Photographs by Jason Keen
Vertical wine flights. They are not a new way of tasting and appreciating the subtleties of wine, but they are certainly something innovative on the Detroit scene. Verticals include a sampling of three vintages of the same wine, allowing wine drinkers to taste the evolution of the wine as it ages.
And thus the name of downtown Detroit’s newest venue, a wine shop, bar, and restaurant called The Vertical. Located on the ground floor of the historic Ashley Apartments on Centre Street — actually a few steps below street level, appropriately enough — Vertical opened in mid-October. The building, circa 1913, originally the Henry Clay hotel and later the Milner, is in the historic Paradise Valley area on Centre Street down the street from the Detroit Opera House.
Vertical is the culmination of a two-year dream of co-owners Remy Lutfy and her father, Jim, of Fine Wine Source in Livonia.
The building’s historic designation meant that there were many restrictions on alterations that could be made, and the Vertical’s décor respects that with the use of original materials, such as the tile floors. They also brought in items from other buildings including a tin ceiling, antique mirrors and wall sconces, and reclaimed wood from Detroit houses, such as the spacious 20-seat communal table. Crisp new furnishings include upholstered chairs in upbeat colors. All of the wine glasses and barware are Riedel crystal.
Vertical tastings are just one of the options offered, from a retail section housing 500 wines to-go to a full restaurant and bar. And though wine is emphasized, there is also a full array of craft cocktails served in a handsome setting that combines old and new.
Here’s how vertical tastings work: Two ounces of the youngest vintage of a particular wine are poured, followed by two of an earlier year of the same wine, and then two of the oldest of the three. Price is determined by the value of the individual wines. In the early going at The Vertical, flights come in a price range of $25, $35, and $50, topping out at $85.
Beyond the vertical tastings and retail section, there is an appealing small-plates menu in the hands of chef Alex Knezevic, offering such dishes as house-made focaccia, charcuterie and cheese, pork tenderloin, and mussels. While the wine shop opens at noon, food is served beginning at 4 p.m. each day.
The Lutfy family certainly has the credentials for this ambitious undertaking, having been in the wine business for more than 30 years, first selling wine at their small family market, Cloverleaf in Southfield, and then in 1993 opening the Fine Wine Source in Livonia. Remy Lutfy studied wine and wine-making at the University of California, Davis before joining the family business.
The Vertical, 1538 Centre St., Detroit; 313-732-9463; retail hours noon-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., noon-midnight Thurs.-Sat., 4-10 p.m. Sun. Restaurant hours: 4-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 4-midnight Thurs.-Sat., 4-10 p.m. Sun.