Birmingham’s Vinotecca: A Wine Bar, a Restaurant – and a Forum for Exploring Life’s Consummate Fruits
“My father was a farmer and grocer in the Middle East,” John says, “who, as a Christian Chaldean, moved here to work for Henry Ford for his famous ‘five dollars a day.’”
“My father ended up, though, being in the grocery business and, even as a young boy, I helped him stock the wines – and that’s when my curiosity about them began.”
His business partner, daughter Kristin Jonna, is also a certified sommelier and was assistant winemaker at Benziger Vineyards.
“This whole restaurant and its concepts are Kristin’s ideas,” John says. “We, as a family, are passionate about wine, food, and learning. We started this restaurant in Royal Oak fourteen years ago, recently moving it here to Birmingham. We also have a sister restaurant, Vinology, in Ann Arbor.”
“We were packed,” says John. “It was a place to meet and really communicate. “
“Kristin wanted a social gathering spot with wine-friendly cuisine and varietally correct wines, true to the character of the food. We design our selections of wine and food to contrast and complement, and we rotate the menu.”
John points out the commissioned glass artwork facing the restaurant entry, created by Chris Nordin Studios in Dearborn and glowing with reds, roses, burgundies, scarlets: hues of the wines the Jonnas lovingly curate.
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“We are very proud of this piece. It’s an abstract representation of how wine is made and of Rudolph Steiner’s biodynamic and organic principle that ‘all products grown on earth should be made with cognizance of all other products and of the earth, itself.’”
“And that’s how we live, as a family,” states John, whose son, Ryan Jonna, has a Ph.D. in environmental sociology.
Kristin’s husband, Dave Eifrid, owner of Greenlife Building, created the semi-private “Vintage” gathering space from reclaimed wood from a deconstructed home, a room for up to 45 people.
The Barrel Room, crafted to resemble the inside of a barrel, often holds wine seminars and other events, and accommodates 10-20 guests.
The Elm Room, seating 150, is used for larger events, including weddings, showers, retirement parties, and other celebrations.
And, on the partly covered patios, customers meet, dine, and drink in all kinds of weather for wine events, brunches and dinners (complete with kids’ menus), happy hours, and live music performances (Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays).
“I’m a cheese expert beyond comparison!” John grins. “And a life enrichment expert.”
“A bottle of wine is meant to be shared by three, four, five people,” explains John. “And through wine, gourmet food, and the sharing of it all, life is truly enriched.”