From their outpost on Flathead Lake’s eastern shore, David and Emily Meester could, if they were so inclined, employ a liberal definition of the term “rare” — there are sparsely populated segments of Montana where a cheeseburger and Coke would meet the criteria.
At Woods Bay Wine, however, the Meesters are truly offering something exceptional in the form of a bottleshop-restaurant hybrid offering top-tier wine and eats, all from their cozy cove off Montana Highway 35.
Featuring unique and handpicked wines from across the globe, the Meesters pair their flights and pours with a rotating menu of seasonal plates and a degree of erudition that is indeed rare, particularly as they dispense their wine-related knowledge without any pretense.
“We wanted to focus on selling wine, and we thought there was a hole in the market here,” David, who was born in Woods Bay and raised by a restaurant-owning family, said. “We wanted to share our appreciation of wine with the community and help people access it.”
Because wine is best translated through food, the Meesters decided to create a biweekly menu to coincide with their wine specials, while inviting vintners and importers to attend tastings, workshops and events they host throughout the year.
“We are a bottle shop that happens to do food, but one really begets the other,” Emily said of their business model, which was born of a mutual passion she and her husband developed while traveling to various wine regions and living abroad.
Understanding that wine can be intimidating, the Meesters decided to apply their fluency in the craft by offering opportunities for others to educate and enjoy themselves no matter their experience.
At Woods Bay Wine, novice connoisseurs can mingle with experienced collectors over a 2009 Chateau Palmer Bordeaux, a vintage whose blooming complexity can be enjoyed now or cellared for the next three decades.
“We have a lot of wine that you can drink now, and we also have bottles that a collector would be proud to put in his cellar for 10 or 20 or 30 years,” David said.
“The key is providing an environment where you can have fun with it, taste different wines, learn about the different grapes and regions, pair it with a meal, and take a bottle home with you to add to that experience,” Emily said.
A recent menu featured a miso glaze Nantucket scallop appetizer and a duck confit entree, while the Meesters offer fresh oysters every Wednesday night and Thai food every Thursday.
Customers can always order a charcuterie board of cured meats, cheeses and fruits and enjoy it alongside a flight of different wine varietals, either inside the cozy dining room or outside on the patio during summer months.
Woods Bay Wine also features rotating taps of Belgian-style beers and bottles of craft beer, sours and lambics for purchase. For customers interested in something stronger, the Meesters host Scotch tastings and keep several bottles on hand from both the highlands and lowlands of Scotland.
The Meesters have two children and live next to the bottleshop and restaurant in Woods Bay, a tiny community south of Bigfork that has evolved through the years and now bustles with eight restaurants.
David grew up near Eureka, where his parents owned the Point of Rocks Restaurant, a beloved establishment famous for its prime rib dinners. The atmosphere helped David develop a strong sense of the community that a restaurant can instill.
“It was a true mom-and-pop place growing up,” he said. “The tables in our dining room included a kids’ table, and we’d be eating our dinner out there with the other customers,” he said.
In today’s market, David says it’s possible to import high quality wine and prepare food with fresh ingredients, but to do so with care and knowledge and the desire to share it with a close-knit community of residents and visitors alike sets the Meesters apart.
“We can host people who know very little about wine to those who have a lot of knowledge, and we can do that in the same space,” David said.