The first of a still-growing roster of new tenants at First Street Napa is about to open its doors.
Starting next week, Compline (pronounced Comp-LYN), the brainchild of sommeliers Ryan Stetins and Matt Stamp, will enter the scene as downtown Napa’s latest epicenter of wine appreciation.
A triple-threat wine bar, restaurant and retail shop, with space for wine education by the week, Compline assumes the site of the former Gillwoods restaurant at 1300 First St. But, per Stamp and Stetins’ vision, the new space will be all but unrecognizable from its forerunner.
Stepping through the still skeletal interior of Compline one afternoon last week, Stamp and Stetins conjured up images of the soon to be completed space, from massive chalkboards plugging daily menus, to original art from bestselling wine author Madeline Puckette, to the suitcase clones of Wrigley Field ivy that will grow from a trellis in the lounge area adjacent to the patio, to the views of the gradually developing downtown district at the rear of the soon to be opening Archer Hotel.
Compline’s proximity to Archer, the destination hotel forecast as a lynchpin of tourist-based growth in the city’s downtown district, presupposes what could be a crowd markedly from out of town.
Yet, Stetins said, “We, very much so, want to be the locals’ wine bar that they frequent.” So much so that as tourists also stop in “they feel like they’re in a local beat and they feel like they’re included within the Napa culture by being here at Compline.”
Stetins and Stamp were “quite literally” the first to approach Todd Zapolski after the realtor acquired the First Street space in 2012, Stetins said, recalling that Zapolski, “pointed out that he loved that we walked to the meeting, because everybody else that he deals with is from out of town. And the fact that the first tenants that he has are two local guys that want to do something for the locals is kind of the tune that he sings for us.”
Indeed, when Compline and other new tenants of First Street Napa were announced earlier this year, Zapolski said, “We are confident Compline will become a local favorite and the community will support these two passionate gentlemen.”
That’s not to say that Compline, which Stamp emphasizes is a wine bar “at the core”, will be at all cagey toward tourists. Quite the opposite, as Stamp will host an aptly named “Jumpstart” class each morning Wednesdays through Sundays, offering regional prep specially geared toward tourists and Napa Valley novices before they venture Upvalley.
Stetins will also take over the educational space Saturday afternoons to lead a similar “Gateway: Napa Valley” class, imparting six Napa wines and a few more specifics about the region than the Jumpstart class.
Mixing education into the wine bar equation, along with the retail shop and restaurant, comes as something of a natural leap for the duo, who met while running parallel as sommeliers in some of Napa Valley’s top restaurants; Stetins at Redd and Redd Wood and Stamp at the French Laundry and Farmhouse Inn. Stamp also served for a time as Education Director for the Guild of Sommeliers.
“As time went on and during this concept building we said, you know, we can integrate that and it doesn’t take away from the focus — the focus being as a wine bar,” Stetins said.
The two regularly crossed paths in the valley and eventually a conversation over dinner in an Oakville wine cellar set them down the path to Compline. “At first, we really just … wanted someplace that we wanted to drink at,” Stamp said.
As for setting up shop in downtown Napa, Stamp projected the area as “just starting to kind of emerge in terms of a really pretty interesting cosmopolitan place that isn’t solely about people who are working in the wine industry.” Stetins agreed: “If you want to strike while the iron is hot, I think Napa has been on a steady incline.”
But since hatching their concept the duo has faced not only the opening of Cadet and La Taberna, two other downtown wine bars, but also the setback of one major earthquake. The latter significantly delayed construction around the Archer Hotel and First Street neighborhood.
“We would have launched this sooner,” Stamp said, but with the timeline of construction in the Archer and First Street neighborhood unclear, “for a time we just kind of had to wait.”
“We knew that we would be the first people open,” Stetins said. “We just didn’t want to be the first people open by a year.”
But today, with the cast of First Street tenants mounting and developers eyeing an October opening for the Archer, the timing is finally right. And despite the growth in similar watering hole options downtown, Compline’s owners gauge the atmosphere as being more convivial than competitive.
“Yes there is competition out there,” Stetins said, “but… we all feel like, you know, all ships will rise with the tide in this particular case, because of local restaurateurs getting together and talking about how we can be successful as a team.”
For instance, “World Tour” the third set of classes to be offered at Compline — led by Stamp and featuring eight wines from rotating regions of the world — will take place every other Monday, in tandem with the Monday night events held at Samantha Sheehan’s nearby Outland tasting room on Franklin Street.
“So we’ll sort of lodge our classes so that there’s kind of something every Monday night in this area of downtown for wine education,” said Stamp.
And on the food side Compline has enlisted La Taberna’s opener, Chef Yancy Windsperger. With a focus on sourcing locally from farmers and purveyors Windsperger, Stamp said, aims to bring “a more worldwide sense of technique in cuisine. So lots of locally sourced things … interpreted in different ways.” Among those purveyors, William Henpenn’s Kicking Bull Farms will be providing “the lion’s share” of Compline’s vegetables.
As for Compline’s cornerstone, a by-the-glass list will feature 18 wines ranging from pét-nat prosecco to local chardonnay; Stamp noted a pinot meunier from Steve Matthiasson appearing on the opening by-the-glass list. A full list will hover around 250 wines, a third of which will stem from the surrounding wine country. The remainder will be drawn from around the U.S. and other wine regions worldwide.
“So if you’re coming in, you’re looking for a great bottle of burgundy we have it for you,” Stamp said. “If you’re looking for great local cabernet or chardonnay or charbono, we have that for you too.”
“We know that we’re in Napa and this is one of the greatest wine regions in the world,” said Stetins. “We want to be very representative of it, while learning through the lens of the old world wines that we all learned from.”
Seating just under 100, Compline, at 1300 First St. will have its grand opening Sept. 10, with a tentative softer opening planned for next week.