Text & Photos by Katie Roth
It’s 100 percent wine bar, and it’s 100 percent wine shop, and it’s now open in Mountain Brook Village to the right of Olexa’s. Now you can stop by Golden Age Wine to buy a bottle (or a case at a 10% discount) or order a glass with a charcuterie board, and you will find a clean aesthetic designed by Amanda Loper with reclaimed oak from Evolutia, vintage chairs and more. “We’re creating something where we want to hang out for the selection of wines, atmosphere, vibe, the whole thing,” co-owner Brandon Loper says. Here’s what he and his business partner Trent Stewart had to say about it all.
How did you two meet?
Trent: All these people kept asking me, “Do you know Brandon Loper? He’s really into wine.” Finally, one of those friends connected us through email in 2017, and we met for lunch. He was wanting to open a shop or a bar, and I was thinking I could sell him wine. We ended up hanging out for over three hours drinking different wines by the glass and really talking about wine. Over the course of the next several months, it went from me selling him wine to us thinking maybe we should do this together.
What inspired you to open a wine shop and wine bar?
Brandon: I’m originally from Decatur, Alabama, but followed my wife out to San Francisco. My career path had been making films and commercials the last 15 years, so I made a film about coffee. And then I did a really deep dive into wine. I actually called the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board the day we decided we were moving back to Alabama to figure out what the permitting fee was in Alabama, and they said $250. I was like sign me up! It’s like a million dollars in San Francisco to get a liquor license, so that was for me when it started.
Trent: My wife and I travelled to Northern California about 15 years ago and didn’t really know anything about wine. Seeing wine culture first hand and how food and wine go hand in hand is really what grabbed me about it initially. Then a few years later, my wife and I spent a week in Burgundy, France. The French tried to explain to me the concept of terroir, which means “sense of place,” if you will. A wine can transmit the vineyard it’s from, the family that made it, the culture that it’s in, everything involved that makes that wine what it is: the dirt, the rocks, the climate, the weather. I came home changed and went from being into wine as a hobby to becoming obsessed with it. The Western in Mountain Brook actually took a chance on me, and I became a wine consultant and got a little bit more involved in wine buying.
How did you land on Mountain Brook for Golden Age?
Brandon: We had decided on going downtown and signed a letter of intent with a location there. It was going to open at the end of this year, and some big news in the wine world was when the Western Supermarket closed.
Trent:. I worked for Western and then with Grassroots, so for about five years of my life, I spent every day in this market over here selling wine. When Western announced that they were going away, it just seemed like there was a void in this village. Western announced that on a Friday, and I think the following Tuesday we were in this space negotiating the lease.
Brandon: We fell in love with this corner over here. There’s parking on both sides. There’s an entrance on both sides. We had wanted to do a lot of education with our concept, and this had a private room basically in the back. That’s hard to find.
What kind of events will you be hosting here?
Trent: We’re going to do general wine classes and tastings. I went through a program called Wine and Spirits Education Trust, so I’m going to teach some WSET classes in the back room. We’ve also received a lot of interest from people who want to rent the space out and have small book clubs, baby showers, office meetings and do it with wine and charcuterie and cheese and such.
Brandon: We’d rather tell you the story about the winemaker and the place than a score it got in a magazine. A lot of them are coming already, so that’ll be cool for people to meet the winemaker and get to learn the very specific details that make that place what it is.
Why do you prefer a more “natural” wine making process?
Trent: One of the things we feel strongly about is small family-owned artisanal states and wines that are made in low-intervention way. We really want the wines to transmit that terroir that we were speaking about.
Brandon: Everything in the shop is going to fall under the ethos of well-made, farmer-centric, sustainable or organic. We’re not going to have anything mass produced in here. Our tables are recycled marble, and we got the chairs off of CraigsList and Facebook Marketplace from around the US. The red and white oak on the ceiling is recycled. There’s local Alabama red clay on the tile.
What do you want people to know about your selection of wine?
Trent: A lot of the stuff is coming from the Old World: France, Italy, Spain, etc. They’ll end up being about 800 options in the by eight weeks into business. And if you see tasting notes or anything like that, it’ll be from us. We don’t want to pull something from some random magazine from some random guy in New York who is sitting in an office all day tasting wine. That’s not really how wine is intended to be consumed. It’s supposed to be consumed here with some food with friends or family. It’s more about the culture and being part of this greater thing.
Brandon: Over half of the wines in here are wines that were formerly not in the state of Alabama, so we spearheaded bringing in a lot of new wines. And a lot of those would be considered hardcore natural wines. We’re really excited about that because we want somewhere to buy those wines and because people like them.