Phineas Fittipaldi is willing to bet that colder weather will send people straight to his cozy, candlelit wine bar — on a recent rainy afternoon, they listened to Amy Winehouse while staffer Alexandra Tousley sprawled in the front window painting a sign for the shop. The back of the wine bar is filled with Fittipaldi’s books and records for people to browse.
“It has a little bit of a coffee shop vibe to it,” he said.
Troubadour hosts live music every night of the week — on the rare occasion that an artist cancels, staff have given out drink specials for the night. There are jazz trios, flamenco guitarists, singer-songwriters and “spooky blues” singers.
“We’re as much about the music and finding local artists as we are about the wine,” Fittipaldi said.
A rotating wine list is sourced from small producers, and Fittipaldi promises “wines you’ve never heard of.” Of 40 wines preserved fresh and poured by tap, popular labels at the moment include Banshee Mordecai and The Vincent Red by Mark Ryan Winery.
“Every day there is something new to try,” he said.
Wait staff help patrons sample wines until they land on something they like. Dates often go for the $30 bottle and cheese pairing.
“Every night there’s a couple sitting on that couch for hours,” Fittipaldi said.
Troubadour at 2827 Hennepin Ave. is the first new bar to open under the city’s relaxed regulations allowing wine licenses outside Downtown without 70 percent of sales coming from food.
Fittipaldi has a degree in social services, and worked for a time as a counselor at a 27-bed treatment center in Denver. He also tended bar in Oregon, touring wineries on his days off. He previously worked at Mill Valley Kitchen, and he headed to Hennepin every day for months to fix up the bar.
Fittipaldi refinished much of the furniture himself. A long family table is made from a tree split by lightning.
“When I got this, it had three inches of bark on it,” he said of the bar counter. He created a coffee table out of a Dutch barn door, made a bookshelf from junkyard-salvaged material, and made a wine tree out of an antique bottle drying rack.
Wine classes started last month, drawing 20 people for “Red Wine 101.”
“We have zero pretentiousness about wine,” Fittipaldi said. “It’s simply meant to be enjoyed.”