Ray Kurz says opening his own wine bar is the culmination of his 30-year love of wine.
Kurz, and his wife, Debbie, are set to open Cuvée Ray in mid-June, a wine bar and restaurant at the former Pig and Fish space on Rehoboth Avenue.
“It’s always been my dream to get involved in the wine business,” he said.
An attorney in Washington, D.C., for 36 years, Kurz fell in love with wine in 1983, when he took his first wine-tasting class.
“We lived near American University and they had this wine-tasting class. Immediately, I saw how interesting it was. It tasted great. It was intellectually fascinating. There’s so much to know about wine. It was just a tremendous challenge that way,” he said.
He still remembers tasting a burgundy from Cóte de Nuits in France.
“When I tasted it, it was like tasting velvet,” Kurz said. “We went out and bought six bottles of it. Tasting that wine is what turned me on to this whole craziness about wine. Ever since then I started collecting, tasting, visiting wine regions. It’s been a great adventure.”
Kurz said he first considered buying a vineyard in Northern Virginia. He and Debbie had a place in Bethany Beach for many years and loved Southern Delaware.
“I was driving home from work one day, and when I got home, I told my wife, ‘Let’s sell our house here.’ We loved being at the beach. Let’s move to the beach, and open up a wine bar,” he said.
They spent two years looking for the right place. They hired Haley/Kammerer Consulting as consultants for their venture and eventually came upon the building at 236 Rehoboth Ave. Chris Racine, formerly at Catch 54 in Fenwick Island, will serve as the general manager of Cuvée Ray.
“It was very important to find the right spot,” Kurz said. “We came in one day and saw it. It went on the market Thursday; we put in an offer on it Friday.”
The Kurzes bought out Pig and Fish and set to work on making their dream happen.
“The vision for the venue is to serve fantastic wines. There’s no reason to drink mediocre wine. There’s so many great wines out there. The whole atmosphere here is going to be to have fun with wine,” Kurz said.
He said Cuvée Ray will have a relaxed atmosphere where people can try a wide variety of wines, combined with food cooked by chef Joe Churchman, formerly of Bramble and Brine. He wants the person just trying wine for the first time to be just as comfortable as the most ardent wine drinker. Cuvée Ray will have wines from every major region, and some regions people may not know about. Kurz said the restaurant plans to offer 150 to 170 different kinds of wine.
The other key ingredient of Cuvée Ray is music. Kurz said he has been working with Rehoboth fixture Sydney Arzt on coming up with a music and entertainment program. In a bit of coming full circle, the space where Cuvée Ray is used to be Sydney’s, which Arzt founded.
“We’re going to offer a variety of music. We’re going to have some soft rock music, some jazz; we’re going to have different themes of music where we’re going to combine music of a particular genre with food of a particular genre and wine of a particular genre, and kind of match each other,” Kurz said.
He said Cuvée Ray would also host what Kurz calls “VinTunes,” a wine tasting paired with music.
“You pair certain music with the wine that’s like that music,” Kurz said. “I would taste wine and would describe it in musical notes. If you drink wine, you will see that it shares a lot of similarities with music: it has high notes, it has low notes, it has high chords and low chords.”
The restaurant is still under construction, as Cuvée Ray is putting in a new bartop, new bar and kitchen equipment, and wine cabinets. Kurz said they also plan to open up the back room to install a wine wall that will hold 1,000 bottles, and an area for tastings and private dining.
As for the name, Kurz said, “The Ray part is easy, that’s me. Cuvée has several meanings in the wine world, but the most popular is it’s your blend. A blend of wine is your cuvée. It’s most often associated with champagne. I viewed this project as my blend of things I wanted to do to share wine with people.”
Cuvée Ray will go before the Rehoboth Beach commissioners Friday, April 20, for a permit of compliance hearing, required before a restaurant can get a liquor license.
Kurz said the most satisfying part of the last two years is seeing the restaurant finally come close to opening.
“It’s just going to be so exciting to share all the great wines that we have and the great food that we have,” he said.