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Birmingham’s Vinotecca:  A Wine Bar, a Restaurant – and a Forum for Exploring Life’s Consummate Fruits

APRIL 2019
LBN Community Series
Visitors to Vinotecca, Birmingham’s unique wine, food, music, education, and event venue, are always surprised when energetic co-owner John Jonna shares, “I’ve been in the wine business for 60 years.”

“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.”


“So,” John continues, “from humble beginnings, I’m a sommelier who is one generation from the 3000-year-old homeland tradition of being a farmer and sheep herder.”

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.”

John adds, “Wanting to create an environment for straight-up communication and in-the-moment enjoyment of food and company, we started with no televisions and, in the time when people still smoked in restaurants, we had no smoking as the smoke interferes with the wine’s aroma.”

“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.”

“Kristin and I are intensive in our studies,” he says.  “We may study 100 wines and then choose only two. We are not in favor of manipulated wine, but believe in wines in their natural, pure state.”

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.

“Wanting to create an environment for straight-up communication and in-the-moment enjoyment of food and company, we started with no televisions…”

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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.

The restaurant’s three, distinctive event spaces also express that environmentalism.

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.

“Kristin was able to ‘create’ three elm trees in this room that reach to the ceiling,” John says. “There’s one for each grandchild.”

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).

“Now, many of our customers come here and say, ‘I met my future husband here!’ Or, ‘I proposed to my wife here.’ We are also the first to have offered a gourmet cheese plate, our number one seller.”

“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.”

210 S. Old Woodward Avenue
Birmingham, MI  48009













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