For the longest time, Andy Durnell would drive by a bank building in downtown Westfield and think about how perfect the spot was for a business idea he had – Westfield Wine Vault.
A financial advisor for the last 22 years, Durnell’s idea had been percolating for some time, but it was something he anticipated pursuing once he retired. In November of 2019, however, the space he had been eyeing became available, and he felt like fate was stepping in. In January of 2020, he got serious about it and inquired about the space.
“The vision I had started to come to life,” Durnell says.
When COVID-19 hit in the spring, he found a silver lining in having increased downtime.
“It allowed me the time to put together a business plan and flush out precisely what the model would be, which evolved 20 times since then,” he says.
The vision from the beginning, however, has remained consistent. Durnell, an avid wine lover, longed to open an establishment that would give guests a wine experience. He liked the idea of guests savoring a glass of wine and getting to know somebody across the counter, while picking up some knowledge about their wine or a particular grape. Although the Indianapolis area has wineries and bars, the market for this idea was missing. According to Think Wine Group, all Pinot related grapes and part of the same grape family, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris, are both made from the same grape variety.
“I wanted to provide wines from the best regions around world – say, a pinot noir from the Burgundy region of France or from New Zealand,” Durnell says. “As you taste, you learn what makes a European wine different than a domestic wine, and you can expand your palate.”
Westfield Wine Vault offers wine selections that are difficult to find elsewhere, and after ordering by the glass, guests can buy bottles of selections they enjoy.
“When I go to an art museum and I see a pretty painting, if I know more about it, I’m more intrigued and have more appreciation for what it is,” Durnell says. “The same is true with wine. Even if you taste it and dislike it, there’s appreciation for the art.”
Durnell describes his business as a “hybrid retail-restaurant situation.” The main area is the tasting room with seating for approximately 20 guests, along with bar space. Customers who walk in will see a large, European-style bar, with seating to the left and tables to the right.
“You can choose your experience and how involved you want to be,” Durnell says.
For instance, guests can opt for a guided tasting, pick from dozens of bottles, or taste four different wines in a flight.
The upstairs offers warm, rustic ambiance with exposed brick and hardwood flooring. It includes a general seating area with a restaurant feel.
“It’s a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy some great wine,” Durnell says.
There is also a 500-square-foot private room with a speakeasy lounge atmosphere.
“It’s more intimate and will be available to rent for private parties, but when it’s not rented out, guests are able to hang out in there too,” Durnell says.
Westfield Wine Vault’s upper and lower levels are set up to allow for social distancing. The staff is also taking reservations to control crowd size.
Local resident Andrea Butcher was counting down the days until the doors to Westfield Wine Bar opened.
“We could not be more excited about the Westfield Wine Vault,” she says. “We moved from Fishers a few months ago and are grateful for a space where we have an experience that combines connecting with friends, enjoying a great glass of wine that you can’t get other places, and learning something in the process,” says Butcher, president of HRD Advisory Group. “There’s nothing else like the Westfield Wine Vault, not only in Westfield, but in all of Hamilton County. We will have some memorable moments there.”
Durnell hopes his establishment will be a go-to place for those looking to celebrate special occasions. He is integrating social media with virtual tasting, in the hopes of accommodating those who wish to celebrate occasions like anniversaries but don’t want to go out due to the pandemic. Anyone who wishes to partake in a virtual tasting will receive their bottle of wine and access a QR code on the back of the bottle, which will link to a video where they will be educated by a wine specialist on what’s in the bottle.
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“COVID-19 has taught us to find creative ways to have a virtual presence in the wine tasting experience,” Durnell says.