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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Queer-owned, all-natural wine shop opens in downtown Middlebury

New Addison County residents Danielle Pattavina and Erika Dunyak recently opened an all-natural wine store in downtown Middlebury. 

Located at 48 Main Street, Schmetterling Wine Shop welcomed the public through its doors in early July. As a queer couple living down Route 22A in Shoreham, Vermont, Pattavina said their business is “a queer-owned natural wine shop spinning and selling vinyl.” 

A food and agricultural lawyer, Dunyak handles the business side of the shop. Pattavina’s background in restaurants and wine makes them well suited to order the wine and handles daily customer interactions inside the shop. 

Named after the German word for “butterfly,” Schmetterling sells only wine that is spontaneously fermented. 

“The easiest way to describe the wine is [that] it's all low-intervention: low-intervention in the cellar and low-intervention in the farming,” Pattavina said. 

The couple’s affection for German and Austrian wines specifically influenced the naming of the shop, Pattavina said, but Schmetterling sells wines from a host of other countries. “We have wine from Vermont and Slovenia and the Czech Republic … just [to] name some countries,” they said. 

Erika Dunyak (left) and Danielle Pattavina (right), owners of Schmetterling Wine Shop

While plans of opening a wine shop had long been in the back of Pattavina’s mind, a grant awarded to the couple by Kick Start Middlebury sped up the process considerably. 

Dunyak initially found the space in January 2022, and the couple began the licensing process. After meeting with the Middlebury town Selectboard, they began painting, shelving and forming relationships with wine distributors. “We spent a lot of time in the space thinking about what we wanted it to look and feel like,” Pattavina said. 

The couple expected a promising opening, largely due to the presence of Middlebury Language School students, most of whom were in their mid-20s and from metropolitan areas, making them the ideal customers for the shop. 

“That was.. a really gratuitous group that we could kind of just gently open with,” Pattavina said. The couple is also interested in seeing what the future of the business looks like as Middlebury students arrive and the school year picks up, Pattavina added. 

The shop hosts wine tastings every Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., which has given them a chance to meet people who just happen to be strolling by. While many of Schmetterling’s customers come into the shop intentionally, the couple often encounters many other visiting customers at these tastings, who stop by while in town. 

One prominent aspect of Schmetterling Wine Shop is its emphasis on inclusivity, particularly with queer-identifying customers. Pattavina said they believe that putting the word “queer” on the front door makes the shop stand out on Middlebury’s Main Street, and signifies to customers that they are always welcome in the space.

“I know there are other vinyl wine shops in the world, but I think right in our corner it’s definitely unique… we want everyone to feel comfortable walking in,” they said. 

Though the shop has only been open for two months, Pattavina and Dunyak already turned to future plans for expanding the shop and drawing in new customers. They plan to concretely expand their wine inventory.

“I think you have to build something and then people will come rather than working in the other direction,” Pattavina said. 

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The interior of Schmetterling Wine Shop, located at 48 Main Street in downtown Middlebury

At the same time, they are working towards expanding Schmetterling’s reach to both  Middlebury locals and the broader Vermont community by promoting knowledge of the benefits of natural wine. 

The couple keeps a book in their shop listing the chemical additives included in many wines. “They’re flavor-enhancers, they’re texture-enhancers, all kinds of stabilizers and synthetics yeasts and all these things that are made so you can add them to conventional wine to make it taste better,” Pattavina said. 

Through a newsletter written by Dunyak, who is new to the genre of natural wine, the couple hopes to encourage Vermonters to learn more about what goes into the wine-making process.  Pattavina said they hope that this will in turn encourage them to come by Schmetterling. 

“I hope the people… will start to think, I should probably [start to] consider what’s in my wine, who’s making it, how much they are paying their employees and if they are spraying herbicides and pesticides”, Pattavina said. These are all factors which the couple heavily takes into consideration when selecting wines for the shop.

“I hope that people will just come in and give it a chance,” Pattavina said.   

Schmetterling Wine Shop is open Thursday, Sunday and Monday from 12 p.m.–7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m.–8 p.m.

Editors’ Note: Sam Lipin ‘23.5, a sports editor, works at Schmetterling Wine Shop.

Emily Hogan

Emily Hogan '24 (she/her) is a Local Editor.   

She is studying Environmental Policy with a minor in Math. In addition to writing and editing for the Campus, she also dances with the On Tap dance troupe and serves on the Environmental Council. She has previously worked with the Sustainability Solutions Lab at Middlebury.