Owner Lori Romero found out about the historical significance of the 299 California Ave. space after she decided to split the hair salon she currently owns at that address in half and open a wine bar. Romero lives in Campbell, but spends much of her time in Palo Alto, where both she and her husband work. She said they often griped about not having a lot of places for people their age (she's in her 40s) to get a nice glass of wine and socialize. (Though they actually came up with the idea for opening their own place while with another couple at The Wine Room on Ramona Street downtown. This couple, James and Becky Laden, along with Romero's husband Dave Villarreal, all partnered to open the wine bar.)
And thus, the idea for Calave (pronounced as if there's an accent over the "e") was born. After hosting several soft openings with friends and family, the wine bar officially opened to the public this Monday, June 29.
In February, after closing her salon, True Salon, to start construction, Romero described Calave to me as an upscale, "prohibition meets modern day" wine bar. The renovated space itself does have an upscale feel, with plush couch seating and a sleek wraparound bar in the center of the space, but still feels comfortable and casual. There are several outdoor tables along California Avenue and Birch Street as well.
Though the opening menu is subject to change as the Calave crew works out the kinks, you'll find wines from all over Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, San Luis Obispo, Oregon, France, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Spain and South Africa. There are also themed flights (sparkling, "South of the Border," "California Dreaming," "European vacation") and dessert wines. Most wines are available by the glass and bottle, and some by tap.
Non-wine lovers, fear not. There are several beers available by tap, can and bottle, including brews from Bay Area favorites Drakes Brewing Company, 21st Amendment Brewery and Lagunitas Brewing Company.
Partner James Laden has been a South Bay bartender for 20 years. He and Romero both also completed further wine education through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).
There are also some small bites available to nosh on, from local crudités served with house-made lemon-garlic aioli ($8) to cheese and charcuterie plates ($10-$20). There are also salads ($7 and $9), paninis ($8 to $13) and three adult PB&J sandwiches (one comes with caramelized onion, gruyere cheese and peanut butter, $11).
Opening hours at Calave are Monday-Wednesday, 11:30 a.m to 10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will also soon be happy hour. Stay tuned.