Bourbon City, Meet Natural Wine

Bourbon City, Meet Natural Wine

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Bourbon City, Meet Natural Wine

Louisville’s women-owned Canary Club makes a splash with easygoing, crushable wines focused on exploration and unsung grapes.


In a city awash with bourbon, a new beverage is taking hold: natural wine is waltzing into whiskey country, spiking Kentucky’s drinking culture with a fresh perspective. Partners Sarah Height and Chelsea Monsma launched low-touch wine-focused Canary Club seven months ago in Louisville’s up-and-coming Shelby Park neighborhood; the retro-styled drinking den shares a wall with sister bottle shop The Breeze, and serves as the city’s first natural wine venture.

"Since we are a bar and not a restaurant, [I] curated [the list] more toward having a good time,” begins Height, who, along with Monsma, operates two additional The Breeze locations within the state. She explains that Canary Club's list sidesteps “big bold reds,” and instead spotlights easygoing wines, including bubbles and “crushable” oranges, while focusing on the topic of exploration, introducing patrons to uncommon international grape varietals and underrepresented sociopolitical producers. All the while, Canary Club’s list is underscored by winemakers who farm organically, sustainably, or biodynamically, avoid chemical additives, and ferment with native yeast.

"Since we are a bar and not a restaurant, [I] curated [the list] more toward having a good time.”

Housed in a late-19th century bifurcated building—previously a furniture and appliance store from the 1960s—the venue’s past influenced Canary Club’s aesthetic. And the team crafted a fictional backstory for it: a social space existing in the 1960s, launched by individuals who had traveled the world, and returned to Louisville with an appreciation for food, wine, and culture.

With exposed brick walls, repurposed back bar vestiges, and subtle mid-century finishes that further sell the space’s transportive effect, Canary Club—accented with historial horseshoes and bridles that the team uncovered while paving the rear patio—looks like it has inhabited 1247 S. Shelby Street for decades.

"We wanted Canary Club to feel like a cozy, neighborhood bar that just so happened to have a killer natural wine list,” states Height, who’s rotating list currently includes wines from producers like central Italy’s biodynamic-minded Tenuta Santa Lucía and Croatia’s superstar natural winery Enjingi Graševina. Patrons can pair the pours with globally-directed small plates from masala-filled empanadas to tinned seafood.

"We have some go-to standards on the list that people can cozy up to, but most of the list is meant to be different than anything [else] in town,” notes Height, who admits that wine can be intimidating for people. Canary Club aims to make this beverage category more approachable through its warm and comfortable design, which deliberately avoids any excessive grandeur or sense of exclusivity. Plus, the bar’s unexpected basketball court behind the rear patio epitomizes its unconventionality and approachability. When was the last time a chilled red accompanied a game of hoops?

And it’s the bar’s playful nature, envisioned by two forward-thinking women, that further differentiates Canary Club from any other wine establishments in town, of which there are few.

"We wanted Canary Club to feel like a cozy, neighborhood bar that happened to have killer natural wine.”

"I don't think I realized this would happen before we opened, but the community has warmly embraced the fact that we are a women-owned business," Height shares. "It's been very encouraging and uplifting for me to provide a comfortable space for women to come, as well help inspire anyone who has a goal they want to bring to life."

While grateful for the city’s celebrated spirit scene and the growth it has fostered, Height recognized the need for a different kind of bar experience—one that breaks away from the longstanding masculine, bourbon-fueled proclivities, and considers the health of not only one's self, but the planet as well.

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