Editor’s note: Due to Napa’s current purple rating for Covid-19, Be Bubbly is only offering outside tastings; however, the retail market inside is open with extensive safety protocols in place.
Finally, there’s something to “Cheers!” about in 2020. Be Bubbly, a new, first-of-its-kind Napa wine bar and shop focused on sparkling wine has opened downtown on Second Street, across from Grace’s Table.
“I think the name says it all. I wanted a place that I could have fun being a part of, but also I could bring people into that fun and create an environment where everyone’s welcome,” said owner Erin Riley. “You don’t have to be a somm to enjoy coming here. You don’t have to know anything about bubbles. You just have to have an open mind about trying something new, tasting something fun.”
Riley, who formerly worked as a wine buyer for the Napa Wine Train, was inspired by other Bay Area bubbles bars, like Sigh in Sonoma. With her daughter going off to college, she figured 2020 was as good a time as any to pursue her dream of owning a business. “It was a great time for both of us to launch,” she said.
She found the location last November and on March 13, signed a contract to start construction. A week later, California went into lockdown due to Covid-19. “I thought that would last a couple of months and I’d have it all built by the time it was done,” she said.
A few months stretched into five, but while she kept pushing back opening day, the Napa community came to Riley’s aid with some insurance, joining her Bubblehead Sparkling Wine Clubs and proving that there is a big demand for her business.
Her founding memberships, which include perks like discounts, swag, priority seating and event invites, sold out before she even opened her doors. Riley then added another 100 spots and is launching a new wine club soon.
“The community has been really good to me,” she said. “We opened with 150 members and I think that really made a difference for us to open and have people already ready to come in. We’ve seen 80 percent locals since opening in August.”
Champagne and sparkling wine is often reserved for big special occasions and milestones—New Year’s, birthdays, weddings, etc. — but Riley believes even the smallest and most mundane occasions are worth celebrating with a glass of bubbles.
“The great thing about bubbly is it’s the one thing that people can drink all day long. It’s something you can wake up and have with a mimosa and it’s something you may want with your truffle at the end of the night, but in between, it goes with every meal,” she said.
“I really wanted to remove that concept that it had to be a celebratory event, though I still think it’s a celebratory drink. So whether you’re celebrating that it’s a Wednesday, or you got off work early or you’re celebrating a breakup, there’s a reason probably to drink something effervescent.”
Unlike most Napa wine bars, Be Bubbly is not local-heavy and has a diverse, global menu of more than 100 bottles available by the glass, half-bottle or bottle. Patrons can also opt for a flight of 3 oz. pours from the featured glasses, which change weekly. Bottles can be purchased to-go for 25 percent off the restaurant price tag.
“You can come in here and have Cavas and Proseccos and domestic glasses that don’t break the bank. You can find some French wines in the same category, or you can go as expensive as you’d like with some of the grower champagnes,” said Riley.
She has the classics, of course — Schramsberg, Veuve Clicquot, Delamotte —but also unique or hard-to-find offerings, like Sonoma winery Scribe’s Pet Nat Riesling, which sold out every week it was on the by-the-glass list.
Riley sources sparklings from all over the world, including Spain, New Zealand and South Africa. “Being in the business now, I’ve learned how broad [sparkling wine] can be,” she said, noting a handful of rare sparkling varietals on her menu, like Albarino, Chenin Blanc and Gamay.
A selection of small plates is on offer for pairing, like Walla Walla onion rings, chili D’Espellette fries and grilled cheesy toast sticks. Riley has also created a few sparkling spritzers for those in the mood for a cocktail and on Sundays, she offers frittatas and bellinis with a side of NFL football. A few still wines and beers are available for non-bubbleheads.
When designing the space, Riley drew inspiration from the South, especially New Orleans, where establishments have open windows with musicians playing in them. Similarly, Be Bubbly has a large window that opens upfront with seating for those who want to people watch and enjoy the fresh air. Every Thursday, patrons can expect live music.
There are a few tables on the sidewalk and, when it is allowed again, there is both bar seating and booths inside. A private back room can be reserved for larger parties. Riley has plans for other events held every other Tuesday, for instance, Be Bubbly recently hosted a three-course Crudo menu paired with Tattinger’s Domaine Carneros.
While some might picture light and bright colors for a bubbles bar, Riley chose a more masculine, neutral palette of gray and gold with pops of dark blue and green. “I wanted to appeal to men and women,” she said. “I want everyone to feel like they’re safe and welcome here — all walks of life.”
In the booths, the tabletops are creatively filled with caps, cages and corks saved from all of the bubbly Riley has tasted since starting the business. Light fixtures resemble clusters of bubbles and hanging over each booth is a piece of art, spelling out a word in gold leaf letterings. They read “Unity,” “Love” and “Bliss.”
“I wanted to unite the local community and our shared love for all things sparkling and beautiful as we pursue our own personal bliss,” she said.
The retail shop offers sparkling wines for sale, as well as Be Bubbly merchandise.
Be Bubbly’s current hours are Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday noon to 8 p.m. at 1407 2nd St, Napa. For more information, visit bebubblynapa.com.
WATCH NOW: HOW TO HOST A VIRTUAL HOLIDAY PARTY
CHECK OUT SHELTER-AT-HOME CELEBRATIONS