A wine house where everybody knows your name

  • 2005-05-04
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - I was once told that, to become a true Parisian, one ought to find a place to belong to. One could start with a boulangerie, or the local bakery. After only a few regular visits you'll be friendly with the man behind the counter. Before you know it, the place will feel like a second home.

After letting this lovely piece of advice warm my heart, I suddenly felt sad for Vilnius. Most of the city's venues, so reserved in comparison to my fantasy boulangerie, lacked that wonderfully inviting charm I was looking for. Yet, my belief in a Vilnius boulangerie just for me was rekindled in a place called Saint Germain. Was it the new wine house's French name, its special atmosphere, or the fact that before you can find the winery, you have to know about it? Whatever it was, I realized that Saint Germain was a place to belong.

After just opening the door, my eye caught a tall form surrounded by racks of wine. The young man, who is also the owner of the place, generously welcomed me in. It only took a short glimpse at the wine selection behind him for me to notice labels from Argentina, Georgia, New Zealand and various European countries. The wine can be bought by the bottle to carry home (in my fantasy on the back of a bicycle along with a fresh baguette from the boulangerie) or its sensualities can be enjoyed in the very next room.

As the man led me to a table, I found it difficult to believe that Saint Germain was opened only several weeks ago. It seemed as if everything from the chairs to the walls had been there for generations.

It's an architectural riddle how they managed to make the ceiling, the floor and the rest of the interior appear so charmingly old. Even the floor's misshapen sprinkles of paint seemed to add decades to the place. White light saturates the wine house, bringing all the attention to a dark sofa in the corner accompanied by several armchairs. Novels sit on bookshelves, eager to be read. The shelf's cluttered mess seemed an intentional effort to add a feeling of coziness to the place. Authentic paintings mounted on the walls create the feeling that you're in a small gallery, while mild background music leaves space for conversation.

The quaint Saint Germain can host about 40 people at a time 's the typical Italian family gathering. The winery's small size is more about creating an exclusive sense of belonging than a matter of accommodation.

Yet, I must also warn romantics to keep away from Saint Germain. After only several minutes there (and a few glasses of wine), one might start believing in a world so blissful that it becomes difficult to step outside. To put it bluntly, Saint Germain is simply too nice to be true. But unlike my boulangerie fantasy, it does exist. This Parisian has found her place in Vilnius.