Skip to main content

Santé Wine Bar & Bistro receives Wine Spectator excellence award

The Neenah establishment prides itself on offering wine curated from around the globe

share arrow printer bookmark flag

July 26, 2023

NEENAH – Nestled inside an 1880s-era building at 108 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Neenah – which served as a pharmacy in one of its past lives – Santé Wine Bar & Bistro prides itself on providing hand-selected wines not typically found elsewhere.

With 33 wines by the glass, as well as nearly 400 bottles of wine, the establishment recently garnered national attention as a recipient of The Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence – one of only seven recipients in the state. 

The award celebrates establishments that exemplify the highest standards in wine selection and service.

Co-owner Matt Gloede said Santé’s wine is curated from around the globe. 

“Our buying strategy is to offer wines you wouldn’t find unless you sought it out, and you wouldn’t find at a grocery store,” he said. “We have wines from around the world – Greece, Lebanon and Ukraine. If you pick a country, we probably have something from it.”

It’s both that breadth of wine regions and styles as well as vintage depth through vertical collections of notable wines that Wine Spectator acknowledged with its award. 

But, Gloede said, the experience doesn’t stop there.

Given the term santé means “cheers,” in an informal sense, Gloede said it’s an apt name for the experience guests enjoy at Santé Wine Bar & Bistro.

The bistro’s wine offerings are complemented by a variety of craft cocktails made with fresh juices and ingredients.

“We do more cocktails than wine depending on the night,” Gloede said. “People love a good cocktail made with fresh ingredients and juices. In summer, it’s nice to enjoy those fresh ingredients with premium spirits.”

Life-long passion
Santé is Gloede’s full-time focus, while his husband and Co-owner Zachary Stumpf manages the bookkeeping in addition to holding a full-time job elsewhere.

Gloede said Santé is the realization of a hospitality dream of his.

Matt Gloede

The Neenah native worked locally in a variety of hospitality capacities and then in Chicago in a variety of bars and restaurants, including a downtown Chicago champagne bar, becoming a sommelier along the way.

When he returned to the Fox Valley in late 2019, Gloede said his work in the hospitality industry was short-lived due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While he was in pause mode, Gloede said he had conversations with the owner of the former UnCorked Bistro – the space that now houses Santé Wine Bar & Bistro.

After about a year of conversations, Gloede said he and Stumpt purchased the establishment and formally opened in 2021.

“In the past I’ve been a manager, but owning a wine bar and bistro was a big learning curve,” he said. “But things aligned.”

Gloede said he was driven by a desire to offer the City of Neenah an elevated wine experience rooted in superior service while remaining approachable and unpretentious.

“We strive to have the best service in addition to the top quality wines and (products) we provide,” he said. “After living in a large city like Chicago, and working in and visiting so many restaurants and wine bars, I wanted to emulate that big city feel in downtown Neenah. Neenah was starving for that. I wanted to deliver a cool hangout.”

Gloede said Santé’s customer base quickly grew to encompass everyone from 22 to 70.

“The building’s character is a huge part of it,” he said. “We didn’t modify a lot of it beyond chandeliers and lights and adding our unique flair to the facade.”

More than wine
Gloede said Santé was originally meant to be a pre- or post-dinner spot but has since evolved.

“Our goal was to offer enough selection to keep people here for that second glass of wine, but it has turned into a whole other side of the business,” he said. “We have a small kitchen space so we have to hone in on the creative elements.” 

In addition to wine and cocktails, Santé Wine Bar & Bistro offers a variety of bistro menu items. Photo Courtesy of Santé Wine Bar & Bistro

Food options, Gloede said, include the ever-popular goat cheese spread with Thunderbird sourdough bread, house-marinated olives, a variety of plates and a few desserts to round things out.

Gloede said he also likes to mix things up by the season, adding seasonal fruit to the goat cheese spread plate or seasonal toppings, such as tomatoes, to the homemade hummus. 

Wide reach
Gloede said Santé Wine Bar & Bistro draws customers from Neenah and the Fox Valley, with regulars traveling from Green Bay and Fond du Lac.

He said large local employers also patronize the business regularly when employees from other cities and states are in the area.

“That’s great,” Gloede said, as he doesn’t spend a lot of money on traditional marketing, relying on social media and word of mouth to spread the word.

In addition to customers who patronize the bar and bistro on site, there are others who participate in its monthly Wine Club, which offers three tiers from which to choose.

Gloede said each month, they curate two wines for club participants to take home – sometimes going as far as curating the wine based on individuals’ preferences.

“We started that club right away, and it’s been growing consistently ever since,” he said. “That’s a lot of wine going out every month.” 

Santé Wine Bar & Bistro also hosts a variety of events each year – which Gloede said is in addition to private events for customers celebrating birthdays, bridal showers, business events, etc.

Gloede said seeing it all come together has been nothing short of exhilarating, and receiving the acknowledgment from Wine Spectator is a cherry on top for Santé Wine Bar & Bistro.

“It’s been on my bucket list to have an award-winning wine list, and this is a huge honor for the team,” he said. “It’s such a prestigious honor to receive.”

Whether it’s the increasingly-popular orange wines, reds or whites, Gloede said he and his team – which includes Assistant General Manager Chelsie Nachreiner-Wickman and 10 employees – enjoy delivering a premium experience to their customers.

Gloede said he loves being a part of a closely-knit business community downtown that often “shares” customers.

“We have a symbiotic relationship with downtown Neenah,” he said.

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending