Who says enjoying champagne has to be snooty? People typically reserve the bubbly white wine for special occasions like weddings, promotions, and other major life events. However, Vanessa Goodwin, the sommelier and owner of Coupe Champagne Bar in Wappingers Falls, believes every moment is worthy of a toast.
” I love champagne. It’s one of the things that is such a fun part of our industry….especially when you really get into it,” Goodwin enthuses. “It breeds this confidence among people, when people get together to ‘pop bottles.’ Champagne culture is strong.”
Goodwin opened Coupe Champagne Bar in Dutchess County in the middle of summer 2021. The colorful, comfortable hangout features an expansive wine list and a hole in the wall for pizza orders (it’s from Wagon Wheel Pizza). Coupe’s décor consists of elaborate wallpapers, neon signs, and repurposed furniture. For instance, Goodwin turned a pew from a historic church into a cozy couch. The vibrant patterns and styles were arranged with “a young girl’s bedroom” in mind, according to Goodwin. When people walk through the doors, they’re greeted with a bright yet laid-back environment and an extremely affable host.
Coupe Champagne Bar sits conveniently on Main St in the Village of Wappingers Falls. This corner space previously housed The Vinyl Room, a record-themed bar that’s since moved to Beacon. Furthermore, Goodwin started her wine journey right where she ended up, in Wappingers Falls. Goodwin worked Italian restaurant Aroma Osteria a little over a decade ago, just a few minutes away from where Coupe now stands. As a result, she learned a lot about European wines—and how to pair them with food. However, it wasn’t until a road trip to Canada that everything clicked.
“We’re driving into Montreal, and, of course we’re exhausted. We stopped at the border, wearing basically sweatpants, and decide to eat at the next place we see. We’re starving,” Goodwin recalls. However, the restaurant they fall upon has a fleet of fancy cars in its parking lot. Every dinner guest was dressed to the nines. Goodwin and her crew, extremely underdressed, were seated in the way back of the restaurant, out of view. A sommelier approached the table with a surprising abundance of hospitality.
“He just brought us this bottle and it was just incredible…Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak, a ‘cab and slab’ as we say in the business. The guy treated us like gold,” Goodwin notes. “Next, he gave me a tour of a wine cellar and talked to me about his job. Above all, that was the first exposure I ever had to a sommelier. I thought, ‘This person only deals with the wine? That has to be my job.'”
In no time at all, Goodwin became obsessed with a new dream. Conveniently, the next sommelier exam scheduled was to be held at The Culinary Institute of America. Goodwin seized this opportunity and registered. It was a stroke of fate, as these exams can be scheduled anywhere in the world. However, it only left her with a little under three months to prepare—a “death wish” for test-takers. From 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. every morning, she fervently studied. She fueled her preparations with flash cards, online videos, and everything in between. Not only did she pass, but, a few months later, she passed her level two certification, putting her in prime position to launch Coupe Champagne Bar.
“So, in the meantime, I decided to focus on champagne,” Goodwin says. When you get really into it like grower champagne—which is probably 95 percent of the industry in France, but five percent of the industry here—you find producers that are just a father, mother, son, and daughter working the vineyards. They have their own little plot of land, and they might produce less than 2,000 bottles a year. That’s what makes it so special, and the wine can be really incredible.”
One champagne she particularly enjoys sharing with customers uses a Spanish-style solera aging process. Essentially, the maker doesn’t remove all of the wine from a barrel before aging a new batch of champagne. In other words, one bottle has a bit of every champagne that producer has ever made. Other vintners and distributors Goodwin works with connect her with extremely special small-batch wines, so Coupe Champagne Bar’s stock always changes.
Her passion lies in showcasing the unique terroirs of champagne, as well as bringing people into the world of bubbly. Part of this involves identifying wines at an accessible price point, and another involves teaching people how to pair champagne with food.
Crisp, sturdy, flinty qualities of champagne allow for harmonious pairings with junk food. And people love junk food. Whether it’s buttery popcorn or an overly indulgent grilled cheese, the French wine compliments a whole spectrum of flavors. Because Coupe Champagne Bar’s wine list is so versatile, Goodwin enjoys the challenge of pairing any food one could think of.
“I just want people to have fun with it. I’m a very simple eater, but I want to push the boundaries with alcohol,” she says.
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Coupe Champagne Bar’s fall brunch series brings a new pairing every Sunday. So far, Goodwin’s matched tomatillo ramen with sake, lobster rolls with Chardonnay-based champagne, and Oktoberfest brats with off-dry Reislings. She even found a pairing for her down-the-road neighbor Sweetbakes Cafe’s funfetti waffles: French sauternes, a super-sweet dessert wine. Other Hudson Valley collaborations include EatChurch in Cold Spring, as well as Sloop Brewing Co. in Easy Fishkill for “Burgers and Beaujolais.” (Follow Coupe Champagne Bar on social media for all sorts of events, from charcuterie workshops to crawfish boils.)
Of course, Coupe Champagne Bar’s built-in pizza window is perfect for blending casual, greasy goodness with wines too often reserved for dainty, elegant plates. Did you know that slightly chilled Spanish Rioja is the perfect sidekick to spicy pepperoni pizza? Goodwin also discovered that Pinot Noirs with volatile acidity compliment fatty, acidic Hawaiian slices. Sausage pies taste even better alongside a glass of Col Di Bacche, a Tuscan wine from Amerene with notes of cherry and herbs.
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Last but not least, Coupe Champagne Bar serves Wagon Wheel’s classic plain slices alongside a sparkling white called Crémant from Alsace, France.
“So, Alsace has these mountains that border Germany. If you’ve ever gone skiing, you can actually taste that crispy, cold air on the wine. In addition, it’s aged right and the age on the lees [a fermentation byproduct], which gives it this buttery, fatty middle,” Goodwin explains. “And, with just with a classic, cheese slice it’s this crazy mingling of flavors.”
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Goodwin’s approachable, fun vibe permeates the entire space. She found several of Coupe Champagne Bar’s chairs and tables right down the street at Ruinous Revived. All she did to revive the fire-damaged wall in the back room was seal it and cover it in fleur-de-lis, honoring the space and the businesses that once called it home. Sleek, clean whites and vibrant hot-pinks dominate the space. Coupe is not a swanky, pretentious wine bar. It’s a place to relax with friends while discovering new flavors and combinations.
“It’s not only about champagne, I just happen to like it. We carry a rotating list of exciting wines from around the country (and globe). I have a full liquor license, so next year I’m bringing a full menu of champagne cocktails.”
Comfortability is extremely important. When trying new things, people can get easily intimidated. Goodwin recognizes that champagne can seem out of reach for people, and feels at the height of her powers with a customer who isn’t sure about what they like. She’s there to help people discover something they will love.
“When you have a good pairing, you’ll think about it forever. I’ll kind of just have a quick conversation with customers who come in here and get certain key words out of them. Next, I take what they say and I translate it using my education into the best fitting bottle in the place for them.”
Above all, she wants to share her passion for champagne—and other incredible wines—with the food-loving community of the Hudson Valley. Let loose with a glass of bubbly at Coupe Champagne Bar, and turn any evening into an occasion worth celebrating. Plus, with an open mind, you may even discover something you love.
Coupe Champagne Bar
2656 E Main St, Wappingers Falls