Healdsburg Prohibition

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Phone booth, shop.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

The "Great Experiment" of Prohibition provided our nation with lots of valuable data about what Americans will do when legally deprived of something they love. It also left us with a scurrilous penchant for hidden bars with secret passwords, and places Joe sent you.  Ninety years after the 18th Amendment inspired the speakeasy, an enterprising bootlegger's grandson has opened a modern twist on his grandfather's original--named, naturally, Prohibition.

Richard and Kae Rosenberg of Healdsburg's boutique Grape Leaf Inn opened their speakeasy wine bar at the corner of Healdsburg Avenue and North Street after eleven years of offering guests a similar experience in the Inn's secret wine cellar.  To the uninitiated, Prohibition is an upscale retail establishment with interesting glassware, home accents, and wine-related accessories.  Locally hand-spun throws made of wool from local sheep, rolling decanters, Art Nouveau Prohibition T-shirts, and wine tumblers of all shapes and sizes vie for your attention in the warehouse-chic space.  Those in the know head for the antique telephone booth once their shopping is done, however--and not to approve a credit card charge.  Step into the booth, close the door, and lift the receiver... then push on through the secret door into the swanky bar that awaits.
Table top.jpgKae Rosenberg decked the place out with contemporary twists on Roaring 20s glamour. Italian chenille drapes help shield the occupants of the plush banquettes from prying eyes, and vintage artifacts, black and white photos, and gangster movies from the 20s and 30s bring the dark days of the real Prohibition to a happier place. The tabletops made of wine barrel heads make it clear you're not in Richard's grandfather's NJ speakeasy, though, as do the beverages on offer.  

In keeping with the "forbidden fruit" concept of the speakeasy, the wine list at Prohibition features only rare, small-production, handcrafted wines from Sonoma County.  Think Williams-Selyem, Dehlinger, George Wine, and similar allocation-only types.  Good luck finding these elsewhere, especially by the glass.  A secret stash of international bubblies is also on hand for those wanting to celebrate with effervescence.  If wine's not what you want to drink when you're feeling naughty, the bartenders mix up a handful of original wine-based cocktails with names like Bogart Breeze, Bubbles Larue, and The Flapper--again, using artisanal ingredients like St. George Spirits liqueurs and essences.  A selection of Prohibition-themed beers like Speakeasy and Prohibition Ale rounds out the beverage list.

Prohibition is open 11am to 9pm daily, perfect for a clandestine midday rendezvous, or predinner aperitif.  Or just go alone, as I did, and chat up the vivacious and charming Rosenbergs for as long as they can hold still.  Just don't ask them to sit with their back to the entrance.

Prohibition-The Speakeasy Wine Club
340 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg (707) 473-WINE (9463)

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