Proprietor & Director of Wine, Alanna Martineau's Story on how Wine-Ohs Came to be. . .
I went to grad school in San Diego. Decent wine was affordable (even for students) in California and it was there I began developing an appreciation for wine. Living there also provided the opportunity to visit wine regions and wineries and to learn and taste along the way. As I began travelling around the world, I’d visit other wine regions and started to develop a passion for wine, its connection to regions, people, food, and history. It was somewhere in there I began talking about someday opening a wine bar. Along my travels, I went to lots of bars and restaurants and started collecting ideas about what I wanted my place to be like.
Meanwhile, during one trip home for Christmas from California, I went to see an artist named Corb Lund in a small community hall. It was around that time I was starting to miss home and his Alberta Roots music was new to me and I instantly fell in love with it; his songs about the prairies of Alberta resonated with me in so many ways and reinforced that I eventually need to return to Alberta.
When I moved back to Calgary in 2003, I wanted to learn more about wine so I started taking courses through the International Sommelier Guild. About the same time, I discovered the independent music scene in Calgary because of my interest that kicked off by hearing Corb’s Music. I spent a lot of time at a gem of a place called the Bar Named Sue, and after it closed spent more time at the Ironwood and Mikey’s, discovering the music scene, and meeting musicians. A passion for independent music developed and demanded attention similar to my love of wine. I eventually did the Sommelier Diploma program and then took a 5 month sabbatical in France, where I continued learning.
I had this idea of creating ‘the kind of place you know and love. . .only with better wine’. Eventually circumstances aligned and Wine-Ohs ended up in its current location in the historic Grain Exchange building. The space itself has a long tradition with music having been the home of the Beatniq jazz club in the basement for more than 15 years. The Bistro space was also apparently an actual beatniq hangout and café in the 60s. I heard from people passing by one day they’d seen Joni Mitchell perform there. When Ian Tyson showed up on a T.Buckley Tuesday at the beginning of 2016, I introduced myself and he asked how long I’d had it. I told him it had been four years and he said ‘yes but it’s been here much longer’. I told him the story about how supposedly Joni Mitchell had played upstairs in the 60s and he said ‘Yeah, we did. . .’