One On One With Cuvée Ray - Coming Soon To Rehoboth Beach!
Ray Kurz (AKA Cuvée Ray) has had a lifelong love of music. And for more than thirty years, he has had a passion with wine. It’s a passion he shares with his wife Debbie. Together, they will be opening Cuvée Ray, a wine bar & restaurant, at 236 Rehoboth Avenue in downtown Rehoboth Beach. Having once served as the home of the renown live jazz venue Sydney’s, the location is not unknown to locals and tourists.
But Cuvée Ray plans on offering something unprecedented to Delmarva - a place to enjoy great wine, great food and great live music carefully selected to work in tandem with each other in order to present to patrons the “Cuvée Ray” experience—a finely tuned, unique blending of taste, sight and sound.
Michael Sprouse, host of Coastal Cuisine which airs every Friday evening during the Live At Five and 11 PM newscasts on WRDE NBC, met with Ray recently for some insight into what can be expected once the doors open for business this summer.
Ray, if you had to state the concept of Cuvée Ray in a nutshell, what would it be?
The concept revolves around my background in wine and it’s basically to have an unintimidating, absolutely relaxed place where people can go to enjoy great food, great wine and to have a true, one of a kind wine/food/music experience. I’ve always felt that there was kind of a relationship between wine and music. The whole concept is to come to Cuvée Ray and have a truly memorable experience, more than just going out to a restaurant. Our key focus is to deliver value for every single wine that we have so we’ve put a lot of time in on our wine list. As we were researching the wines, I was pleased to see so many excellent, fantastic, exciting, wonderful wines at every price point.
The food—and we have a terrific chef with Joe Churchman—is going to be phenomenal and completely coordinated with the wine. Our goal is to deliver value on both the food side and the wine side. People want to relax when they go out, enjoy themselves and have a good time. We’re here to deliver an overall great experience from start to finish.
We’ve got a great General Manager Chris Racine. He’s been in the hospitality business almost his whole working life. He’s very knowledgeable on the wine side, but he’s also hospitality to the core. He really understands the hospitality business and he is completely committed to hiring the best possible people—people who love what they do. I think that’s the most important thing, is loving what you do. We’re building a first-class team of people that share that spirit.
What would you tell people who may not be familiar with a wine bar that would make them come in and try the new experience?
For a variety of reasons, sometimes people think that ordering wine can be a bit of an uptight experience; things about it, people who serve it and people who talk about it—but it’s not going to be that way at Cuvée Ray. We’re going to publicize the fact that we are a great place to come to for both the most casual of wine lovers and the aficionado. We want to have wine that is interesting and different—every major …and some not so major... wine region represented—but also wines that people are familiar with.
If you come in here and you love Chardonnay, for example, there will be an array of Chardonnays to try. But we like to play around and try different things. I want people to know that they can come in here and feel instantly comfortable. Everyone who is part of the Cuvée Ray team will make them feel relaxed and at home right from the minute they walk in the door.
How would you describe your relationship to wine?
I started being serious about wine more than thirty years ago. I thought I knew something about wine then (laughter). And now when I look back I realized I knew nothing about wine thirty years ago! I’m sure I’ll say the same thing when I look back ten years from now. Wine is just the type of thing that no matter how much you know, there’s always so much more to learn. It’s a journey. I’ve studied wine. I became a sommelier. I’ve gotten other certifications. I’m a Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society Of Wine Educators, so, I’ve done a lot of formal study in addition to my own experiences. I’ve made it a serious pursuit—even more so over the last number of years—but I hesitate to call myself an expert. Maybe at the Master Sommelier level a person could start saying that, but those same Master Sommeliers will also tell you they’re still learning. It’s a constant learning experience.
Let’s talk about the music aspect of Cuvée Ray. How did music become important to you and to the experience that you want to offer patrons?
