Although it wasn’t part of the plan, 2022 was a big year for D.C. Looney and Lisa Costa, the couple and owners behind Oakland’s the Punchdown. Not only was their natural wine bar and bottle shop nominated for Outstanding Wine Program by the James Beard Foundation in February 2022, but a move from Oakland to Sebastopol with their newborn at the start of 2022 led to another big event: the opening of their second location of the Punchdown in May, this time at the Barlow market district in their new town.
The couple had been kicking around the idea of a second location of their popular wine bar for a number of years, but Costa says that wasn’t top of mind when they first moved to the North Bay. “The more we discovered about this town, and the Barlow in particular, we just felt like it had such a huge draw,” she says. “Even though the town itself is small, people here have such great taste, and they’re so into wine and food — it felt like the perfect fit.”
When the Punchdown first opened in Oakland in 2010, it was important to bring in friends and community into the bar, Looney says, and now the couple is looking to do the same thing in Sebastopol. And it seems the moment feels right for a natural wine bar in the area, as others have opened since they moved, such as Piala Natural Wine Bar and the Redwood, and Costa says it’s exciting to see the movement taking hold. “It felt like it was sort of coinciding with our move,” Costa says. “It was like the stars were aligning.”
Fans of the Oakland original will, of course, find some similarities with the new Sebastopol location. But some differences include the retail selection being significantly larger than the Oakland shop, which Costa calls more of a “nightlife” spot and less conducive to larger wine orders and pickups due to its downtown location. Natural wine selections include wines from the old world, such as France, Italy, and Spain, Looney says, but there are also a number of local wine producers on the shelves and menu, such as Caleb Leisure Wines, Emme Wines, and Martha Stoumen Wines (the latter two are made in Punchdown’s same Barlow complex).
The bar will, of course, offer wine flights for guests to experience different styles including an Orange Adventure flight with orange wines, and a glou-glou flight sampling drinkable red wines.
The food menu is limited to small bites, although some favorite items from the Oakland shop and its kitchen will make its way up to Sebastopol, Looney says. Expect house-made dips, spreads, and chicken liver mousse produced by their Oakland kitchen; meanwhile, onsite, they’ll serve cheese and charcuterie boards made by Woodlands Charcuterie, as well as other tapas. Seeing as the shop shares a space at the Barlow, which houses eateries such as Acre Pizza and the Farmer’s Wife, Looney says the Punchdown is more than happy to welcome outside food. The couple also plans to host pop-ups, such as an upcoming June 4 event with Sonoma Mountain Breads featuring paninis and savory pastries.
Looney and Costa first met in 2007 during harvest in Sonoma County, and have always forged a close relationship with others in the wine industry. So every week, their new shop will host Industry Mondays, waiving corkage fees on bottles purchased by hospitality folks and others in the wine industry. The bar and bottle shop is the couple’s way of lifting people’s spirits and facilitating connections in their new location. “Natural wine is an ancient style of wine and it’s an ancient way for us to connect,” Looney says. “When you come into a wine bar, you’re forced to turn off your technology and to focus more on the present moment, and to connect with people, whether it’s someone working behind the bar or other people in the bar. It’s what we feel is the best contribution that we could do for society — to create more meaningful relationships.”
The Punchdown (6770 McKinley Street, Suite 130, Sebastopol) is open noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.