The Champagnery Opens at Architype Gallery
By Janice Carter Levitch
Photos by Kathryn Harrington
Drinking champagne is the essence of sophistication and celebration. Husband and wife team Brad Stengel and Charlotte Knoop Stengel knew it made perfect sense to open Louisville’s first champagne bar. The idea occurred to them about a year ago as they were celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary. “After we decided to go ahead with the idea, we called our nephew, Eric Wentworth, who has a strong background in cocktails and bartending,” Charlotte said. “We wanted to run the idea past him. The day we called him in to our office, which is the space we are in now for the Champagnery, we jokingly locked all the doors. We knew something special was about to happen and told him he couldn’t run away once he knew what the proposal was.”
The Stengels wanted Eric involved because he had successfully opened The Hub Louisville just down the street on Frankfort Avenue. “That opening had put a great demand on his time and energy, but we were hoping he would be as passionate as we are about the idea. It made perfect sense to include his expertise,” Charlotte explained.
“Brad is an architect and my education and degree is in architecture, and I work part-time with Brad’s firm, Stengel Hill Architecture,” she said. “This space was originally our architectural firm’s office space, Stengel Hill Architecture. Brad and Chip Hill are the founding architects of the firm. We co-own the building with the Hill family but decided to relocate our firm to 613 W. Main St. and renamed the space Architype Gallery.”
Architype Gallery created a space for Charlotte to launch ARCHITYPE, a design house specializing in original leather bags and accessories. The designs reflect thoughtful functionality and sophisticated simplicity. Architype Gallery still exists as a component of the Champagnery, showcasing art that is carefully placed on the walls and wrapping around the interior space, much like you could find in a museum. But the star of the show is the champagne selection along with other cocktails Eric has created, which will impress even the most schooled aficionado or sommelier.
“Our opening, by chance, happened to fall on the same week of our 25th silver wedding anniversary, which only added to the specialness,” Charlotte added. “What also prompted the concept of the Champagnery from a philanthropic point of view is that we had hosted numerous charitable events, and we realized this space could host a lot of events and special occasions.”
Located on the corner of Pope Street and Frankfort Avenue, the façade reveals a copper hue that reflects the mood you experience once you pass through the door. The interior is bathed in soft shades of vanilla along with copper accents. Tufted leather banquettes line one wall in the color of champagne pairing beautifully with the copper tabletops and light fixtures that softly illuminate the space. The stone bar glows in the evening light from carefully placed lighting underneath. There are numerous areas for seating, including comfortable lounge groupings and a small private room that can be reserved.
“Traveling in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and other large cities, I saw there are places like this that are successful,” Eric said. “So, I couldn’t say no to the idea; it was a definite yes. Let’s go with it.”
The building is in a good spot because of the surrouning pedestrian traffic, Charlotte said. “It’s developed very rapidly. This building (used to be) the neighborhood apothecary. We felt this is great (since) our local apothecary now is kind of place where we go to have a drink and relax.”
Along with a vast champagne and specialty cocktail menu, they also offer bites to eat. “Our sommelier developed pairings with all of the items on the food menu, and they are fantastic,” Eric said. “But the great thing about the food menu is there are no designated pairings, but honestly, everything pairs well together and champagne pairs with everything.”
The menu ranges from truffle popcorn that is mouth watering paired with a glass of Moussè Fils to a champagne cake created by Wiltshire Pantry that is incredibly pleasing to the palate. The Rivière Board is just one of three board options on the menu. The Rivière includes charcuterie and medjool dates that have been filled with crème fraiche and lavender paired with Ruinart champagne. The pairing truly has the culinary power to transport you to another time and place.
Last but not least is the champagne cocktail d’Or, comprised of Veuve Clicquot, a sugar cube, Peychaud’s, Angostura and gold dust. “It’s beautiful to watch the chemical reaction in the champagne flute when I mix all the ingredients together,” said Eric. “It’s like a science experiment. The gold dust is edible, and it floats around in the glass, adding even more sparkle to the effervescence of the champagne bubbles as they float to the top of the glass.”
“You can buy a bottle of our champagne here and take it home,” said Charlotte. “You’ve experienced it here, but then you can share it with your friends. I think you can pass on the experience sharing memories and stories. It’s a lot of fun.”
While fun is a priority, so is giving back to the community they care so much about. Causes they soon plan to host include Paws with Purpose, CHUM Therapeutic Writing of Kentuckiana and Sunday’s Love Music for Everyone. They’re also preparing to host pre-events for the Presentation Academy Tower Awards for Women Leaders.
“The gift to the city is the Champagnery itself being a place for people to gather,” Charlotte concluded. “But (it’s) also being a place to serve philanthropic initiatives in the city.” VT
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