Paula de Pano’s shop has become a community favorite in its first six months with carefully produced wines and charming aesthetic
By Brooke Spach
Paula de Pano is not your mother’s sommelier. Upon leaving her role as Fearrington Village’s beverage and service director in early 2022, she set out on her own. She wanted to push back against the idea that a quality, unique bottle of wine must come with a triple-digit price tag. Her long-awaited wine shop, Rocks + Acid Wine Shop, opened its doors in Southern Village last winter after many months in the works. “We didn’t open until December of last year, and the wait was excruciating,” Paula says. “Factor in the pandemic and the shortages of everything, it felt like I was never going to open. But because of the support of the community, we’ve progressed in just the short months that we’ve been open. It feels like we could be a mainstay over here.”
Paula saw the need for a quality wine retailer in the area after Southern Season closed in 2020. People could still buy wine at big-box grocery stores, of course, but she wanted to offer a curated inventory where each wine was carefully selected for its uniqueness. Paula prioritizes stocking bottles by female and LGBTQ+ winemakers and those made from uncommon grape varieties and winemaking styles. Best of all, she says about 60 percent of the wines cost less than $35 per bottle.
“It’s not a giant selection wherein the bottles get lost,” she says. “All of the wines that we have over here, we’ve tasted, and we get to know them. … A lot of the wines that we source are natural, organic and sustainably made. It’s very easy to grab something from the shelves and just know that they’re carefully produced wines.”
The modern space was designed by Youn Choi and Doug Pierson of pod architecture + design and features an open floor plan with large tables surrounded by custom shelves lining the walls.
“I love that the wines are being highlighted in such a beautiful space,” Paula says. “The shelves are backlit, and it looks like a library of wines.
When you go into a regular wine shop, you have stacks and stacks of boxes, and here, all of the bottles are displayed. You get to see that we don’t carry a lot of [each bottle] because there’s just not a lot of them in the world.” Rocks + Acid’s evolution into a wine bar and hangout spot was unexpected, but the charming atmosphere deservedly entices many to stop in and sip for a spell. Paula and her staff look forward to welcoming in guests of all ages, even the four-legged variety, throughout the summer with extended hours (now open Tuesdays and until 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday) and a shady outdoor patio. “We don’t want to make people feel that they have to drink wine – we have beer, and we have nonalcoholic options over here as well,” Paula says. “Southern Village being a very family-dominated demographic, we want to make sure that nondrinkers still have the option to enjoy the space.”
Conveniently located next to Weaver Street Market, the community’s foot traffic draws an eclectic variety of visitors to the shop. In addition to the three-person staff’s expertise and wine by the glass, Rocks + Acid offers tasting classes and special events all year long. Neighboring businesses often get in on the fun – past collaborations include a champagne and fries event with Al’s Burger Shack and charcuterie pairings from Market & Moss. Paula says that other small-business owners from around town have been just as, if not more, supportive and enthusiastic about Rocks + Acid’s addition to the Southern Village community as its customers.
“There’s a lot of adjustments that need to be made, but so far, it’s been pretty steady,” Paula says. “I like the pace of growth that we are going through.”
Get excited for upcoming series and classes like Under the Tuscan Sun, Island Wine Hopping and Wine 101 throughout July and August. In the meantime, stop in to let the Rocks + Acid team pick your brain – after a quick Q&A, they’ll send you on your way with the perfect bottle for any taste and occasion.
Get a taste of Paula’s expertise with her summer wine recommendations
Muller-Ruprecht, Orange Pfalz, Germany
A blend of riesling, Kerner and Gewurztraminer, this delightful orange wine is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to live music at the Southern Village Green. Think juicy pomelo, tangerine and cantaloupe with citrus blossoms. I call it a “no-brainer” kind of wine, delicious and interesting without being overly complicated – enjoy the music and the warm sun while sipping on this juice.
Jo Landron, Atmosphères, Rosé, Méthode Traditionnelle Loire Valley, France
What a happy accident! Atmosphere is normally found as a sparkling white wine, but because of an unintended skin contact with pinot noir, the domain was left with this tasty pink sparkler. Zippy and bright with notes of just ripened strawberries and cherry skins, it is a versatile bubbly that should be part of your picnic basket at a park or poolside this season. Snag a bottle or two when you see it – the domain only produces it in years that they have enough pinot noir to go around!
Quinta de Chocapalha, Castelao Lisboa, Portugal
Dynamic winemaker Sandra Tavares da Silva makes this quaffable red made from one of Portugal’s indigenous [grape] varieties that is reminiscent of gamay and pinot noir. Despite its light color and soft tannins, it’s packed with ripe raspberries, cocoa and violets. Pop a bottle of this wine as you’re prepping for a weekend barbecue with friends or need something to sip on while noshing on some cheese and charcuterie.
La Clarine Farm, Zinfandel Sierra Foothills, California
Don’t mistake this bottle as your big and jammy California zin. This is a high-elevation zinfandel that promises bright blackberry and pepper spice with a streak of funk. It’s got bold flavors without the alcoholic heft, so think smoked pork butt, charred St. Louis ribs slathered with tangy barbecue sauce, or a Mookie or Kenny J burger from Al’s Burger Shack. It’s low alcohol and friendly tannins make it a great food wine on those weeknights when you just want something fun and delicious to drink!
Peter Lauer, Ayler Riesling, Fass 3 Saar, Germany
My love for riesling cannot be overstated, and when the wine is made by a producer who totally embodies what Rocks + Acid means in a bottle, you just gotta sign me up! Hainanese Chicken Rice at Rasa Malaysia is one of my go- to lunches when the mood strikes. This electric riesling with a touch of residual sugar is the way to go as it stands up to the ginger garlic, dark soy and chili sauces that accompany the dish. At 9.5% ABV, this bottle goes down way too easily but makes you appreciate its beautifully ephemeral qualities.