees of separation, Dan’s oldest childhood friend is the son of Marc’s longest employee, a fact discovered only when Marc was looking for a cheese expert. Chef Maureen Kelly was Marc’s first client when at 18 he had just begun his career working at John Dellaria Salon on Newbury Street. Maureen’s career in food began back in the sixties in San Francisco and eventually brought her to Boston. She’ll be cooking in the small kitchen, producing fabulous sandwiches and cooking comfort-food dinner dishes, custom served out of copper pots to take home, as well as desserts. “Over the years, I’ve noticed people have less and less time for cooking. Folks can stop in, pick up dinner, simply serve it up, and take pause,” Kelly says.
Beverage director Howie Rubin is one of the most unassuming, open-hearted, and knowledgeable wine professionals around. His inventory of small production wines is selected from independent suppliers rather than large corporations. Europe-centric with a global sweep, the shop offers exceptional wines at a modest price point. A collection of artisanal beers from local brewers will keep time with the wine.
Joining Rubin in the beverage department is John Stepanski, formerly of Boston’s Bauer Wine and Spirits, who was coaxed out of retirement to be the food and beverage consultant. His equal wealth of knowledge, and accessible approach to wine and wine pairings, will give customers ease about broadening their own palates. “Two years ago, I called Howie Rubin, then general manager of Bauer Wine and Spirits on Newbury Street, on New Year’s Day,” says Marc. “I’ve known him forever. I would stop in to Bauer for wine, of course, but also just to chat. We go way back. I asked, ‘Do you know anybody who could do this project?’ Howie had been at Bauer on Newbury Street for over four decades. I was planting the seed. Earlier this year, I looked at Maria and said, ‘You know, we can do this. We know enough people, we can put a team together.’ And here we are!”
152 Main St., Wenham, 978-468-1315, vinaufromage.com