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Local

The Wine Exchange offers more than just wine

St. Charles store also offering food, live entertainment

Husband and wife, Bob Sommer, left, and Keri Foster, center, of Geneva, recently celebrated their one-year anniversary as the new owners of The Wine Exchange in St. Charles with special guest and celebrated winemaker Robert Mondavi, Jr.
Husband and wife, Bob Sommer, left, and Keri Foster, center, of Geneva, recently celebrated their one-year anniversary as the new owners of The Wine Exchange in St. Charles with special guest and celebrated winemaker Robert Mondavi, Jr.

ST. CHARLES – Last April, husband and wife Bob Sommer and Keri Foster of Geneva purchased The Wine Exchange in St. Charles to share their love of wine with the greater community.

The previous owner, Mike Frasier, had purchased The Wine Exchange in 2006. The store, located at 1 W. Illinois St. in Fox Island Square, first opened its doors in 1997.

The couple had been regular customers of The Wine Exchange when they approached Frasier about selling the store to them. At first, he turned down the idea.

"A couple months later, he asked us out to dinner and told us that he was willing to sell the store," Sommer said.

The couple has made many changes to the store since becoming owners last year, including the addition of seating.

"The previous owner wanted more of a wine store, really," Sommer said. "Our vision is completely different. When you come here, you are coming to experience not only the wines, but now it's the food."

Along with selling fine wine and spirits, The Wine Exchange hosts weekly wine tastings, wine paired dinners and wine education classes.

Tastings are free for members who also receive other perks, such as complimentary admission to special wine events and discounts on wine purchases. A year-long membership costs $50 per couple.

"Our vision was to have a comfortable spot to enjoy a glass of wine," he said. "Instead of buying it and taking it home, we wanted a spot where people could talk and they could eat and they could enjoy the wine right here."

And people are doing just that. Sommer noted that The Wine Exchange is packed with people on Fridays and Saturdays. Musicians also perform there on a regular basis.

"It's a St. Charles social gathering spot," Sommer said. "We've tried to bring Napa, California to St. Charles. It's supposed to have a wine cellar feel to it."

The couple goes on business meetings twice a year to Napa with wine director Michael Burkholder to search for unique wines.

"We find things that are kind of under the radar that have a lot of value and taste really good," Sommer said. "You don't really have to spend a lot of money to get a good bottle. We're trying to find really unique quality wines that people might not know about."

And you're bound to find a wine in your price range at The Wine Exchange.

"I've got a great pinot over there for $12.95," he said. "It drinks like a $20 bottle. If you brought it to a friend's house and opened it up, they would have thought you spent $25 on it."

A full kitchen is being put in The Wine Exchange that will allow the store/restaurant to serve more food. Executive Chef Doug Yeomans does his research in pairing the wine with the food.

"There's a certain list of ingredients that go really well with certain wines," he said.

To commemorate their one-year anniversary, the pair welcomed fourth-generation vintner Robert Mondavi, Jr., of the world-renowned Mondavi wine dynasty, for a VIP pairing dinner and presentation.

"His family is one of the most famous families in Napa," Sommer said. "It's kind of cool that he could fly anywhere in the country and he came here. It was a pleasure."

The store also hosts private events. More information about The Wine Exchange is available by calling the store at 630-513-5577 or on its Facebook page at thewineexchangestc.

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