A black sign on Woodstock’s Mill Hill Road features the words Early Terrible scrawled in white handwriting. The peculiar post leads to a downhill path that brings you to the village’s newest hideaway. Early Terrible Wine Bar aims to pique your curiosity before you even darken its doorstep.
“The name is supposed to be thought-provoking, to make you question what it means,” co-owner Gray Ballinger explains. “The sign draws you in, and the path leads you toward something to discover. It’s part of the experience we wanted to create.”
At Early Terrible you won’t find another homage to hippie culture—don’t expect references to Jimi, or Cripple Creek, or that famed festival that happened 90 minutes away. The goal was to create something entirely different. “When we designed the wine bar, we wanted to bring out the essence of Woodstock’s woody, earthy environment,” Ballinger says. “So we created a place focused on quality food and drink, with decor tied to the spirit of its locale.”
Open since January, Early Terrible exudes a moody, rustic ambiance with low lighting, exposed plank ceilings, unpolished antique windows, and other notions of time and place positioned around the room. Even your bill arrives tucked into a vintage book. Vintage saws cover one wall, and a sprawling root structure (excavated from Ballinger’s property and delivered on a flatbed) makes a beautiful, eccentric statement piece behind the bar.
“We’re putting our spin on Woodstock,” Ballinger explains. “The building used to be a typical office space, so if you get the sense of being in a rustic barn, it’s because we built it that way.” Plans are underway to expand to a second location in Beacon in about a year, where they will tie decor to the city’s riverfront.
Ballinger is no stranger to innovative nightlife, having worked at Manhattan’s famed Webster Hall and with family in the entertainment-design industry. He moved to Chatham three years ago where he helped open The People’s Pub, a gastropub with quality offerings at a spectrum of prices—a concept translated to Early Terrible’s menus.
A succinct wine list offers reds, whites, and rosés from the West Coast and Europe. Only a handful are available by the glass ($9-$12), and bottles range from $30-$100, with some high-end exceptions (as of publication, a 2015 Sine Qua Non Grenache runs $720, for those who wish to truly indulge). There’s a variety of Champagnes ($9-$15 a glass, $70-$550 per bottle); a cocktail selection consisting of standards—Greyhound, Manhattan, Moscow Mule, and the like; and a few revolving craft beers.
A short menu of tapas includes Baked Avocado a Diavolo, halved avocado stuffed with lentil paté and topped with sunflower seeds, tamari ponzu, hot smoked paprika, and chili oil ($10) and the artfully plated New York Fromage á Trois, a cheese plate with fruit and savory bites ($12), among other noshes.
“Our guests are sophisticated; they know what they want. That’s why we emphasize quality over quantity,” Ballinger says. “We want to appeal to the person who is looking for an experience and who appreciates classics. Those that have endured have done so for a reason.”