Dining Out

Rocks + Acid Wine Shop

A Wine Bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The interior of Rocks + Acid Wine Shop
Written by Jenn Rice, Images courtesy of Rocks + Acid Wine Shop
Chef Paula de Pano of Rocks + Acid Wine shop poses

Paula de Pano, an advanced sommelier and all-around wine extraordinaire, brings one of the most anticipated openings of 2022 to Chapel Hill: Rocks + Acid Wine Shop whose core principles boil down to “basic human kindness.” Originally from Manila, de Pan came to the United States when she was 23 and quickly entered the world of wine after attending the Culinary Institute of America.

Her resume entails Eleven Madison Park, an esteemed three-Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City; most recently, she was beverage director at the Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, North Carolina, a Five Diamond, Relais & Chateaux property. And every step of the way, de Pano has worked to break down stuffy wine culture.

“I manage each sale,” she notes, as Rocks + Acid Wine Shop isn’t organized by grape varietals or country, or region but by category: bubbles, orange wine, and rosé and reds. “I’m very big on labels—I eat with my eyes,” she says. The space is organized to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and taste something new and exciting. “I have muscle memory on where the bottles are,” she says with a laugh.

De Pano personally handpicks each wine that sits pretty on the wine walls—always small production (less than 10,000 cases) and from family-owned estates. De Pano leads many conversations with “Do you know how this wine is made?” She’s eager to spiel about the winemaker and the juice in the bottle as if it’s a good friend, waxing that “wines are living things, too.

“The décor is wine bottles decked out on the walls, offering a gorgeous backdrop to the casual tasting room, whereas Pano has a fun by-the-glass menu to nudge people into something new, like an orange wine from Slovenia—plus ongoing classes, like pairing champagne and french fries and one on“anything-but-boring” varietals. There are also nonalcoholic wines, beer, spirits, and snacks, like charcuterie, cheeses, caviar, and conservas.

Can’t Miss at Rocks + Acid Wine Shop

You can mix and match from de Pano’s offerings of wine and snacks; here are a few pairings that are particularly palate pleasing

Shellfish Conservas with Barrialto Aranzá or Pomalo Pet Nat

De Pano suggests grabbing tinned mussels, razor clams, and scallops—and a bottle of Barrialto Aranzá from the Jerez region of Spain, which she notes is a dry wine made from a sherry grape. It’s like “wine’s version of spritzing lemon on [shellfish conservas],” she says. Or pop a bottle of Pomalo Pet Nat from Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. “It’s a wine I like to have if going to the beachwith conservas packed,” she says. “Think preserved Meyer lemon with salt.” 

Spanish Cured Meats with Josep Foraster Trepat

The salty, porky flavor profiles of cured meats like salchichón, jamón Serrano, and Ibérico sausage will be a dream next to Josep Foraster Trepat, a Spanish wine with just enough spice that can also be slightly chilled.

Caviar with Bubbles

De Pano loves bubbles from the Côte des Blancs, such as Philippe Glavier La Grâce d’Alphaël Extra Brut and Browne Trading Company Siberian Supreme caviar. Or the Minière F&R Influence Brut Champagne and Browne Trading Company Galilee Prime Osetra caviar is always a good idea.

Pairing Suggestions

Conservas and…

Reach for a white wine that’s low ABV (alcohol by volume)—nothing too overpowering, as the vibe is slow and steady wins the race at a picnic. Look for a skin-contact wine that will give a nice texture and work well with the tomato-based sauces, and seek out wines near the sea, as they’ll boast salt and minerality. 

Spanish cured meats and…

Salty and porky meats warrant a red wine that has enough flavor but not a lot of tannins—plus you don’t want a high-alcohol wine. De Pano suggests seeking a fruit-dominant wine with cherry and cranberry flavors. Spanish wines tend to have a dusty aroma that complements smoky cured meats so well.

Caviar and…

“Caviar has a briny, shellfish quality to it,” De Pano says. “You need bright acidy to cut through fishiness but also to accentuate the flavor profile with the brightness” so you get the saltiness and not the fishiness. Splurge with a Blanc de Blancs or seek a sparkling wine with a higher percentage of Chardonnay. 

about this restaurant

  • Chef

    Paula de Pano

  • Address

    712 Market Street
    Chapel Hill, North Carolina

    • Wine Bars

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