One that showcases wines from around the world with a sense of presence - and place.
A collection of vintages shaped fully by the terroir in which they are grown… not by the demands of mass production.
That dream is what Ryan McFeely has recently brought to life at SML Fine Wines in Westlake Village. But the seed of that dream was planted many years before as young Ryan found himself working as a waiter at an elegant dining establishment in Baltimore, MD. He climbed his way up through the ranks to Maitre d'Hotel and credits much of his success to Head Chef Cindy Wolf. She and her business partner, Tony Foreman, took him under their wing as they observed his interest and aptitude for soaking in the finer points of the service industry. Amazing opportunities to further his education through wine selection trips with the business duo connected him to the concept that was to become his passion: not simply knowing a wine, but knowing the people, the history, and the very soil from whence it came.
His own path of exploration eventually grew into serving as a guide alongside other's oenophile journeys. Something he particularly enjoys to this day is providing folks with the chance to experience the same pour in different styles of glassware, and noticing just how much it can change the nuances that are perceived.
As life went on, Ryan moved down to Florida and shifted his focus from restaurant service to the distribution side of the industry. During this phase of his career, he was thrilled to be able to study under one of the few female Master Sommeliers in America: Laura DePasquale. He established a new division for his distributor and tested his wings in the business world of wine. Little did he know that just down the road lay a chance to open his own shop which would utilize both chapters of his career so perfectly.
Enter 2023: Ryan and his family relocate to Virginia.
The draw of generational roots, a rich community life, educational opportunities, and room for their children to enjoy the simple beauty of growing up in a more rural setting landed them here at Smith Mountain Lake. Moving to a new area also seemed like the right time to make the jump to business ownership.
When asked about the shop, Ryan lights up with all the possibilities of what he hopes to offer to the SML wine community! Regular Friday afternoon tastings, educational classes in the intimate living-room-esque learning area (which will be capped at eight participants to ensure a rich experience for all), and local delivery are just a few of the things he will be adding before the end of the year.
I was curious if there was a new trend or genre that he is particularly interested in, and his reply was that "Grower's Champagne", where small vineyards have cultivated the same vines/land for generations, is a world that has only recently become more accessible. He's excited to share this outside-your-typical-mainstream-bubbly experience with his customers.
It's clear that McFeely has found his sweet spot. A place where he can share his long-acquired knowledge about the fruit of the vine with those who love to learn. Nothing is more thrilling for him than watching other people's excitement when they try a brilliant pairing for the first time!
In addition to what is carefully curated in-store, Ryan also welcomes special-order requests.
SML Fine Wines:
Bringing the community together one bottle at a time.
At time of publication, hours are:
Free tastings are held:
Fridays from 4-6pm