Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wayne Garcia of Dig - Renaissance Wine Man

"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do." Bob Dylan
Wayne Garcia with his Zettel'z Lamp

One of the first items a visitor to Wayne Garcia's wine shop is a large "chandelier." Designed by Ingo Maurer and named Zettel'z Lamp -- German for piece of paper or note -- it sets the tone for a visit to Dig. Instead of crystal drops typical of a fancy chandelier, the lamp features pieces of paper clipped to thin wires. Some of the notes are preprinted and others have been left blank for the owner to fill. The lamp with the above quote by Bob Dylan and others scrawled or even drawn by customers and friends perhaps sums up Wayne Garcia, owner of Dig Wine located in Dogpatch's Yellow Building since its opening in 2011.

Such a lamp tells the visitor that yes, wine can be serious business but it is also fun. "It was a way for me to introduce a bit of whimsy into my shop. I'm highly opinionated about wine but I also wanted customers to feel that my shop and also me are approachable," said Garcia.

Our conversation with Wayne not only touched on food and wine, but also spanned such topics as music, writing, architecture, James Joyce and type fonts leaving the impression of Wayne as a true Renaissance man.
Wayne tries one of his beloved red wines. 

Why do you do what you do?
I love the intellectual challenge of selecting wine but I also love the sensual side. And I'm a big believer that food drives wine selection and that the best wine for food comes from France and Italy. That's why my shop primarily stocks wine from those regions.

Wine has an image as being such a serious business but I view my wine vendors as farmers and as such I'm really drawn to where the wine comes from -- the land truly expresses the place where it comes from -- the soil, climate, everything. I'm always on the lookout for the most "sincere" wines that I can find! I've even been known to talk to my wines and tell them there are so many bottles that I didn't have room for in my shop that they better earn their place! So I love being immersed in this vocation at such a level. Ultimately I select wines for my shop based on what I would serve you if you came to my house for dinner. It might be a quirky selection but I remain true to my own palate.

And I guess all that I did in my professional and personal life also brought me to this point of opening a wine shop. I've been an oil painter, a writer of food and music, I've worked with Ridge Vineyard owner Dave Bennion on his wine harvest and I've also traveled extensively in Europe -- all contributed to both my practical business side as well as the artistic sense that I think you need to have when working in the wine business.

I even blame my current profession on my love of James Joyce's Ulysess and on the fact that my grandfather's breath smelled like red wine!

Why Dogpatch?
My wife (Piccino Cafe co-owner Sher Rogat) and I love how Dogpatch has this reputation of one of the few places left in San Francisco where people still create things. And the neighborhood has such an eclectic mix of people from Muni drivers and Hells Angels to wine and chocolate makers. We love that. We also felt like we could add something to the neighborhood that wasn't here -- we liked the idea of a complex that brought together lots of vendors in one spot like you can find in many European cities. And that is what the Yellow Building has become as has this entire block with its mix of clothing shops, chocolate makers and restaurant.

Who is another interesting person in Dogpatch?
We have met so many cool people in Dogpatch but Michael Recchiuti, owner of Recchiuti Chocolates, is the first person to come to mind. His production facility is in the neighborhood and he is also opening a Chocolate Lab in the former Piccino Cafe spot on this block. He has such a refined palate but he is also a tough guy! And you won't find a more loyal friend.

What is an interesting story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?
Well, this story is an example of the strong merchant ties that exist in Dogpatch as well as a place where cool new things are happening. Sher and I were looking for one more like minded business to join us in the Yellow Building. We had stopped in to an event hosted by another great Dogpatch chocolate company, Poco Dolce. While we were there Chris and Ben Ospital -- two of the sibling owners of the MAC Clothing shop stopped by and we discovered that they also wanted to open another location and wanted it to be in Dogpatch. We knew we had our third merchant and we spent the rest of the evening drawing up plans for how the merchants could be interconnected in the Yellow Building.

What would you be doing if you weren't opening the door most mornings at Dig?
I would be a full-time writer of food, wine and maybe music!

And lastly, why the name Dig?
This building dates from 1860 and when we started construction we quickly realized it was really just cobbled together with bits and pieces of a collection of items. So we had to take it down and start over at the foundation. We had to dig the cellar that is underneath the wine shop. I liked the notion of how digging a cellar was similar to digging in a vineyard. I worked with the amazing Sam Smidt who knows so much about typography to come up with the look of the name -- I like how it looks handmade and earthy!

Article written by Patricia Kline, Photos by Scott R. Kline

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