First Look: Stem Wine Bar, Marietta

A few weeks ago, owner and executive chef Doug Turbush opened Stem Wine Bar adjacent to his wildly popular Seed Kitchen & Bar in east Cobb’s busy Merchant’s Walk Shopping Center.

The look: The intimate 40-seat space has its own semi-secret entrance marked by a corkscrew design etched on the door. But it also can be accessed through the Seed dining room. The contemporary design by architecture firm ai3 is anchored by a horseshoe-shaped bar, with sparkling rows of glassware dangling above, creating an aura that’s somehow both glitzy and comfy.

The scene: On a recent weeknight, the bar was already buzzing by 6 p.m., and filled to capacity an hour later. The demographic was decidedly middle-aged and female, though several couples were happily snacking and sipping at tables tucked around the edges of the room.

The food: Turbush and chef de cuisine Brendan Keenan have developed a concise menu of snacks, small plates and sweets meant to be paired with wine. In fact, most items include a number that denotes sommelier Jason Raymond’s suggestion. Nantucket bay scallops with pumpkin seed romesco, piquillo and parsley ($12) go with an “earthy, complex” Oregon pinot noir ($13). House-made burrata with prosciutto and pomegranate ($10) gets a “full-bodied, rich” California chardonnay ($13). And a stuffed take on the tapas bar classic, patatas bravas ($7), is paired with a “best value” Spanish rioja ($7).

The drinks: Raymond’s wine list is focused on North American, Spanish, Italian and French offerings selected in blind tastings. Prices on the main list top out at $60-$70 per bottle. There’s a smaller reserve list served from an Enomatic wine dispenser with selections available by the half or full pour ($9-$23). And “The Big List” features limited production boutique and highly rated bottles in the $100-plus range. Currently, there are four wine-based cocktails ($9.75), including the Spanish, mixed with brandy, sherry, sour cherry, lemon and sugar.

The extras: Raymond will be teaching wine classes at Stem, soon, and the wine bar will open for private events at lunch.