Skip to main content

Putnam Vine/Yard: Wine Bar With A Twist

Jun 30, 2023 12:51PM ● By Anne Richter Arnold Photography By Lars Blackmore

Putnam’s Vine/Yard is one of a kind — a combination wine shop, wine bar, plant shop, and “vine school.” It is a place to catch up with friends, try a new wine, or work on a DIY plant project. It’s the brainchild of owner Kelsey Rush, who was inspired by her time in California and wanted to bring a very special experience to the Upper Valley for other wine lovers to enjoy.

“I started visiting vineyards and trying more wines while living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was a member of a book group (where we read feminist literature) and I hosted the holiday party in 2017. I wanted to do a wine-tasting party with wines made by female winemakers; that’s when I realized how amazing women winemakers are. The story of Veuve Clicquot, Heidi Barrett, and Cathy Corison were my hooks into the stories in the bottles,” Kelsey says.

Owner Kelsey Rush is all smiles during a Satur-YAY at Putnam’s, known for their Satur-YAY mimosa flights.


Sharing a Full Experience

“While drinking at the vineyard with the owners of Windy Oaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I realized how powerful the whole experience was with wine. It wasn’t just how it tasted. I can’t even remember the tasting notes. But I remember the weather, view, breeze, smells, grapes, patio, conversation, games, vineyards, walk, barn, EVERYTHING.”

Kelsey continues, “After completing the Intro Sommelier course with the Court of Masters, I started looking for places I could go with my friends and also for date nights—a place to go and try new wines, learn about what I was drinking (I call it educational drinking!), and have a full sensory/ambiance experience that paired with the wine.”

She realized the Upper Valley was missing a wine bar. Kelsey decided to create the ideal hang-out spot for indoor and outdoor wine drinking: Putnam’s Vine/Yard. She found that White River Junction was the perfect spot for her dream to come true.

“I’ve lived in the Upper Valley in my 10s, late teens, early 20s, late 30s, and now early 40s,” says Kelsey. “White River Junction is such a hub for fun things going on in the Upper Valley—food, music, theater, arts, shops. The downtown is absolutely charming. It’s a really supportive community to try something creative.”

Not Your Typical Wine Bar

Kelsey says that when she walked into the converted Freight Yard space, she knew that she had found a perfect canvas in a perfect town. “I love the play on train yard and vineyard—too good! That we are in an active train yard serving wine makes it too fun to just be a bar. So thus, Vine Yard.”

Putnam’s is filled with lush greenery, creating a garden ambiance all year long. This twist is what sets her business apart from the typical wine bar. “I fell in love with wine while day-drinking outside at vineyards in California and Oregon. It’s very hard to recreate that all year long in Vermont! Hence, an indoor garden! I’m also plant obsessed: the original plant hoard at Putnam’s was from my house. Emily, a local high school student who waters for me, counted 163 plants when we first opened, and I know that number has grown.”

Kelsey utilizes the space’s former lobby as a wine shop and a house plant shop. While wine can be enjoyed inside year-round, summertime brings guests outdoors to enjoy wine al fresco. “Putnam’s has an amazing front porch, with benches and umbrellas and a picnic table,” says Kelsey. “The backdrop is an active railyard, which is really cool—‘trainertainment’ as we call it. There is also a side porch with bistro tables, planters, and each table has its own dog bowl. We love outdoor drinking and want to take advantage when the season is right. On our events calendar on the website there are dates with food trucks, which are also a fun way to experience our outdoor space.”

Something for Everyone

Kelsey offers fun summer drinks on the menu, a $15 flight (three half pours) called Deck Drinks, slushies (frosé and frozen cider), and the Putnam’s porch favorite, Villa de Corlo Lambrusco. She also serves draft beer, including a sour and a cider, as well a fun menu of craft nonalcoholic beverages.

Wine is her specialty, and she prides herself on offering a selection that changes every month or two, so there is always something different on the menu across a range of price points. The bartenders are familiar with the menu and have tasting notes, so they are prepared to guide customers to try new things. Putnam’s wine flights allow guests to try a curated selection of reds, whites, or wines with a particular theme. And if you enjoy the wine you try at the bar, you can bring home a bottle from the wine shop out front.

Putnam’s features wine from women winemakers/vineyard owners as well as family farms and BIPOC and LGBTQ+ wines and beers/ciders. Kelsey chose these particularly because each bottle has a story, one that the staff loves to share with guests.

Satur-YAYs at Putnam’s are also exceptionally fun with mimosa flights that change up weekly to pair with a pop-up vendor from the area who brings in delicacies like donuts, macarons, pastries, and bagels.

A bonus of a mom-owned business is that it is kid friendly. “We have a selection of wooden toys from cute companies like Manhattan Toy and Tender Leaf (with themes like greenhouse, tractor, animals, brunch food, wooden tea service, and stacking rocks),” Kelsey says. “There is a local Ray School student named Peter, and when he comes in with his parents, he loves to help water the garden and chat with us about all our plants. My favorite scene was two moms at the bar wearing their little babies, sharing a mimosa flight and tea service and catching up. Like a pub in the UK or Ireland, we love being a hub for catching up with kids in tow. It’s really neat to have a family-friendly space.”

Kelsey has made her dream come true and welcomes fellow wine and plant lovers Wednesdays through Saturdays at Putnam’s. “Whether you come to try new wine, buy a plant, take a class, or spend some time outside with friends catching up over a bottle of wine, there’s something for everyone here!” 

Putnam’s Vine/Yard

188 South Main Street, Suite 110

White River Junction, VT

(802) 899-0405

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Image's free newsletter to catch every headline