Gardner Davis has discussed wine wisdom with his father, Eric, from the Lompoc Wine Ghetto to their family dinner table.
He remembers one lesson his father taught him — wine was meant to be enjoyed, shared and savored among family and friends.
“It's a beverage enjoyed all over the world by so many people. It’s a very open experience,” said Gardner Davis, 23. “I learned about what’s important in life. Wine has always been something that’s been a part of that.”
The father-son duo has concocted a plan for a wine bar and small plates eatery in downtown Sonora to be known as The Independent Wine Co., which will replace the recently closed Talulah’s restaurant at 13 S. Washington Street.
Eric Davis is the founder of the downtown Sonora Diamondback Grill and the East Sonora The Standard Pour, and his son, Gardner Davis, is a recent wine viticulture graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
“The driving purpose is how unique and wonderful it is to work with my son on something we are both really passionate about,” said Eric Davis, 59. “Our philosophy is wine should be enjoyed with friends and family at the table, and not taken too seriously.”
Eric Davis described Independent Wine Co. as a wine shop, wine bar and small plates restaurant “with a point of view.”
“We’re really going to look to do a highly curated approach with wine and food pairings,” he said.
Gardner Davis will bring some of his wine production and tasting expertise to the development of the menu — since his graduation in 2018, he has worked as cellar technician at a winery in the Edna Valley — which he hopes will be approachable for connoisseurs and first-timers alike.
“I don't know how it's going to feel until it starts happening, but I’m excited to come back to the community and see people I haven’t seen for a while and just be more established there,” Gardner Davis said.
Gardner Davis attended Jamestown Elementary School and graduated from Sonora High School in 2014.
Eric Davis said the only menu will be a chalkboard installed inside the bar, which will be tightly edited and rotate with local and international wines. He offered a few examples: Old World wines, whites from Portugal, Beaujolais, barbera from Piedmont in Italy and cabernet from the Margaret Valley in Australia.
Eric Davis reinforced that Independent Wine Co. will be unlike Diamondback Grill and The Standard Pour in that it will not be a traditional full-service restaurant. Small plates will be featured on the menu, specifically paired to the featured wines.
“We’ll have the capacity to do all kinds of things,” Eric Davis said. “The vibe is going to be exceedingly casual and focus on fun.”
Eric Davis said there is no target opening date for Independent Wine Co. at this time, though he hopes to open by late summer or early fall. The business will have limited hours and will start off being open four days a week, from Wednesday through Saturday, he said. Close times will likely be around 8 p.m. during the week and 9 p.m. on the weekends, though his plans could evolve.
Talulah’s closed on May 5 after 12 years, owner Katharine Payne told the Union Democrat in May.
Eric Davis said he reached out to Payne about the property after she decided to close.
“I have always admired that property. I asked if there was some sort of agreement we could come to,” Eric Davis said.
A lease on the building from the property owner is currently in escrow.
Eric Davis said he purchased some of the physical assets inside, but he declined to disclose a price.
He said he planned to do a quick polish of the interior, but no major remodel.
“I always remember people are not coming to you simply for a product but for an experience,” Eric Davis said. “We want to connect with our customers in a warm, authentic and genuine way and deliver on an experience that is memorable.”
Eric Davis said the boom of downtown casual bars — from the re-opened Servente’s Saloon & Market, the Sonora Tap Room and soon to be opened Sonora Brewing Company — benefited all owners by drawing foot traffic and visiting consumers.
“People that are interested in wine as enthusiasts really find themselves interested in beer and vice versa. What our community craves are reasons to gather together and have a good time,” he said.
Eric Davis said he started in the restaurant business like many others: working in a kitchen.
He left his job at an upstate New York country club and earned a restaurant management degree from Cal Poly Pomona in 1982.
About 30 years ago he moved to Sonora with his wife and they opened the original Diamondback Grill in 1991 where Yoshoku currently resides. Diamondback Grill was there for 15 years before it moved to its current location, Eric Davis said.
He opened The Standard Pour in East Sonora in 2010.
A few years ago, Davis sold Diamondback Grill and The Standard Pour (both are still operated by new owners), and a little over a year ago, he opened Industrial Food Works, which hosts cooking classes and wine tastings.
Eric Davis said the Standard Pour LLC (identified on the ownership change sheet out front of the business) retained its name when the restaurant was sold, but it is not associated with the current restaurant.