When Joel Amos created Drnks, the online store that’s been sending cases of organic and natural wines all over Australia for the past six years, it was to fill what he saw as a significant hole in the market.
“I started Drnks because [a site like that] didn’t exist,” he says, standing in what was once the games room of Waterloo’s George Hotel and is now the wine retailer’s first bricks-and-mortar outpost. “I’d met all these people my age making my kind of wine and I realised there was no way for me to buy it.”
The bottle shop, which will celebrate its grand opening today, stocks over 400 varieties of wine – all organic, all natural, and all from family-run wineries. The store is one part of a hotel-wide overhaul that includes a refreshed front bar and a Mexican diner called Taco King, fronted by Ghostboy Cantina’s Toby Wilson.
Although a small selection of Drnks wines have been available over the counter at The Duke since it opened in December, The George’s bottle shop will sell the full range of wine available online, as well as a diverse collection of beers and spirits.
“There won’t be any generic [wine] in here at all,” Amos says, leaning on the large timber table in the centre of the shop, rescued from the pub’s beer garden and recently given a coat of varnish by Amos himself.
“It’ll purely be what Drnks stocks, which starts at about $25 ... Our beer and spirits selection will be a bit more general. I find that people still want a bottle of Aperol or Campari while they’re buying a Basket Range pinot noir. And they might want a carton of Melbourne Bitter.”
Amos plans to make the most of the reclaimed table by using it to host regular tastings (“we’ll always have a bottle of something open”), as well as occasional dinners where punters will get to rub shoulders with winemakers, featuring a communal feast prepared by Wilson (like a bo ssam, Korean pork belly).
Those dining at Wilson’s Taco King can enjoy any bottle purchased from the Drnks shop in the beer garden with their tacos for an extra $20 corkage fee. As for which bottles go best with the food, Amos says there are no rules.
“I’m not a huge matching guy,” he says. “I want to drink something I feel like drinking and eat my favourite thing that Toby makes, which at the moment is the quesadilla with chorizo. Toby’s food is too fun to be serious about.”
As for the Drnks website, Amos hints at something big on the horizon.
“We’ve got a new iteration of the site launching in about a month,” he says. “It’ll be the biggest change we’ve ever had, but you’ll still be able to jump on, spend about five minutes on the site and buy six bottles of wine. That’s what I’ve always aimed for.”
Drnks opens on Friday April 5.
The George, 760 Elizabeth Street, Waterloo
(02) 9698 1320
Mon to Sat 11am–11pm