By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 21, 2024 at 11:02 AM

Cavelier Wine Bar, the newest addition to the Newport Shores Development at 407 E Jackson St. in Port Washington, is slated to make its debut with a soft opening beginning on Wednesday, May 22 at 3 p.m.

Guests who visit the new lakeside destination will find far more than a great selection of wines thanks to owner Kelly Brown, who also operates Locally Inspired, a souvenir and gift shop featuring goods from Wisconsin makers at 226 E. Main St. in Port Washington.

Kelly Brown, owner of Cavelier Wine Bar
Kelly Brown, owner of Cavelier Wine Bar

Bringing people together

“When I first opened Locally Inspired, I knew I wanted a brick and mortar because I loved having that in-person connection with the community,” says Brown, who notes that she has always intentionally hosted a variety of events at the shop – including pop-ups and paint and sips – to create opportunities for interaction with customers.

“But I decided it just wasn’t enough,” Brown says. “I wanted a gathering place, preferably somewhere that people could linger and spend time together.”

Opening a wine bar was among the ideas that appealed.

“We have a good variety of full-service bars here, so I wanted to be more focused,” she says.  “But I also knew that, if I did wine, I also wanted to serve mocktails. I wanted the bar to be inclusive of people who – like me – don’t always want to drink. And I wanted the mocktails to be integrated in a way that seemed natural, not just as an afterthought.”

To make that happen, she reached out to Daniel Beres of Lost WhaleOdyssea Sangria and NiteCap Beverage Consulting. She'd met him when she decided to carry his ready-to-drink sangria at Locally Inspired and kept in touch. Together, they worked on a menu for the wine bar that included both cocktails and their zero-proof counterparts.

“As our businesses have gotten busier, Trip [Duval] and I have taken on fewer consulting clients in recent years,” notes Beres. “These days, if we take on a project it's because it's fun and exciting, and usually it's for someone we know. This was one of those projects.”

Cavalier Wine Bar wallX

Lakefront views

When Brown began making plans for her wine bar, putting it in a new development was not her first thought. In fact, she was certain she’d settle in one of Port Washington’s more historic buildings. 

“I knew I wanted a space that was cozy and inviting and warm and to me that meant an older building,” she says. “But a local developer encouraged me to take a look at Newport Shores. When I did, I realized that I could create warmth, and I could create a connection to Old World nautical tradition.”

To do so, she worked with Northwoods Creative and Marketingfor branding and Sam Smith of One Smith Studio for the wine bar’s aesthetic, which takes full advantage of the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Lake Michigan and the marina. 

Seating area against floor-to-ceiling windowsX

From there, a nautical theme knits together with modern details like repurposed tiles on the bar, a Roman clay effect on the walls and lighting fixtures throughout the space.

Cavelier barX

Brown says her family also made valuable contributions to the space. Repurposed barnwood for the wine bar's tables came from her brother, Brett [Bodenburg]’s home. Meanwhile, her stepfather Chris Bodenburg built the bar alongside her husband, Charlie Brown, who also took on numerous other tasks throughout the renovation.

As for the patio which will offer guests an al fresco experience all summer long, it's the wine bar's second floor location overlooking the shore of Lake Michigan which makes it truly special.

Patio at CavelierX

Discover great wine

Brown named her wine bar after 17th century French Great Lakes and Mississippi River explorer and fur trader René-Robert Cavelier who is thought to have visited the vicinity of modern Port Washington to acquire supplies during his journey in 1679.

“I loved the name,” she says, “But I also loved the fact that he’s an explorer, and the notion of trying something new and traveling the world through wine was very appealing.”

Wine with a viewX

As a result, guests will find a curated list of well-priced wines from across the globe. Brown says she purposefully chose selections that you couldn’t find at local restaurants or grocery stores, and many come from smaller, family-owned vineyards. But she also took care to create a list that wasn’t daunting. 

“I wanted it to be approachable for anyone, not just people who already know a lot about wine,” she says, admitting that paring down the list was a challenge. 

As a result, the list of offerings will be somewhat fluid and there will almost always be some new things to try. Brown says she also hopes to launch a wine club, as well as regular tastings, to provide customers with opportunities to try a larger selection of wines.

Bottles of wine for saleX

The wine selection includes 12 wines available by both the glass or bottle, including selections like So Fresh Love you Bunches Still Rosé (Santa Barbara, California); Cune Monopole Rioja Blanco (Rioja, Spain); Alguijón de Abeja Malbec (Patagonia, Argentina); Cantine Povero Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont Italy); and Ghostrunner Ungrafted Red Blend (Lodi, California).

Glass pours run in the $9-$12 range with a fair number of bottles priced $36-$63. An additional 15 selections are available for purchase by the bottle.  Bottles are also available for retail purchase at 20% off.

Something for everyone

In addition to wine, Cavelier will stock a selection of zero-proof wine, canned beers (primarily from Wisconsin), non-alcoholic beers, cider, seltzers, Odyssea Sangria (red, white and rosé) and a list of cocktails and corresponding zero-proof mocktails created by NiteCap.

Beres says it’s the first time that Nite Cap Consulting has created a menu that includes both alcoholic cocktails and a list of corresponding non-alcoholic beverages. But he says he was excited to take on the process of adapting flavor profiles to accommodate both alcohol and zero-proof ingredients.

“Making a non-alcoholic riff is so much more difficult than making a regular cocktail, simply because the brands manufacture their products so differently,” notes Beres. “The products tend to have wildly varying sugar levels and flavor profiles that land all over the map. They’re also often more expensive to use than traditional spirits. But we took the time to find the right products for each drink.”

Those include locally made selections from Brew City Soda, Siren Shrub Co., Great Lakes Distillery and Bittercube Bitters, along with non-alcoholic spirits, wines and bitters from Lyre’s, Leitz and All the Bitter.

The X

Mojito lovers can revel in the minty, refreshing “Mint to Be”, a drink incorporating guava, honey, lime, Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla and Bolivar Bitters, fresh mint, seltzer and either Lyre’s Dark Cane Spirit (zero-proof, $8) or Bacardi 8-year Rum ($11).

Another great summer quaff is the Watermelon Rebel, a margarita riff that’s ripe with salted watermelon flavor. It features watermelon puree, lime, Bittercube Chipotle Cacao Bitters, fresh basil and a pink sea salt half-rim. The zero-proof drink uses Lyre’s Blanco Agave Spirit and Orange Sec ($9), while the full-proof cocktail features Cazadores Reposado Tequila and Dry Orange Orange Curacao ($12).

The Watermelon RebelX

Additional selections include the Cavelier Old Fashioned, a riff on the Wisconsin-style classic ($7 for NA; $10 for full-proof); the Flamingo Beach French 75 ($10; $13); and the No-Groni, a bitter and botanical take on the classic Negroni ($10; $13).

“Hybrid bars like Cavelier are definitely on the rise,” Beres notes. “It’s what we’re seeing from bars in Milwaukee like Agency. The notion of a sober bar isn’t inclusive, so people are moving to a more welcoming model where everyone can gather and drink what they like.”

Kelly Brown and Daniel Beres
Kelly Brown and Daniel Beres

Cavelier’s soft opening is slated to run May 22-26. The wine bar will be closed on Memorial Day (Monday, May 28) and Tuesday, May 28, reopening for regular hours on Wednesday, May 29. A grand opening ribbon cutting will be held on Friday, May 31 at 3 p.m.

Regular operating hours are Monday through Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m., Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.