A new wine bar and retail space, Vertical Detroit, is headed for The Ashley in downtown Detroit near Harmonie Park. The concept is expected to start pouring around late summer/early fall. The bar is named after a vertical wine flight, which is a side-by-side tasting of multiple vintages of the same wine. Designed by Rossetti architects, the space will include three areas: a retail wine shop with 17-foot tasting table, a cozy banquette seating area, and a bar. Outdoor seating is on the slate for next year. Vertical has a liquor license for the whole building, so guests can be served food and beverage in the lobby while they wait for a table.
Vertical is the brainchild of Jim Lutfy and his daughter Remy. Jim, with wife Livvie, owns Fine Wine Source in Livonia and has been a go-to wine expert in Southeast Michigan for over three decades. With Vertical, Jim and Remy are bringing their wine knowledge (she has studied wine and winemaking with internships in Napa Valley and studies at UC-Davis) to Detroit and have gathered an impressive team of food and beverages professionals from around the country.
Eater contributor and wine enthusiast, Hannah Lowe, toured the new space with Remy, general manager Todd Allen, and beverage manager Devin Mullye, and got the scoop on what guests can expect at Vertical when it debuts.
Tell me about the name Vertical Detroit.
RL: My dad came up with the name. It speaks to our specialty, wine, but doesn't pigeonhole us. We will feature three verticals at all times. For instance, a wine from Silver Oak (a California winery) from three vintages.
TA: We want to take the snobbiness out of wine and make it fun. I learn better with my eyes and through tasting. We want it to be unforgettable every time. The atmosphere will be fun, a high-end experience, but fun. We are perfectly located to cater to baseball fans, operagoers, and Detroit Athletic Club members. We have launched our website and our app, which will offer daily deals and specials. The app will keep us on your mind every day.
"We want to take the snobbiness out of wine and make it fun."
The love of wine clearly runs in your family. Why now and why here for Vertical?
RL: We've been looking for a space for about five years. It's always been a big dream of my dad's to venture out of retail and do something hospitality-wise . . . This was a good segue to start something new and really do something that we were all passionate about. My parents are diners and that's my dad's favorite hobby — going out to eat. We just wanted to bring an experience to the city that we were proud of and that we would truly enjoy doing ourselves.
TA: I think the best thing right now about Detroit . . . [is that] this is an amazing city with amazing clientele . . . Right now, you can be a big fish in a small pond . . . If you tried to open in Chicago there are [so many] restaurants. There are amazing restaurants around here, but I don't believe there are enough restaurants for the diners. So, what a perfect time.
What can guests expect from your wine list?
RL: We will have 45 wines by the glass — 20 reds, 15 whites, and three sparkling. Mostly domestic wines. We all love wine and we appreciate what the customer likes too. We want them to be excited about wine and learn with us and grow.
We want to take the intimidation out of it and have things that are in a comfort zone for people, whether it be California Cab or Chardonnay. We want things that are recognizable and great. We will, of course, have those esoteric wines that we are really passionate about . . . but we also want you to come in and enjoy a $9 glass of Pinot.
What sets you apart?
TA: We want to be open and flexible and completely customer-oriented. Everyone we've hired is wine certified already. All of our food will be made from scratch or sourced locally from bakeries, Eastern Market, Great Lakes Coffee, etc. We want to support Detroit as much as possible . . . We will be a small, composed plate restaurant specializing in high-end food. For instance, our seafood and meat will be delivered fresh every day. We will have an open charcuterie chef; meat and cheese will be big here because we eat it every day.
What's the best part about opening Vertical in Detroit?
RL: The great thing about being in this city, is that everyone supports one another. We're so lucky that all the restaurateurs in the city are so awesome.
TA: We also make sure to support everyone. We send our clientele to other restaurants and they send their clientele to us.
What are some of your other favorite spots around town to drink wine?
TA: Joe Muer's, Selden Standard, Wright & Co.
RL: Roast is our go-to. I can't say enough about the wine program there. I think it's pretty incredible and they are so hospitable.
Any recommendations on what to drink this summer?
TA: It's rosé time. And champagne . . . Champagne is going to be really big here. It's the best food wine there is. It cleanses your palette and it goes with any kind of food, like fish, but it can also hold up to steak.
RL: We are exclusive on a cool brand that we'll be bringing to the city called Korbin Kameron. [They make] a great rosé coming from Mt. Veeder, so super high elevation on the Sonoma side of Mt. Veeder, all Merlot. They've just started making a Sauv Blanc that we're exclusive on too. My other recommendation for summer is bubbles. Anything sparkling — it's so refreshing and goes with any kind of food . . . Value-wise, I just had a great bottle of Lallier, which is affordable, all Grand Cru.
DM: For a cocktail, a Negroni topped off with a sparkling [wine] is really refreshing. Also right now, a Pimm's Cup — classic. For tequila, I'd go with an Oaxacan Highball; and for gin, a Green Monk.