by Britt Aamodt
Phil Lutgen shows up early. He grabs a rag and the oil polish and rubs down the wood tables arrayed under reproduction vintage wine posters. On the back wall, halved barrels arrange in a mural between a wall rack and cooler, both storing the reds and whites that are the mainstay of Otsego’s newest business.
Pour Wine Bar & Bistro opened Monday, March 18, in the former Bob’s Produce. Good news for that corner of Otsego, which during the past year has seen the opening of Boondox Bar & Grille and the relocation of Bright Eyes Vision Clinic from across the street to the other end of the Bob’s Produce building.
“We had what’s called in the business a soft opening,” owner Lutgen said.
They didn’t put out ads or announcements, except through social media. They just opened and waited to see who’d come.
Now in business nearly a month, Lutgen said, “When you have a customer who comes once a week, that’s great. But when you have customers who come back two or three times in a week, you count your blessings.”
Along with repeat customers, Lutgen has seen a lot of people who have never been to a wine bar and want to find out what it’s about. Pour is part wine bar and part restaurant. It’s also a casual hangout where conversation flows as freely as the wine.
Lutgen and wife Diane have lived in Rogers for 20 years. Their three daughters attended Rogers High School, the youngest graduating this May. So last year, when Lutgen made the decision to sell his half of a California winery, he looked close to home to open his next business.
The 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry knew he wanted a wine bar.
“Coffee shops in the Midwest are what wine bars are in California,” he says. “They’re popping up left and right.”
Opening a wine bar in Otsego, however, earned Lutgen a few raised eyebrows. The northwest corridor has earned a reputation, however deserved or undeserved, for franchises.
But if you look around, Lutgen said, “you’ll notice this area has a lot of small-business owners.”
And people are always looking for a fresh taste.
Pour Wine Bar & Bistro has a different feel than a bar and grill. There are no TV sets. The ceilings aren’t lofted. The space is divided into a front bar area and a back area, which is reminiscent of a California wine tasting room.
The wine menu offers reds and whites from around the world by the glass or bottle. A glass can run anywhere from $6 to $11.
Many first-timers start with 2-ounce flights. They give a taste without the investment of an entire glass. When customers finds ones they like, they might order it by the glass. Pour’s wine list will change every eight weeks or so.
Pour also provides a stocked bar and several micro brews.
Lutgen and chef Chase Gavin collaborated on the food menu. The avocado wontons with strawberry-tarragon dipping sauce are a favorite with customers. But there are also crostini, seafood, salads, steaks, chops and a kids menu.
A unique feature of Pour’s location is the drive-through window, a remnant of the Dunn Bros. that used to occupy the spot.
“The contractor was going to brick it up, and I said, no, I want that,” Lutgen said.
Elk River and Rogers have their coffee shops, but there’s not much in between. In the near future, Lutgen would like to reopen the drive-through for coffee customers.
Also in the works in the next month or so is a visit from a local winemaker with a sampling night.
Lutgen’s advice to customers who come to Pour is to drop all perceptions. White doesn’t have to be paired with fish, or red with meat.
“It’s what tastes good” that matters, “and what tastes good to you,” he said.