Enoteca reopens June 1 with inspired Italian, Mediterranean pairings
Wine lovers rejoice. After a bit of a hiatus, Big Sky’s wine bar—Enoteca—is reopening with new management on June 1.
Enoteca’s menu will include a bar snacks section with lower-priced items like a meat and cheese plate, spicy olives, and seasoned almonds, along with an oft-changing duo of bruschetta. Beyond snacks there are small plates, which feature items like wild boar, pate specials, a rotating pasta, fresh salads and more. On the sweeter side, there will be gelato and biscotti.
“The food will be very old school Italian—it’s not a red sauce joint,” Enoteca owner Colleen Helm said as she looked over the wine bar’s draft menu. “We’ll be serving things that will make people say, ‘Remember when we were (fill in the blank) and we had this food? I haven’t seen it since!’ or, they might say, ‘I didn’t know this was Italian.’ This is the real food that the people of Italy eat. It’s not fancy food, but it’s got to be absolutely delicious.”
As for libations, 40 or so kinds of primarily European wine will be available by the bottle and glass—bubbly, whites, reds, rosé and even orange wine. No, it’s not wine made from oranges. Orange wine has been made for centuries. It’s wine that has had contact with grape skin, giving it an amber-orange color.
Not into wine? Try an Amaro bitters cocktail, a unique bottle of beer or a house-infused soda.
Food or drink, Enoteca’s offerings hark to the idea of armchair travel.
“It’s supposed to either allow you to mentally travel where you’ve never been, or take you back,” Helm said.
Enoteca originally opened in February 2017. Helm and her husband Steve were running the wine shop in Bozeman fulltime, so she hired a couple to manage the wine bar in Big Sky. From a public interest standpoint, Enoteca was a success—three times as many guests came through the doors than anticipated. While it only garnered six reviews on TripAdvisor during its short time open, all six were five-star.
Unfortunately, the managing team and the Helms did not see eye to eye, and Enoteca’s doors closed in late August, 2017 while the Helms decided what was best for the business.
The business was offered for sale, but seeing the recent boom in Big Sky, Colleen said she knew it was time to reopen the wine bar. She hired Jeremiah Dawson, who was managing Vino Per Tutti, as Enoteca’s new manager alongside Colleen. Dawson, who will continue managing Vino Per Tutti as well, brings with him a four-year culinary degree along with another degree in hotel and restaurant management.
“He is my wingman for everything,” Colleen said.
Helm comes from an Italian family, growing up around food and wine. She’s a “Certified Specialist of Wine,” “Certified Sommelier” and “Certified Italian Wine Professional.” Helm curated Enoteca’s wine list based on a number of strategies she’s learned.
“Anyone can sell you a $100 bottle of wine, but it takes a certain amount of effort to come up with wines that are interesting, different, cool, and not $100 that will give you that whole armchair travel journey,” she said. “We want to show you things that make you think, ‘Wow, how did I live without this?’”
Ten days after they were married, the Helms moved to Europe. They lived in Italy—home to Colleen’s ancestors—and Germany, where her husband’s family tree is rooted.
“We had the opportunity to travel broadly,” Colleen recalled. “During that time, I honed my Italian cooking skills—my love of food and wine.”
Even now, she said, all she ever does is think about food and wine. In fact, those topics help her climb hills.
“I love to bike, and whenever I’m climbing a hill, which I can’t stand, I plan menus,” she said. “It’s kind of my thing.”
Coming from a finance background, Helm was well-prepared to take the leap and start a wine bar.
“We wanted to do something different,” Helm said, describing the challenges she and her husband faced when they first started looking at restaurant space in Bozeman, where a tiny spot on downtown’s Main Street costs a million dollars.
Opening a wine bar in a million-dollar location just didn’t calculate, “So, we bought this space,” Helm said as she stacked supplies at the Town Center location. “And thought it would be a great idea to put in a wine bar.”
Colleen was quick to note that a wine bar and a restaurant are not one in the same. While the wine bar concept of small plates paired with complimentary drinks is common in Europe, it’s still emerging in the U.S.
“But, in Big Sky, people are very well-traveled, and so they understand that it’s going to be a small plate, and that the whole point is that each plate goes with certain wine, and it’s an experiential thing, it’s a journey,” she said.
Enoteca reopens June 1, and will be open at 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday for the month of June. Starting in July, it will be open six days a week, closed on Mondays. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m., but the bar will stay open later.
Enoteca is located at 33 Lone Peak Drive, Suite 103, next to The Cave Spirits and Gifts.