By Pete Zamplas-The Poe House patrons are “Raven” about its literary theme, old-time pub ambience and selection of specialty wines and craft beers.
The wine bar carries up to 25 wines by the glass, and 12 beers on tap with about three of them changing types of brews each day. Wine and beer is also sold to go.
Wine tastings make Thursdays Flight Night, starting 5 p.m. The cost is $8 to $12, for 2-ounce samples of three wines of the patron’s choice. The pub at times presents three related wines, such as dessert wines last Thursday, and artisan cheeses. On beer “pint nights,” the drinking glass is a free keepsake.
The below-ground restaurant is at 105 First Ave. West, just south of the Historic Courthouse. Its entrance is on the west side, beneath the back of West First Wood-Fired Pizza. Poe House opened the day after the tax deadline last year, on April 16.
Derek Schuler and Kimberlee Young show a craft beer and wine, respectively, in their Poe House. Customer Bo Oscarsson is at right.
Owners Kimberlee Roark Young and Derek Schuler are regulars themselves in the Poe House, each bringing expertise. Schuler is up on microbrews and artisan beers. “Craft brewers put their heart and soul — as well as lots of amazing ingredients — into every beer they brew,” he said. “I tend to like beer with body and soul — brown ales, porters and stouts.” Young’s favorite is a West Coast fruity-flavored IPA (India Pale Ale).
Young is certified as a “sommelier” — a wine steward, also versed in beer and liquor. She is trained in service, wine vintage and regional flavor distinctions. She has worked in the beverage industry for 20 years. She teaches Blue Ridge Community College craft brewery students about the trade.
She enjoys advising on what wines go with specific meals. “I love it. That’s my favorite aspect” of the wine business. She best likes Pinot Noir, as a “hard grape to cultivate. I love the challenge behind it.” She prefers the “earthier” more European flavors, such as in Burgundy. Schuler likes a California Zinfandel.
He describes as “phenomenal” Young’s ability, by sampling an anonymous wine, to readily identify it and tell where and when its grapes are harvested. “I dissect a wine,” Young explained. “I look at its color, smell it, and taste it.” She knows about yearly variation in weather and thus flavor, of French Bordeaux and Burgundy.
“Flavonoids” of a grape equate to familiar ingredients not in the wine, which are listed in its description. Thus, in a wine tasting of three dessert wines last Thursday, the Tokay’s flavors equate to nectarine, toffee and white chocolate. The Amontillado sweet Sherry is like butterscotch and hazelnuts. The Tawny port has a “smoky spice hint,” Young added.
A Bordeaux and Burgundy are “vintage-driven,” she said. This means their flavor can vary greatly year to year, along with weather (raininess, etc.) conditions in France where they are from.
The Poe House has “clientele very diverse, from the fine wine drinker to relative novice checking it out,” Young said. A popular way of trying a beer is via a half-pint “half-pour.”
Several said they like the dimly-lit, artistic ambience with Charleston-style lanterns, and wall rustic shelves full of wines. Young calls it a “European vintage look.” Customer Margaret Howe equates it to a German underground rathskeller, others to English and Scottish old pubs also for serving port wine. Much old brick shows. An old garage door is a room partition. Dameron Deavenport likes the “comfortable” and quieter back area, with couches and a fireplace.
The rustic 19th Century-styled look harkens to Poe’s brisk times. The Poe theme is a bonus, several customers said. Suzanne Jackson likes Poe imagery such as his portrait behind the bar, and thus “Poe-etic atmosphere.” Some Poe poetry is displayed. A banquet table in back has a raven image burned in.
Locally-based pro golfer Tommy Tolles built the pendulum scene on a back wall, Schuler noted. This reflects Poe’s epic 1842 gruesome story “Pit and the Pendulum” about facing impending, torturous death by a pendulum axe that slowly lowers toward its victim. Teen Gwen Rodriguez is creating Poe murals, by this spring, Young said. Displays include her brother David Roark’s portrait of Poe, and his mural depicting the story “Cask of Amontillado.”
Poe House serves four West First pizzas named after Poe stories such as “Mesmeric Revelation,” and treats from nearby Square Root restaurant.
With Poe “it all came together” for a Romantic Gothic setting, Schuler said. Poe won over the initial idea, for a Roaring Twenties speak-easy. Schuler is fascinated by Poe’s “multi-faceted and complicated personality.”
Young said that since youth, “I’ve been a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe. He was such a unique individual, with his writing skills. I wrote poetry, similar to his style. He went through heartaches. He is so mysterious. We don’t know exactly how he died.”
Tuberculosis (TB) is among factors attributed to Poe’s death at age 40, along with alcoholism that doomed his brother. Their parents were actors. The death of a beautiful woman is a recurrent Poe theme, perhaps spurred by his mother and later his young wife dying from TB.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) pioneered the short story and detective mystery. His prose vividly penetrates macabre themes. The film “The Raven” (named after Poe’s famed poem of 1845) in 2012 starred John Cusack as creative yet unstable Poe. The Fox hit series “The Following” stars Kevin Bacon, pursuing a Poe-worshipping serial killer and further making Poe-themed places apropos. The Baltimore Ravens, reigning NFL champs, are named in Poe’s honor. He lived there in his final years, was born in Boston, and was in foster care in Richmond, Va. That was with the Allan family, which made Allan Poe’s middle name.
Live music for Poe’s birthday Jan. 19 was by Valentine Wolfe, electronically expressing Poe gothic stories. Live music is Wednesday-Saturday and is light such as Seventies-on covers, bluegrass and Americana.
Bo Oscarsson, among other locals, praised the wine, food and service. Doug MacDonald likes the “warm” feel and owners’ and bartender Jerry Staton’s attentiveness. He goes to Poe House about four times per week.
Young is a 1973 West Henderson graduate. Schuler blocked for Sam Gash in Hendersonville High football, and is a 1985 alumnus.
Poe House has a strong local link, carrying wine of both Edneyville-area vineyards — Burntshirt and Saint Paul Mountain. Their terrain, weather and thus grapes are similar to central Europe. Poe House carries local beers such as by Southern Appalachian Brewery in Hendersonville, and soon Sierra Nevada’s brewery due to open in coming weeks in Mills River.
Schuler and Young run Travels in Wine Tours, which soon starts its fifth season, and Travels in Beer Tours. They arrange weekly area tours, and special trips to Napa Valley, Calif. wineries.
Poe House winter hours are Monday and Tuesday 4-10, and noon to midnight Wednesday-Saturday. For more, call (855) 763-2739 or check http://thepoehouse.com/. For more on wine or beer tours, call 888-634-3939 or check www.travelsinwinetours.com or www.travelsinbeer.com.