Once Upon A Vine is a small independent wine shop and tasting room bringing a new experience to the thriving area of Horsforth.
Nestled at the heart of the Town Street – and in a postcode area regarded as one of the most desirable to live and work in the United Kingdom – the shop-cum-bar offers you a wine tour of the world, pairing the best reds and white with accompanying cheeses, meats and snacks.
UnSUBURBIA caught up Once Upon A Vine’s owner, Simon Cocks, about how the idea for a traditionally-European dining ideology in an unsuspecting location came to fruition.
Q: How did the idea of Once Upon A Vine come about?
I worked for Majestic Wines for a decade managing stores in Scotland, Wales and England, before finishing up here in Yorkshire. A former colleague of mine had recently sent up a wine shop in North Wales and I offered to work for him for free on a Saturday in December if he shared his business plan with me!
His shop is called The Grape to Glass and is based in Rhos On Sea and has been very successful. I saw his achievements and thought I could do something similar here in Yorkshire. A hybrid-model where it is a shop AND a bar where people can come and enjoy a glass of wine.
Q: What made you choose Horsforth as your location to set up?
After Friends of Ham, I had a part-time job doing some deliveries for a Spanish food and wine specialist. I was doing a delivery to neighbouring restaurant La Casita on Town Street and saw this unit was available.
I’d been looking at The Piece Hall in Halifax and also at sites in Boston Spa and Street Lane in North Leeds, but as soon as I saw Town Street in Horsforth, I knew this was the right spot.
Q: How did you originally get into the wine market?
I had been in a fairly boring office job at a transport firm following years of working in catering/hospitality during my time at university and decided I didn’t want to just have a 9-5 life. I wanted to work in a field I was passionate about, so I joined Majestic’s graduate training scheme and have never looked back really!
Q: The concept for Once Upon A Vine wouldn’t be out of place in the likes of France, Spain or Portugal. Do you feel there is now a big appetite for this sort of dining/drinking experience in the UK?
Absolutely! The high street is dying! Or rather, it needs revitalising! I have a place where you can come and buy a bottle or two AND you can stay for a glass or two as well. We serve some top-quality cheese and charcuterie so you can taste some fantastic food here too. That’s not me being arrogant, all I do is buy the best quality produce and then slice it up and put it on a board! I’m not claiming to be a top-chef or anything, but you can definitely come to Once Upon A Vine and eat some of the finest produce available!
Having the retail revenue AND the “drink-in” revenue is vital. We’ve seen wine retailers go to the wall over recent years in the face of competition from the supermarkets and their race-to-the-bottom. But not everyone just wants to drink £5 dross, and lots of people want to learn more about wine, so independent businesses like mine have an important role to play and we need to be nimble and adapt to meet customer’s needs.
Q: How important do you think having access to local, independent venues is to promoting social interaction and engagement within communities?
Town Street is a fabulous community hub. We have several independent businesses which the locals really support and that really builds a sense of togetherness. Every day, I see people walking past and they’ll give me a wave as they go by. Horsforth is a brilliant, family-oriented community and I’m proud my business can be a part of that.
Q: Do you try use locally-sourced produce, where possible? If so, could you recommend any local producers?
Obviously, most of our wines are sourced from abroad! We do have a great line in English sparkling wines, which are right up there in terms of quality with Champagne, by the way!
We do use a few locally-based importers however including Vino Pronto, which is a South African wine specialist. Richard (one of the proprietors) is a good friend of mine and he brings in some fabulous South African wines. He lives in Pudsey, so wherever possible we try and keep it local!
Most of our cheese comes from the Courtyard Dairy in Settle. Andy Swinscoe is Mr Cheese! There’s almost nothing he doesn’t know on the topic, and I urge all of my customers to pay them a visit! We get some phenomenal cheese from them, and it was Andy who told me “just do it” when I told him I was thinking of setting up my own place!
Q: Tell us more about some the events you hold?
We hold events a couple of times a month which usually comprise a tasting of six wines and some pairings with cheese and charcuterie. We tend to make up themes of the tastings on a whim! That’s the nice thing about being an independent – you can do whatever you think your customers will enjoy!
Q: Do you feel there has been a movement away from mainstream restaurants, in favour of independent outlets? If so, what do you think has prompted this?
The big chains are being found out for what they are by an increasingly savvier public. Incomes are being squeezed and if you’ve only got £50 to spend on a meal out, I think people are wanting to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth.
Some of the stuff I see being served-up in big chains is simply awful! But I’m no snob and I would never criticise someone for their choice of place to drink/dine! How they spend their money is their business. I just have to try and make it my business too!
Q: If you could recommend three things off your menu, what would you choose?
I’d definitely have a glass of Pesquera Crianza, a delicious red from the Ribera Del Duero region in the north of Spain. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the area (and the winery) four times and it remains a personal favourite. It pairs absolutely perfectly with some of our Iberico Chorizo – that’s my second recommendation!
My third choice wouldn’t necessarily pair great with Pesquera, but EVERYONE must try the Baron Bigod Brie! It is simply UNREAL when it is ripe! It’s a Brie made with un-pasteurised milk, like Brie De Meaux from France.
Q: What’s next on the agenda for Once Upon A Vine?
We’re only eight months old, so I’m not going to get ahead of myself, but it has been a pretty excellent eight months! There are a few small changes I want to make to the shop but first I want a holiday!
That’s what August is for! I’m off on a driving trip around Germany, Alsace, Burgundy, Sancerre and Champagne! I reckon I might bring a few bottles home with me! Then maybe in 2020 a second Once Upon A Vine might appear if the right site becomes available! Watch this space…
Location: 21 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds, LS18 5LJ
Mon – Closed
Tue to Fri – 12pm-9pm
Sat – 10am-9pm
Sun – 12pm-5pm
For more information, visit: https://www.onceuponavineonline.com