Journey through wine at Rocks + Acid

An inside look at sommelier Paula de Pano’s first shop and tasting room.

Sommelier Paula de Pano in Rocks + Acid.

Rocks + Acid features 2,000 bottles of wine.

Photo by Daniel Turbert

Wine can be fancy — but it doesn’t have to be. Award-winning sommelier Paula de Pano wants to make wine fun and accessible at Rocks + Acid, her wine shop and tasting room opening on Wednesday, Dec. 7 in Chapel Hill.

Wine-lovers may recognize Paula from her nine years at Fearrington House Inn, or even from her time as senior sommelier at Eleven Madison Park, a three-Michelin star restaurant in New York City. After more than 15 years in the wine world, Paula has kicked off her first solo venture with a curated collection of 350+ labels, meant to be enjoyed by customers with all levels of wine knowledge.

“People’s palates are each very different, so it’s important to keep an open mind when discovering wines — it’s a continuous journey, even for professionals,” Paula said.

When you step into the shop at 712 Market St., you’ll be greeted with a floor-to-ceiling array of bottles from around the world. There are no labels on the walls, and that’s intentional. Paula wants to spark conversations and educate, inviting anyone who’s interested to ask questions and learn. Paula and her partner in wine, Laura Francis, will guide guests based on their personal tastes.

The interior of Rocks + Acid.

The shop was designed by Pod Architecture + Design of Chapel Hill.

Photo by Daniel Turbert

Paula is interested in the people and stories behind the wines — their production is just as important to her as their flavor profiles. She favors ethical and sustainable wines, handmade by families, not factories.

We had to ask: If Raleigh were a wine, what would it be? Ca’n Verdura Supernova, a red wine from Mallorca, an island in Spain, Paula said. “It reminds me of Raleigh because it’s very vibrant,” she said. “It’s not mainstream and it has unique characteristics.”

Want to dive deeper into the vino? Take a class, such as as Champagne + French Fries (a collaboration with the shop’s neighbor Al’s Burger Shack) or Getting Into Wine: 101, to learn from Paula.

Rocks + Acid pours a rotating selection of 12 seasonal wines, focusing on Paula’s favorite lesser-known styles, that can be sipped in-store. Plus, artisan cheeses, charcuterie, conservas, and caviar will be available for pairings. Cheers.

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