Music has a way of putting people in a good mood and it’s also going to be a big part of the Cuvée Ray experience. I’ve always loved music and it’s always been a passion of mine. In a lot of wine reviews or descriptions, you’ll find them sometimes peppered with musical references —high notes, low notes, harmonious, etc. The more I noticed it, the more I realized that there was something to that. It was kind of organic. I realized that music and wine had a lot in common. For example, they both have a tempo. A Sauvignon Blanc has a tempo that’s a lot faster than a really big and heavy California Cabernet.
It made sense to me that if you could get the perfect wine match for the right music, you could enhance the enjoyment of both. They would feed off of each other and make a perfect union between the two. We started playing around with that idea and came up with the concept that I call Vintunes®. It’s a wine tasting experience where we will play five songs while participants taste five wines that I’ve selected which I feel are a match. It’s like a regular wine tasting where we discuss the wines and their attributes, but at the end of the event, we take a vote to which wine they think goes with which song. It’s a very unique and fun way to taste wine. We’re going to try to have the Vintunes® experience on a regular basis. We can have groups of ten or twelve or groups of fifty or sixty.
You also want to become a live music venue.
Yes. We really are committed to that. This concept has been on my mind for years and now it’s finally coming to fruition. We had been looking for space for about a year. When this space became available at 236 Rehoboth Avenue, it was just perfect, so we jumped on it. We realized after we got everything squared away, that it used to be Sydney’s, which was renowned as a jazz music venue.
I thought that coincidence was amazing. We contacted Sydney Arzt, met her and got to know her a bit. Now we’re working with Sydney and she’s going to be running our music program. She’s an amazing person and she’s really putting her stamp on the music side of this venture lining up some fantastic entertainment.
For starters, we’re planning on offering live music about three days a week. We have something special planned for Thursday’s music wise. Saturdays we will offer music later in the evening, around nine o’clock. And on Sundays, we will offer a Champagne Jazz Brunch.
What’s the special music experience that you mentioned for Thursdays?
That will be the Cuvée Ray Experience, so to speak, where we will offer a different theme every Thursday of the month that will connect with the wine and the food. For example, one night, it could be Music Divas which showcasing music by performers considered “Divas” in their field featuring menu selections by celebrated women chefs and wine by famous women wine makers. One Thursday might be classic light rock music which we would pair with classic dishes and wines, and so on.
What would be the one message you would like to get out there about Cuvée Ray to the public before you open your doors this summer?
I think we’re doing something that’s never been done before in this area in a lot of ways. It’s going to be a unique experience. We’ve gone to great lengths to make the décor really special. We have the very talented decorator Judith Davidson, whom we’ve worked with on projects before, giving our place a special look. Our wine list is going to be between 150 and 170 wines and we are going to offer each and every one of those by the glass. I would encourage people that if they want to try and have this experience which I think is different than anything that’s been done before—between the music, the wine, the excellent cuisine we are going to offer—give us a try. There’s no better way to get known than by word of mouth. We want to make sure that everyone that comes here leaves here with a very positive experience and that they share it with their friends.
Michael Sprouse says he’s very excited about the arrival of Cuvée Ray. “I think this is going to be an incredible addition to the Rehoboth Beach dining scene,” he stated. “When you speak to Ray and Deb, you immediately sense their enthusiasm for what they are doing and—perhaps more importantly—you understand why they have dedicated themselves to their vision. Quite simply, they have found a special magic in their decades old passion for wine, food and music and they are thrilled to share their experiences and knowledge with the community and the world.”
Cuvée Ray’s website (www.cuveeray.com) describes the restaurant as “the relaxed upscale wine bar coming to downtown Rehoboth that celebrates wines from around the world, great music, and inspired food. Serving the largest selection of wines by the glass in town, Cuvée Ray is a place for the casual wine lover and the experienced aficionado serving wines that are both exceptional and accessible.” Look for Cuvée Ray to open this summer. For more insight into Cuvée Ray, listen to Coastal A&E every Saturday morning between 11 and 12 on Delaware 105.9 FM.
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