Hart & Cru brings European charm to Pendleton | Food and Beverage Features | Cincinnati
Local sommelier Kevin Hart, owner of the Hart & Cru wine shop in Pendleton, has built a solid reputation in town as a friendly and welcoming authority on old world wines.
Prior to opening the store in November, Hart’s career in the industry yielded wineCRAFT, a local wine importer and distributor that supplies some of the city’s best-loved wines. Famous local chefs Jean-Robert de Cavel (The Maisonette, Jean-Robert’s Table, Le Bar a Boeuf and French Crust Café and Bistro) and David Falk (Sotto, Boca, Nada and Domo) called on Hart to find the pairings perfect for their fine dining and Hart’s list of clients whose cellars he stocks is longer than any saber used to cut champagne corks from the bottle.
The most recent culmination of Hart’s journey with wine, Hart & Cru is an inviting room where patrons can not only browse the shelves, but sample light bites and different vintages and varieties while enjoying the full range of pleasures. sensory experiences offered by good wine and conversation in a beautiful space.
When asked about the fact that he’s made such a good impression on the Cincinnati wine industry, Hart doesn’t miss a beat.
“Alcohol does that,” he says. “I make friends quickly.”
Hart’s appreciation for wine comes in part from a deeply personal space he discovered as a child, where his grandparents grew fruits and vegetables in larger corn and soybean fields in the outside of Bluffton, in northwest Ohio. There he began to learn the importance of soil composition, its minerality and other essential components in understanding what exactly makes a good wine.
“When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get away from it, get into city life, etc. says Hart. “But the older I get, the more I think a lot of where my palate is and where it developed is because my grandmother taught me when a plum should be picked on a tree, what is an unripe raspberry, what an ear of corn is actually supposed to taste like.
This knowledge of the land helps someone like Hart form their own opinion about wines, which leads to Hart & Cru’s stellar selection of offerings. When buying a bottle or sipping something new, know that they offer wines based on the quality of the contents of the bottle and not the prestige of the name on the label. Hart describes his brand – his mission – as discovering and curating passionate farmers who make world-class wine.
“I focused on making wine accessible without downgrading it,” says Hart. “Sometimes people want to talk about wine and, you know, take the pretense away – which I really want to do as well and I really make that a major focus – but I think sometimes when you do that without understanding the back In terms of wine, you’re actually discrediting wine for what it is. I mean, it’s an amazing, beautiful agricultural product, and I never want to lose it.”
There is a prevailing philosophy that wine is a cultural asset and not meant to be a luxury drink enjoyed only by affluent aficionados. Hart agrees that the finer things in life belong to everyone, which is why Hart & Cru’s selection of wines are priced to suit all budgets without risking the cheapest bottles being of poor quality. What seems to hold many people back from getting into the wine world seriously isn’t money, but fear, according to Hart; there is so much to learn about wine that people feel overwhelmed with information. While the benefits of building up a global knowledge base around wine is a great way to learn about geography, history, culture, biology, and the nuances of the palate, there’s nothing wrong with simply enjoy what you drink because it suits the moment.
“If people come in and start asking about the wine or they’re intimidated, for me the question is ‘What are you in the mood for? ‘” Hart said. “I like to ask a lot of questions about food.”
“It’s really funny — people aren’t intimidated to tell me their really random food preferences, but they’re terrified to talk about drinks,” Hart continues. “The second the conversation starts, you build a relationship, and once the relationship starts, you can kind of take them on a journey. But to me, you have to break down those barriers somehow.
Hart & Cru’s selection encompasses the full range of different wine styles, with a preference for producers from Western Europe and the United States. Whether you have a preference for red, white, rosé, orange, sparkling, or any other imaginable expression that grapes are capable of, something on their shelves is sure to satisfy you (but don’t expect a draft beer or a cocktail, it’s all about wine and light bites). If you want to browse their retail options before heading there, visit hartandcru.com to get a glimpse of what they have in stock. Bottle prices are as low as $15 and can easily top $150 if you’re looking for something really impressive.
Hart believes that some foods taste better with wine and vice versa, which is why Hart & Cru offers “Comforting European Light Bites.” Think nuts, olives, bread from the Go Bakery with oil, and tabbouleh. French cheese puff pastries called gougères are made by former Boca pastry chef Megan Ketover (Hart’s entire team is from Boca). These dishes are inspired by Hart’s European travels.
Hart & Cru also offers seating for those who indulge in dishes from the establishment’s menu. The entire Hart & Cru setup is chic, with a modernity that exceeds old-world tradition in every detail. Hart aims to capture the charm of his favorite European cities by housing his boutique in the Pendleton boutique, as opposed to busier areas.
“I wanted to be on a little street that felt like a quaint little neighborhood and you came across a little place and fell in love with it,” Hart says. “Pendleton really captures some of that for me.”
Hart & Cru, 1206 Broadway Street, Pendleton, hartandcru.com.
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