Paula’s Stone Cottage Wine Bar
Until a few months ago, Paula Young pretty much single-handedly ran a wildlife rescue service near her Lake Surprise home. But on Sunday, April 17 she embarked on a new venture. That was officially the first day of business for Paula’s Stone Cottage Wine Bar in Fishkill. Young has had a varied and interesting career. She has worked for the Daily News and Newsday; run her own restaurant; worked in Public Affairs for former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and been an actress and a model. Philipstown.info’s Michael Turton did not sit down with her recently for a conversation – instead he tried to keep up with Young as she went from tending bar, to preparing dishes in the kitchen to checking on customers in the lounge, peppering her with questions along the way. Never at a loss for words, Young spoke about the joys and challenges of starting a new business – one that she clearly loves.
Philipstown.info: So why did you decide to start your own business?
Young: Well I’m at an age when there are not a lot of people knocking on my door with job offers.
Philipstown.info: Not to put too fine a point on it but how old are you?
Philipstown.info: Why a wine bar? Why this business in particular?
Young: Well, this is what I love to do at home – host parties, have dinners. This is much the same – just in a different venue.
Philipstown.info: I guess the name says it in part, but just what do you offer here?
Young: We offer good wines, all selected by me. We also have imported cheeses, salami, home made hummus, amazing chocolate cake, and killer bread from Mario’s Bakery in Hopewell – he is one divine Sicilian baker!
Philipstown.info: How would you describe your wines in general terms?
Young: I like wines that are delicious but not obnoxious. A lot of places charge a fortune and I don’t think you should do that. We offer wine at $8 a glass as well as five wines by the bottle that range in price from $32 to $75.
Philipstown.info: What parts of the globe are featured on your wine list?
Young: Our wines come from a number of countries including South Africa, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Argentina and the U.S.
Philipstown.info: Can non-wine drinkers sip at something as well?
Young: Absolutely. We carry some select imported and domestic beers.
Philipstown.info: This is only the sixth evening you’ve been open and there is a good number of people here. Is this your busiest night so far?
Young: No, last Wednesday was.
Philipstown.info: Why was that?
Young: We have no idea!
Philipstown.info: How are you promoting your wine bar?
Young: Just Facebook. And word of mouth.
Philipstown.info: Do most people know exactly what wine they want to drink?
Young: A lot of people think they like just one thing. But I allow tastings so they can discover what wines they really like.
Philipstown.info: What would you list as your the three biggest challenges in opening your business?
Young: Boy. I’d say being able to offer something wonderful and delicious for a reasonable price. Finding a place that suits the mood that I wanted. And “¦working alone is a big challenge.
Philipstown.info: Do you have much previous experience dealing with wine?
Young: Oh my God! I’m Italian!
Philipstown.info: Why did you choose this place, this location?
Young: When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Snow White’s stone cottage. And the address here is 1158 which coincides nicely with my birthday!
Philipstown.info: How did you determine the decor you wanted?
Young: I sat on the floor for a long time. This place used to be a hair salon. I wanted colors that would bring the place to life – evoke passion – not put people to sleep. I wanted something that reflects Italian farmhouse meets Italian brothel. I think I came close.
Philipstown.info: This is a beautiful old building – do you know its history?
Young: It was the first library in Fishkill. And more recently a salon.
Philipstown.info: You’re really just nicely settled in but do you have any other plans in mind?
Young: More wines and an area for people who want to sit outside and have a smoke or want to bring their dog. We’ll also have poetry readings, music, tastings”¦
Philipstown.info: What would you say is the biggest misconception about wine?
Young: That wine has to be expensive to be good. Life is good and too short not to drink good wine. It’s a happy accident of life that wine was one of the first alcoholic drinks invented.
Philipstown.info: Do you see yourself as competing with the other Fishkill restaurants?
Young: No, not really. We don’t offer a dinner menu.
Philipstown.info: How would you describe the essence of this place?
Young: In Europe everyone has a glass of wine after work. People there relax and enjoy conversation. This is a place where people can slow down and enjoy themselves in the moment. And “¦we have WiFi for anyone who wants to use their computer.
Philipstown.info: Is there a “thing” between those who drink red wine and those who prefer white? A rivalry of sorts?
Young: No, there is no rivalry. Alice in Wonderland had both a red and a white queen. Red and white wines are both just part of the same world.
Philipstown.info: I understand your restroom has a sign that is already somewhat well known. What does it say?
Young: “Squeeze me, stomp me, make me wine!”
Philipstown.info: So, don’t tell me that all your wines are your favorites. What are your two personal choices?
Young: My favorites? The South African Chocolate Block. It’s a red, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Viognier.
Philipstown.info: I love the language that is sometimes used by connoisseurs to describe wine. How would you describe Chocolate Block to a rank amateur such as myself?
Young: Do you remember the feeling you had with your first kiss? That’s what this wine is like. One woman said that it made her weep. (The wine – not the kiss.)
Philipstown.info: What’s your other personal favorite?
Young: The Pedestal merlot from the Columbia Valley in Washington State.
Philipstown.info: What kind of experience do you want people to have here?
Young: I want people to have wines that they have never heard of – or enjoy wines that they’ve heard of but don’t find easily.
Philipstown.info: Given the current economy you didn’t exactly pick the best time to start a new business. Care to comment?
Young: Well”¦my dad always said bars and funeral homes never go out of business. I hope he was right.
You can visit Paula’s Stone Cottage Wine Bar on Facebook. It is located at 1158 Main Street in Fishkill. Driving north from Cold Spring on Route 9, turn left at Route 52/Main Street. The wine bar is tucked away, immediately on your left. There is a small parking lot behind the bar. Parking is also available along Main Street. Open every day except Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, 5 p.m. to closing.
Photos by M. Turton