Vintage Liquor in Black Earth is an alcohol retail emporium with a shot of estrogen, Antiques Road Show with a dash of Americana à la House on the Rock. I had to giggle inside a little when I saw "PMS" spelled out on the countertop mosaic. "We're the Party MavenS - that's our initials," says co-owner Pat Michaels of the letters that represent her and co-owner Susan Meigs.
Meigs and Michaels opened Vintage in 2007. The two had worked together for 18 years at Land's End, and when the opportunity arose to set up shop in a building owned by Meigs' husband, they took it. "We didn't have a liquor store in Black Earth - there was one license left," says Meigs.
Vintage now stocks an impressive selection of liquors, wines and beers, with an emphasis on specialties from abroad and homegrown Wisconsin finds.
Meigs and Michaels' familiarity with one another as best friends rubs off. I feel as if I've been given the password to their clubhouse, and quite the clubhouse it is, reflective of their shared love of antiques and junk picking.
Begin at "the altar," a monstrous countertop salvaged from the Dumpster at Roman Candle. It is elevated here as the stage for tastings and a landscape for Ken Meigs' bestiary of fish and bird sculptures. Susan Meigs also sells her jewelry here. Liquor purchases are made at a counter created from nine-foot barn doors, and they fashioned the wine room from old barn walls.
"We like to carry things that are a little unusual," Meigs says. These include hand-blown glass bottles in the form of stiletto heels; better yet, inside is aged Five Star Armenian brandy that drinks like a cognac. And because people do label-shop, the Party Mavens cover their bases with selections like Ass Kisser Double IPA and Bitch wine, which I've personally been guilty of buying for the name alone. "We have Bitch, we have Sweet Bitch and we have Jealous Bitch. We have three Bitches," Michaels adds playfully, as I see my Bitch-ing horizons unfurl.
With over 60 breweries represented on the shelves, Vintage's beer selection, in particular, draws customers far and wide. People come from Illinois for Lake Louie and New Glarus Brewing beers, or from Minnesota for Bell's Hopslam Ale. "People are on the hunt for good beer," Michaels observes. Others just like the drive, a scenic stone's throw west from Madison. I couldn't leave without some Wells Banana Bread Beer, from Britain, a liquid bread that seamlessly translates to dessert.
Tastings are held at Vintage every Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. Beer and wine alternate as the featured beverage week to week.