Opening mid-July, Stem Wine Bar keeps it clandestine

Doug Turbush’s East Cobb spot opts for a speakeasy-style entrance
Stem Wine Bar owner and executive chef Doug Turbush

At Stem Wine Bar, the newest East Cobb spot by Seed Kitchen & Bar owner and executive chef Doug Turbush, mystery is the name of the game. Opening in mid-July, Stem will follow in the style of New York speakeasies: It won’t have a sign and will only be identifiable by its location (1311 Johnson Ferry Road, adjacent to Seed) and a single corkscrew on the door.

Once inside, however, it will function like the modern wine bar, with small production wines from North America and Europe (led by general manager and sommelier Jason Raymond, cocktails created by bar manager Chris McNeill) and food pairings designed by Turbush and chef de cuisine Brendan Keenan. Wine classes and wine dinners are in the works, too. Below, Turbush shares details on the menu and more—including the reason he chose that speakeasy style.

Why did you decide to open Stem?
The obvious first is wine consumption and production in the U.S. is on the rise. Secondly, my team and I share a genuine passion for wine—and pairing food and wine—so it was a logical next concept for us to explore. The real estate was just sitting there empty and we knew that going right next door for our first concept outside of Seed made a lot of sense.

Why keep it clandestine?
East Cobb has really embraced Seed. We are so grateful for that and thought it would be fun for [residents] to have a place they could discover. I love that about speakeasies in New York and other big cities. Why not have fun with it in the “’burbs”? There are people still discovering Seed in the back of the Merchant’s Walk parking lot, so word of mouth has been our most powerful tool so far.

What will the decor look like? What’s the feel of the place?
Ai3 designed the space. We set out to create what we thought a modern wine bar should feel like: rich wood, marble, burgundies, purples, and a lot of stems hanging from the bar.

Which cocktails are you most excited about? What menu items are you looking forward to?
We will have four main wine-driven cocktails called the American, the French, the Italian and the Spanish cocktail. All will change every few months but the names will remain and they each will be influenced by their namesake origin.

The menu is still changing daily, but I am really into the chorizo-stuffed medjool dates wrapped with bacon, the duck confit salad with roasted grapes and pecorino toscano, and our modern version of patatas bravas. Plus, we are excited about the local charcuterie and artisan cheeses that will be on the menu.

Tell us about the wine list. What makes it special?
The wine list at Stem will include wines from four regions: North America, France, Italy, and Spain. The wines will be mostly small production and limited to little or no retail presence giving us exclusivity on quite a few. Of the sixty to seventy wines on the list, more than forty will be by the glass.

Value is the most important aspect of the wine list with markups on most wines only once and some less, compared to other places that mark up three and four times their cost. Our philosophy at Stem, much like Seed, is that the more obscure the wine may seem, the less we charge. We want our guests to feel good about taking a chance on a wine they may not have tried if it were $3 to $4 higher for a glass. It’s not always about what they drink at Stem; it’s about what they’ve learned and can take away when they buy wine for friends or drink at their house. That’s where the true reward happens for us.

We will provide knowledgeable and unpretentious service to the budding wine lover and will also have the ability to cater to the wine-savvy guest. Everyone working at Stem is certified at some level whether it be through CSW [Certified Specialist of Wine] or the Court of Master Sommeliers.