Lindsey & Chris Wanner, owners of West Coast Wine • Cheese, which opens Nov. 30 at 31 Sunnyside Avenue in downtown Mill Valley. Courtesy images.

Chris Wanner has been in the wine industry for nearly 20 years.

​And while the wine business is as global as it comes, with nary a vineyard-free landscape – wines from Ethiopia, anyone? – Wanner makes no bones about his favorite wine region and the vineyards he chooses to highlight at his West Coast Wine • Cheese shop, which opens its second Bay Area location on Friday, Nov. 30 at 31 Sunnyside Ave. in downtown Mill Valley.

“I’m kind of a homer, for sure – it’s all about California, Oregon and Washington,” he says of his Pinot Noir-heavy bottle list of approximately 330 wines. “That’s where my expertise lies, and I really love repping these brands and telling the stories of these winemakers and vineyard owners.”

“And I see us as not being just a place that sells wine, but a space that builds community around our wine and around those stories,” he adds.

The Wanners have planned an extensive opening weekend celebration, where they’ll showcase their inventory and their space, including a chalk-styled mural of the North Bay from ShipsCo. Studio. They’ve already got tasting events on the calendar with Birichino, Carlisle and Law Estate.

The 700-square-foot space is the former home of the Weathered Nest vintage home accessories space adjacent to Kitchen Sunnyside restaurant. It’s set to bring even more liveliness to a street that also boasts Prabh Indian Kitchen, Salvage, The Makery and Alexander’s Artisan Rugs.

​“Mill Valley has always had a downtown that is such a gem,” Wanner says. “This is what every other community in Marin aspires to.”

Wanner and his wife Lindsey, a patent attorney, opened their first West Coast Wine • Cheese shop and gathering spot in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood in October 2014. The shop built momentum quickly, and garnered a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in each of the past three years. The Wanners serve mostly wine from small-production winemakers and a rotating list of wines by the glass. They also serve both draft and bottled beers from the West Coast and an array of cheese and charcuterie plates as well as sandwiches, salads, snacks and appetizers.

“When we opened, no one in San Francisco was focused entirely on domestic wines, it was mostly imports, which was a big disconnect for me since so many of those places were so focused on local and organic sourcing for their food program,” Wanner says. “It frustrated me – people are making fantastic wine here and aren’t getting the representation that they’re due,” he adds. “So while some people might think our focus is unimaginative, this was a very deliberate choice about who we want to be.”

Wanner, who grew up in Stockton, got his start in the business at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the largest wine and spirits distributor in the U.S., and later moved on to work in the tasting room at David Bruce Winery in Los Gatos.  

“That’s where I first learned that sales was for me,” Wanner says. “Once I got behind the bar and got to talking with people about wine, I knew what I wanted to do. And that’s where I fell in love with pinot. It’s the grape that has true elegance and structure and it has chameleon-like qualities that can take it in so many different directions. That’s what makes it so unique and why you never get tired of it because it’s always changing with soil and climate.”

Wanner also worked for Jim Beam’s wine division for a stretch, as well as Geyser Peak in Healdsburg and Wild Horse near Paso Robles. Wanner moved up the food chain into management, developing far-reaching relationships that began giving him the sense that he and Lindsey could launch their own venture.

The couple has a two-year-old son and is moving to San Rafael from their longtime home in San Francisco’s Marina district.
“We’re just really thrilled to be opening here,” Wanner says.

The 411: West Coast Wine • Cheese shop opens its second Bay Area location on Friday, Nov. 30 at 31 Sunnyside Ave. in downtown Mill Valley. Hours are Mon.-Wed., 5-11pm, Thu.-Fri., 4-11pm, Sat., 3-11pm and Sun. 3-10pm. MORE INFO.

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