For four months, occasional passersby on Winooski’s roundabout have been pressing their faces to the glass to check on the progress of Craig McGaughan’s new wine bar, Oak45. This past Sunday night, they finally found the door unlocked and the owner slinging Furmint and Zweigelt during his soft opening.
Nine whites, one rosé, two sparkling and 10 red wines compose Oak45’s opening salvo, with choices ranging from the slightly offbeat (Picpoul de Pinet, Lirac) to California-produced Chardonnay and Zinfandel.
“I’m not a sommelier or trying to act like one,” writes McGaughan in an email. He says he considers Oak45 “a bar with a ‘serious’ wine list, not to be taken too seriously. It’s meant to be a fun, social and inviting environment.”
McGaughan was considering law school when he did a 180 and began plotting his “unpretentious” spot at 45 Main Street, a long-empty storefront on the east side of the roundabout. While he may describe it in humble terms, McGaughan has created an elegant, minimalist room with a marble bar, communal tables, a smattering of leather seats and neutral hues, adorned by a pair of antique mirrors.
Oak45 is open daily from 4 p.m. “’til close,” says McGaughan, who for now is the sole bartender. In addition to the wines, he serves a few local beers — including ones from Switchback Brewing and Lost Nation Brewing — and a range of spirits. He plans soon to offer a rotating selection of cheeses and small plates.
For now, though, Oak45 will operate on the down-low. “We’ll definitely have a more formal opening sometime down the road,” McGaughan says.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Ripe and Roundabout"