When we last caught up with Sam Biszantz and Jeremy Campbell four Novembers ago, they were in the throes of opening a Vail Village wine bar named Root & Flower. Since then, the concept—high-end, by-the-glass pours of wine grouped into creative tasting categories (“Unappreciated & Misunderstood” and “Elegance & Grace”) plus a suite of specialty cocktails prepared with painstakingly house-made ingredients—proved so popular that aside from packing barstools at après, it earned accolades in national magazines (following their blitz through Vail in 2016, Vogue deemed Root & Flower “Kardashian-vacation-worthy” even though Kimye and crew did not actually stop in).
Hope to anyone who’s shivered outside the steamed windows of the shoe-box-size space, waiting (often in vain) to stake a claim on one of a dozen or so seats available within the wine nook’s 658-square-but-ever-so-cozy feet on Wall Street: On February 28, after many permitting delays, Root & Flower finally debuts in its new locale in a pedigreed storefront on Bridge Street, offering oenophiles and foodies nearly three times the square footage (and seats) as its incubator space, plus an actual full kitchen and other longed-for culinary amenities.
“I remember when our new space was the Daily Grind—an awesome little coffee shop and bar at night,” reminisces Biszantz, who vacationed in her family’s second home in the valley for more than three decades before moving to Vail permanently in 2009. “I would go in there for hot cocoa and then run up the stairs next door to the Rucksack, an old everything store, and look around for games, candy, pajamas with moose all over them—it was my favorite store in town … to be opening a place in that location is surreal.”
And part of a candid, coordinated effort by the 32-year-old San Diego native to restore and maintain a locally rooted edge to a ski village she fears is being homogenized in the name of “progress,” recalling the ethos of made-in-Vail institutions like the Hubcap Brewery (the valley’s first brewpub) lost (along with 8150, Vail’s rendition of CBGB) when the Crossroads was demolished in 2007 to create Solaris, a warren of tony condos marketed to millionaire and billionaire investors from Mexico and Asia. Cultivating Old Vail authenticity has meant catering to a steady stream of well-palated locals, discerning oenophiles from Manhattan, and après-skiers from the Front Range seeking more than pairings of craft beer with nachos (and everyone in between)—as well as finding an innovative business model that sustains the effort. Like augmenting Root & Flower’s bottom line with Two Arrows Coffee, a pop-up artisan coffeehouse Biszantz bootstrapped with longtime local barista Lindsea Stowe last year to take over the space during the morning hours when the wine bar wasn’t serving up its signature pink G&Ts. (Two Arrows Coffee will occupy the Wall Street storefront permanently once Root & Flower officially makes the leap to Bridge Street.)
“Keeping Vail cool is one of my personal missions, and we’re making sure the town isn’t falling behind,” she explains. “We’re offering a culinary and wine and cocktail experience that competes with big cities where most of our guests come from—we’re not OK with the status quo that people have been coming here for 25 years and they need to eat somewhere.”
As part of that mission, Campbell and Biszantz commissioned Vail’s Pierce Austin Architects with the build-out of Root & Flower 2.0, and Iba Design Associates—which has orchestrated Architectural Digest-quality commercial and residential build-outs from West Vail to the West Village—melding interior finishes with wall-spanning murals by local artists. Campbell will still oversee the wine offerings, and current head bartender Mat Guzzetti will continue helming the bar’s cocktail program—along with assuming an ownership stake in the fledgling brand.
Other upgrades that come with more than doubling in size? A private backroom that will serve as the bar’s headquarters for wine tasting classes and groups as large as 16 looking for private, multicourse dinners with wine pairings. And then there’s the menu—curated by Root & Flower chef Matt Limbaugh, who with Biszantz also runs UpRooted Events, a mobile catering business based out of a food truck named Delilah—which will evolve from a limited selection of nibbles to a cornucopia of shared plates. “It’s going to be my personal twist on tapas—we’re still not a restaurant, so shareable items, and I can be more creative because I have ten times the amount of space,” explains Limbaugh. “You’ll come in for one or two things and order way more than you think you should … we’re bringing back caviar, braised calamari, our cheese and charcuteries will be strong, we’ll have a lot more options that we just couldn’t do in the old space.”
Ask Biszantz what’s next on her startup list, and she deflects (“I don’t like opening another business ’til the loan of the first one is paid off!”). In the meantime, though, her current inspiration should be reason enough to wander back down Bridge Street. rootandflowervail.com