Earlier this month, Fabien Réty, the wine manager at Eddy Bar & Bottle, adjacent to Ged Robertson’s Watershed restaurant at the Mill Valley Lumber Yard, was visited by some old friends. The rendezvous was specific in nature, as the trio were in town, along with their bandmates from Lettuce, the ultra-danceable funk group Lettuce, to perform at the inaugural Mill Valley Music Fest on May 7th.
For Lettuce bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes, trumpeter Eric ‘Benny Bloom, and saxophonist Ryan Zoidis, the specific nature of the visit was some pre-performance inspiration in the form of, well, oenophilia, aka the love of wine.
“They are definitely natural wine geeks,” says Réty, who has gotten to know the band over the years upon their regular performa ces in the Bay Area.
Réty, an electrical engineer by trade in France, has been passionate about wine since the late 1990s. As he continued his work as an engineer, Rety also studied wine sciences at the University of Wine in Suze-la-Rousse in Southern Rhône. In doing so, he was regularly “geeking out and spending all my money on wine, learning a lot from natural winemakers, particularly the early years of what we were calling natural, organic wines.”
Over time, Réty built a network in the restaurant industry, working with some Micheli-starred chefs. His wife wanted to move back to California from France, and Réty put his engineering work on the back burner to focus on his passion for wine. The couple moved to the Bay Area in 2014, and Réty drew on his wine industry connections from the intervening years. He garnered positions at popular spots like Noe Valley Wine & Spirits shop in San Francisco, and started organizing tastings there. Réty also worked at Verjus, Michael and Lindsay Tusk’s Parisian-style wine bar, bistro & bottle shop.
Over time, oenophilies caught onto Réty’s passion for natural wines, but then the wheels fell off for the entire food and beverage industry with the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020.
Strangely enough, however, the horrific tumult that followed for fine dining restaurants throughout the Bay Area and beyond had a silver lining for both Réty and Robertson’s Watershed restaurant.
Robertson had been subleasing the small space between Watershed and The Edit apparel boutique to McEvoy Ranch, which has been churning out its award-winning extra-virgin organic olive oil for decades. McEvoy turned it into a retail space featuring an array of tapenades, bruschettas, kitchen utensils, cookbooks and much more.
But with indoor dining limited again in early 2021, Robertson sought to add a new element to Watershed’s offering, particularly one that could leverage the abundance of outdoor space at the MV Lumber Yard.
He placed an ad on Craigslist for a creative wine merchant who could turn the space into a bottle shop and run it, serving as a sommelier for those dining in, always seeking to expand customer’s palettes, and Réty was quick to pounce.
“I was thrilled to be able to bring my authentic approach to wines, emphasizing low intervention and natural and no hard mechanical process,” Réty says. “The only additive is a minimum amount of sulphite for more classic wines. The most important thing is staying true to the terroir and representing an authentic wine experience.”
Réty and Robertson opened Eddy in September 2021. “For me, it’s about opening up the customers’ perspective in terms of taste. I try to see where there are limits and whether they want to learn. Without any pretension, sometimes you have to push them a little bit, and find that balance between French passionate and French rude,” Réty says with a laugh.
Réty says the wine program for both Eddy and Watershed are becoming increasingly popular, with the Eddy shop allowing customers to buy a flight of curated wines for just $20. Eddy has been bringing in customers from a broad demographic of wine lovers, but has noticed a particular niche of “young hipsters” who seek out “funky” wines.
“The funny thing is that this is what Ged wanted all along,” Réty says, nodding to a mix of wines that lean heavily on both France and Napa but also plenty from Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary and much more. People think because I’m French, that it is only French wines but they’ll be surprised – it’s from all over the world.”