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Encinitas resident launches new online wine shop

Gavin Barnes of Caves Wine Shop
(Courtesy)

Encinitas resident Gavin Barnes has launched the new Caves Wine Shop, a new online option for North County wine lovers. The online shop has its wines broken down by grape, country, body and price—favorite finds with thoughtful descriptions from the owner, a blend of his love and expertise of wine with a hint of his personality.

Barnes started Caves after spending years in the wine business both locally and abroad, from managing a wine bar in London and then going on to make wine in South Africa and France. He opened the online shop with his girlfriend Amy, who just became his wife on Oct. 15 in Charleston, South Carolina.

“I always had a goal of bringing my wine knowledge back to my hometown and starting a business. With Caves we serve a lot of our local customers by delivering wine directly to their home or office free of charge,” said Barnes. “I personally select the wines on our website, wines that I love and have discovered over the years.”

Barnes grew up in Del Mar and Carmel Valley, graduating from Torrey Pines High School in 2001. After graduating from Cal State San Marcos, he got an opportunity to work in finance and had started developing the beginnings of a career when the recession hit.

“I thought there was no hope for me,” he said. “But it ended up being a blessing in disguise.”

At 24, Barnes took the disruption as a chance to take a deep look into what he wanted out of life. He decided to embrace his wanderlust and bought a one-way ticket to Spain and lived in Barcelona for six months. From there he went to Korea for a year, getting a job teaching English, like he had in Barcelona.

In 2013, he decided to go back to school and earn a master’s degree in something he was interested in. He picked journalism with the idea that he could travel the world and write, Anthony Bourdain-style.

While in school in London at the University of Westminster, he got what would become a life-changing job working at a wine bar. He didn’t think anything of it at first but soon he got really into it: “Wine became a passionate thing for me,” he said, wanting to learn more about the complex tastes and techniques and what makes a wine truly great.

He made connections with winemakers all over the world and ended up spending two seasons making wine in South Africa and Burgundy, France—“almost a mecca for wine lovers.”

Barnes moved back to San Diego after managing the London bar for several years and got into real estate with the plan of saving money to open his own wine bar. Then COVID-19 hit. Just like the great recession years before, this time it was a global pandemic that had felled his plans.

During this pandemic pause, he shifted gears and talked to Amy about the opportunity of selling wine online.

With Caves, Barnes handpicks everything for the shop, developing a library of great wines from all over the world, keeping everything well-balanced with a good mix of modern and classic wineries. Many of the wines are certified organic or practice organic farming.

He is far from a wine snob: “All wines can taste fantastic if it is made by a person who respects the craft,” he said.

He specializes in selecting wines for the shop that people can’t find anywhere else or have never seen before. Caves also offers a wine club that is tailored to each customer’s individual taste— two to four bottles a month, handpicked by Barnes.

Had they opened a wine bar prior to the pandemic, Barnes knows they would have been crushed, but the one thing he wished for most with his wine bar was the face-to-face interactions with customers and creating a community.

To help fill the void, he plans to start doing events with local restaurants in Encinitas, offering explorations of wines from different regions of the world and what makes them stand out. He is also building a community on social media, offering educational videos on the things people often wonder about wine.

Barnes has given tutorials on topics like Syrah vs. Shiraz, label reading 101 and “What does it mean when a wine is dry?”, introducing his customers to a couple of choice dry white wines from end of Iberian peninsula.

In one of his latest videos, shot on location on his honeymoon in Champagne, France, he shows off a traditional method for making the best bubbles.

Caves is still young (aged three months) but Barnes said he has received great feedback from customers who like the business model and buying from someone who has a lot of experience, who can introduce them to new wines at great prices and who has a true passion for the product.

“I’m really happy with the way things are going so far,” Barnes said. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s cool to offer a personalized touch to an online business that is hyper-local.”

Caves Wine Shop is offering free delivery when you spend $50. The shop ships anywhere in California as well as Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Washington DC. Visit caveswineshop.com and check out the Caves Instagram @caveswineshop


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