Nestled in the Key Bank Courtyard just slightly set back from Route 1 in the heart of downtown Madison sits The Shoreline Vine, a spectacular tasting room with steel tanks, tasting notes, and palate-cleansing bread bites. But nobody here is pouring wine; this beautiful space is dedicated to showcasing imported extra virgin olive oil from around the world and aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy.
Determined to find the highest quality products in an industry often accused of lagging behind when it comes to regulating what is in the bottle vis-à-vis what is on the label, Dawn Schwab, along with husband Eric Weiss, opened The Shoreline Vine to provide oils and vinegars to customers craving a pure product, as well as those simply seeking a delicious one. Anyone with an appetite for information can also receive an education along with the large variety of oils and vinegars offered here. Now entering their fifth holiday season, it seems that Dawn has found an interested audience.
Similarly to wine grapes, olives can be found growing in both Northern and Southern Hemisphere countries, making freshly pressed olive oil available all year long. The Shoreline Vine works with a supplier in California to procure authentic, high quality product from small producers around the world. Each oil and vinegar in the store can be tasted before buying, an especially welcome policy with so many choices available. The back bar with the pure extra virgin olive oils is a great place to begin your visit. These all-natural oils are ordered from mildest to strongest, with a corresponding increase in polyphenols, those micronutrients credited with the potential to provide certain health benefits. The flavors are dictated by olive type(s), terroir, and time of crush.
Once you have the basics under your belt, it’s time to move on to the flavored oils, and there is definitely something for everyone here, including such mouthwatering choices as Wild Mushroom and Sage, Herbes de Provence, Blood Orange, and Chipotle. There is even a vegan Butter oil for those desiring to add the taste of butter to their cooking without the dairy. The oils are flavored by one of two processes: infusing, for such things as garlic, herbs, peppers; or the agrumato method, in which fruits (such as lemon, lime, and orange) are crushed with the olives. Their most popular flavored oil is Tuscan Herb. In addition to pairing with the traditional fare, Dawn suggests trying this one on popcorn or with scrambled eggs. Parents of fussy eaters will be delighted to hear that this oil has a reputation for getting kids to eat their otherwise unwanted vegetables when topped with a healthy sprinkling!
After the oils, be sure to sample some of the balsamic vinegars. They offer both traditional dark (aged up to 18 years) and white vinegar, as well as a large variety of flavored ones, most of which have been aged around 12 years, including Lavender, Espresso, Grapefruit, and Thai Lemongrass Mint. Once you’ve found your favorites, unleash your inner epicurean and try blending the oils and vinegars together to find your perfect match. If your taste buds are not yet saturated, there are several specialty oils and vinegars, all of which are also available to sample. After finishing up your favorite oil at home, bring in your empty and sanitized bottle for a refill and receive $1.00 off. If you’re having a hard time choosing which items to bring home, there’s good news. Oils and vinegars are offered in small, 1-2 serving sizes for the ambiguous among us.
If you’re looking for something different to do with friends, employees, or special interest groups such as a garden or book club, consider holding a private tasting in The Shoreline Vine’s tasting room, available for groups of up to 40 people.
While you will most likely want to frequent The Shoreline Vine all year long, their products make particularly pleasing holiday gifts. Choose from their wide and varied selection of oils and vinegars, or seek out a seasonal item, such as pressed seed oil (butternut squash and pumpkin) or, chocolate made with their own flavored oils, such as raspberry and blood orange. Several other items perfect for gift giving can be found throughout the store, including cookbooks, olivewood serviceware, and an assortment of local products, such as goat milk soap made with their oils, barbeque sauces, and rubs. A two-pack of the petitely sized bottles prettily wrapped makes a perfect holiday hostess gift, or create your own custom gift basket or box. Can’t commit? Go with a gift certificate. However you introduce someone to The Shoreline Vine, it is very likely they will want to stop by for another taste.