Capitol Hill wine shop Essence shutters — UPDATE

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(Image: Essence Wine)

(Images: Essence Wine)

Retailers looking for a berth on Capitol Hill will find some open space in the 400 block of E Pine. Funky and unpredictable bottle shop Essence Wine quietly closed earlier this month.

Here’s the Facebook goodbye:

Thank you all for so many beautiful times. We are closing the shop that hosted dance, music, people, laughter, arguments, discussion, ruckus, urbanity, and you. Thank you so much for being a part, thank you so much for being a part! The beauty of the essence will happen again, in different places and in so many ways. Thank you for having carried and carrying it on

The now empty shop makes two neighboring E Pine retail spaces looking for tenants. Earlier this summer, Gamma Ray Games announced it was consolidating up the Hill in a new space combined with its Raygun Lounge.

Co-owners Zach Weissman and Winston Xu opened Essence in late 2012shaped as an artesian cave, a cave of stacked wine boxes with bottled wine atop.” The business also had a — how should we say it? — creative approach to business. Not taking things too seriously seems to be part of the lifeblood of running a Capitol Hill wine business — stop by still-standing European Vine Selections for a taste as it’s kept things running for more than 25 years on the Hill.

Essence even managed to have some good fun at the expense of local media — CHS was thoroughly punk’d by this strange episode in early 2013. At the time, Xu apologized and told us he too had been tricked by the announcement and that Weissman had “no authority” to speak for the shop. It was a strange moment for the business but, until the end, both Xu and Weissman remained with Essence, according to corporate filings.

By email, Xu declined to comment on the closure telling us things still needed to get wrapped up with the landlord.

UPDATE: Xu tells us things are wrapped up with the landlord and a new art supply store is reportedly moving in:

The reason behind our closure was complicated, but mostly because I am finding myself not able to make enough spare time to manage the shop as much as it needed to be, Zach, my partner did a wonderful job and had been the primary manager Essence over the past two years, now he is off to another great job opportunity and I am swapped with my primary job and other businesses, so we have decided to close the business.

11 thoughts on “Capitol Hill wine shop Essence shutters — UPDATE

    • Thanks for the support, Ryan! It surprised us not to be mentioned as well in the story (past stories on closures or openings have listed all the specialty shops). Having said that, Doug and EVS deserve great respect for the years of service and passion for wine.

      • I gave European Vine Selections several opportunities over the years but walked out every time feeling either ignored or condescended to. Vino Verité on Boylston at Olive is the way to go.

        • I’ve had good service from both shops. Not all neighborhoods are lucky enough to have places like this around, especially when so many people buy at the grocery store instead. If they really knew–you get a much better value buying local.

        • EVS is a great shop. I regularly go to their free tastings, usually Saturday pm. Doug and other staff have always advised me on good wines for events. Their prices are more than fair (not to mention the case discount). They are owner operated by a small collective of wine lovers. If you felt condescended to, this is unfortunate, but uncharacteristic. EVS is the opposite of pretentious.

  1. Um, a new art supply store? I’m all for small businesses but even Utrecht couldn’t stave off Blick. Though with more density in the neighborhood, maybe it’ll work. Still, what happened to people opening businesses for unmet needs?

    • I agree, Max. And I thought this blog has been full of articles over the past two years about how the “artists” (among many others, sadly) are having to move off the Hill because they can no longer afford the rents. Did someone do their research?

  2. While I’m sad to see Essence go, I wish the best for Zach & Winston. It seems to me that this was the kind of place that a lot of people bemoan there aren’t enough of on the hill. It was a locally owned small business that really connected with the neighborhood.

    While I lived in the Portofino, it was the place to go right after work to grab a bottle and hang out with the neighbors in the building. Or the last stop at night for one more glass of wine I probably didn’t need. And for a short time they had the most incredible bassa nova duo playing Friday nights. I even bought some artwork off the walls during art walk.

    Best of luck to the both of you in your future endeavors.

  3. The Shop Agora is a great addition to the area as well. They have an awesome wine selection, are super friendly and offer case discounts. I’ve enjoyed their Saturday wine tastings and LOVE their specialty foods.

    Best part, you can have a glass of wine while you shop for a bottle of wine!

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