A friend of mine sent me an email recently with a couple of suggestions for this column. I can't use all of them because this is not the right space to discuss exotic lingerie or how to cook pandas, but one of the things she mentioned was a new wine and cheese shop in the Warehouse District. It's called Keife & Co., and it's at 801 Howard, at the corner of Carondelet. That stretch of the Warehouse District has some funky corner buildings, and this is one of them.
The address is on Howard, but it could well be on Carondelet, given that the entrance is equidistant between the two. When I visited recently, they were still in the process of setting things up; co-owner Jim Yonkus told me that they had about 50 percent of their stock on the floor. They're waiting for some shades for the floor-to-ceiling windows that line the Carondelet side of the building before stocking wine in the front of the store where it might be damaged by light. What they've got now is pretty remarkable. John Keife, the other co-owner, told me that he wanted to open a European-style wine shop, similar to the places they had found during travels in Italy and Spain.
The current selection at Keife's leans heavily toward western Europe, but Yonkus and Keife both said that they planned to feature wines from every wine region in the world eventually. They're focused on small producers, and most of the wines they sell are only found locally in restaurants. Keife said that their aim is to “over-deliver for the price point” on their wines.
I like wine. I find myself in wine shops more often, I suppose, than most folks. Despite my familiarity with the venue, most of the bottles at Keife's weren't familiar to me. That doesn't necessarily recommend them, but it does at least support the claim that the wines they're selling are not what's normally available at retail outlets.
There's also a pretty fair selection of cheese, cured meats and condiments on offer at Keife's. Yonkus was involved in the food and cheese end of the business at Martin Wine Cellar's original Uptown location in the 1990ys. For the time being there's no food service at Keife's, but Yonkus will put together charcuterie and cheese boards on request.
In addition to the wine and food, Keife's has a select but diverse selection of spirits. As things stand there's not a huge selection of scotch, bourbon or vodka, but if you're serious about cocktails, you'll find something to love at Keife's. Yonkus lit up when he started talking about the various cordials, eau de vies, apertifs and amaros they had available, and I'll be damned if his enthusiasm didn't almost make me want to take a second shot at the artichoke-based amaro called Cynar. Almost.
Keife's opened Aug. 1, and the owners are still in the process of breaking things in. Yonkus told me they had a wine tasting last week on a Friday, and without advertising they brought in 50 or so people. They're planning on doing free tastings on Thursday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. You've got a link to Keife's website above, but if you want to contact them in meat-space, you can call 523-7272. Keife's is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.