A little background info: we're moving into the space at 10th & French Streets in the first floor of the parking garage there. The project has been in the works for over a year, but it was only in December that Bertrand secured the financing to get it started. He didn't want to just move into the space that has been home to a number of other businesses by just putting up a new sign and slapping some paint on the walls, so it was important to have the means to do it right. After the financing was secured, we went in and immediately started the demolition; we gutted the entire space down to the bones and the construction phase began from scratch.
Unlike his cozy bistro that has been established for over twelve years now, he had a vision of something more upbeat and lively where people would want to meet after work or grab a bite to eat without feeling like they would have to dress up. So Cloud9 will have a more bar-centric approach to fine wines and good food.
When he started thinking about the project, he realized there was a need and market in Erie for more upscale, casual eating and drinking establishments geared toward the professional crowd--someplace sophisticated enough to attract adults, yet hip enough to appeal to millennials and their developing palates.
At the same time, he knew he wanted to open as a wine bar. It seemed to him that many of the establishments claiming to be wine bars he had visited over the years didn't handle their wines correctly. So many places, he noticed, would simply display bottles of wine on the counter top behind the bar at room temperature. He didn't like the way that looked, so in his early planning, he decided to have a custom cruvinet system built that would hold enough bottles to offer a nice selection of wines by the glass. The custom 16-bottle cruvinet would have dual chambers, each with their individual thermostats to keep both reds and whites at proper serving temperatures. Additionally, it would built to manufacture its own gases to pump through the wine bottles to keep them fresh and safe from damaging oxygenation.
But the cruvinet wasn't enough--he was thinking bigger. And as fate would have it, around the same time his wheels started turning, the PA State Legislature passed a bill that would alter the size of a single package that could be sold through the PLCB's state store system; it had previously been set at a maximum of 5 liters--the change would allow single packages up to 60 liters, which meant that wine makers following a growing trend could now sell their wines in keg-size packaging in the state. The trend--fairly new in the US, had been common practice in Bertrand's native France for decades, and he was excited to see it finally moving stateside, as keeping wine in kegs is the best preservation system--it never comes in direct contact with air until it is poured (which means it can be kept for as long as 4-6 months once it's tapped). With this development in mind, he went ahead and purchased an 8-handle wine tap system, which would expand his new restaurant's by-the-glass portfolio to 24. To take it one step further, he also bought a Le Verre de Vin wine preservation system. This machine, like the cruvinet, pumps a mix of gases into open bottles of wine to keep them fresh, and would allow Cloud9 to offer a nearly endless list wines by the glass--a key factor in making the enjoyment of wine more approachable for everyday consumers.
While hoping to bring wine to the masses, he also wanted to have a focus on another trend in the industry that he has always held dear--local, organic and sustainable cuisine. It's something he grew up with and has always felt should be a normal way of life. He's never really thought of it necessarily as a trend, but the burgeoning population of millennials are making so with their demands for uniqueness and quality. The menu at Cloud 9 will consist of a variety of small plates and tapas, salads and sandwiches, as well as a number of creative dinners served in the evening. It will showcase farm-to-table ingredients produced by local farms such as artisinal meats and cheeses, organic produce, and house-made sauces.
Aside from the wine and food, Cloud 9 will offer a full bar with 9 local and international craft brewed beers (bottles too), and a carefully curated menu of cocktails featuring homegrown herbs and spices and even spirits distilled right here in Pennsylvania and neighboring New York state.
All-in-all, Cloud 9 Wine Bar hopes to make the enjoyment of fine wines and great food affordable and accessible to the Erie community, filling its appetite for casually sophisticated, sustainable fun.