Featured photo: Aaron Sizemore and Dave Armstrong are the co-owners, wine buddies of Nomad Wine Works in downtown High Point which opened in December 2022. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Tucked into High Point’s downtown just two turns off of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, past the habitual taco trucks and the once shiny but newly abandoned designer furniture storefronts, is a crisp, clean, off-white urban winery that looks more like a brewery or a coffee shop than it does a place peddling merlots and pinot gris. In fact, it looks like it belongs somewhere in California or New York, or even Asheville or the Triangle — really anywhere but High Point.

But that’s where Nomad Wine Works’ owners Dave Armstrong and Aaron Sizemore wanted it.

The two grew up in High Point and said that the time was ripe — pun intended — to open the business downtown. 

“We started looking here because it’s where we live, and also there’s room for growth,” Armstrong says. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s just starting.” 

Like many Triad residents over the years, the two had watched as the city’s downtown core was taken over and largely defined by Furniture Market and High Point University. But in just the last few years, the duo says the city has awakened to the possibility of a different kind of Main Street. And they’re part of that plan.

Nomad Wine Works is located in the social district in downtown High Point (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Outside of Nomad Wine Works, which opened in December and boasts more than 5,000 square feet of space, a small metal sign announces the area’s footprint as a social district. Similar to the two that have taken off in Greensboro, the square territory — marked off by the boundaries of Lindsay Street, Westwood Avenue, Broad Avenue and Hamilton Street — designates an outdoor drinking district in which patrons can stop from brewery to winery and back, all without having to finish their drinks beforehand.

Initially, Armstrong and Sizemore said that the district, which opened last summer, was mapped out to be smaller. When they announced their plans to open Nomad at the current location, they said the city expanded the outlines to include them and other businesses in the area. It’s a sign that city officials understand the need for some kind of cultural shift.

“We thought it was necessary to stay here to help the growth and be a part of that change,” says Armstrong, who sits at one of the first tables near the entrance. Backlit by the early afternoon sun and flanked by the broad leaves of a monstera plant and palm tree, he answers most of the questions about the business while Sizemore, the quieter of the two, nods in agreement.

The two have known each other for about two decades, orbiting each other as they worked in different industries in the Triad. Sizemore spent years doing subcontracting, renovating kitchens and restaurants, and worked as a production brewer at Natty Greene’s before helping open Radar Brewing in Winston-Salem in 2020. Armstrong worked beer and wine retail in the area for about 14 years and opened the Brewer’s Kettle in 2009, which now has multiple locations across the state. When the two reconnected a few years ago, they turned their attention to wine and mead, something they say the Triad hasn’t really explored in a way that other places across the country have.

“We have the most ability to do something new and unique because our approach is different,” says Armstrong who started getting into wine about seven years ago. “I think everybody is really caught up in the beer thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love beer, but there hasn’t been that much growth outside of new beer. We’re catering to people who are interested in wine.”

Aaron Sizemore and Dave Armstrong are the co-owners, wine buddies of Nomad Wine Works in downtown High Point which opened in December 2022. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

Because the idea of an urban winery is new to many in the Triad, part of the business model is helping people understand what exactly that is, the two explain.

“I think people are still confused about what we do here because they associate a winery with a vineyard,” Armstrong says. “Whereas on the West Coast, you would see garage wineries, not attached to a vineyard. They don’t understand that we make wine here.”

And often when people think of wineries, the image is different.

“Most people think of a winery as a traditional, dark, stone and wood kind of place,” Sizemore says.

The interior at Nomad, which was largely designed by Sizemore, is anything but. The bright, white walls butt up nicely against subway tile that’s splashed behind the main wooden counter running the length of most of the interior. Light wooden bar tops on gunmetal legs allow the colorful, abstract artwork displayed on the walls to shine. Indie pop streams through the speakers.

“The sensibility is modern and clean, but has the feel of a taproom or brewery,” Armstrong says. “It’s not super stuffy; it’s relaxed, and that’s not always the case with wine.”

Aesthetics aren’t the only factor that differentiates Nomad from the various traditional wineries that dot the Triad. The way the wine is made is different, too.

Currently Nomad has 20 items on tap: five reds, five rosés or whites, five meads or ciders and five beers; about half are made in-house. Because they don’t grow their own grapes, they source them from around the country and purchase fruit and juice from places where the products are in season. That allows them to be more flexible with their offerings throughout the year. 

Because the idea of an urban winery is new to many in the Triad, part of the business model is helping people understand what exactly that is, the two explain. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

The other big thing they’re pushing is mead, a fermented drink made from honey, different from wine or cider, which is made from fruit. Often, mead is sweet but heavy on the alcohol, something that can be prohibitive for those who want a lighter drink, Armstrong says. So they decided to make something easier. For example, two of the meads they offer right now — the tiki torch, which has pineapple and mango, and their raspberry and cherry mead, both clock in at about 7 percent.

“We want really clean, balanced beverages at least for the summertime,” Armstrong says.

Seven months into their endeavor and the two say that business has been going well. It’s slow this time of year because the students leave a sort of consumer vacuum, but High Point residents are starting to see downtown as a destination, rather than something to avoid. Apartments are going up across the street, and Nomad sits just a block or two away from the popular food hall that opened about a year ago.

“There are unique things to do here; the city is giving people a reason to come to High Point, which you wouldn’t have seen 10 years ago,” Armstrong says. “People would go more to Greensboro or Winston-Salem. But now, the city and residents are actively pushing for things to do.”

And like the city’s changing downtown, the two say they’re just getting started.

“We sit down and when we work on stuff, we do stuff as a team,” Armstrong says. “Together, we make one decent wine maker.”

To that, Sizemore responds, “I’ll take that.”

Learn more about Nomad Wine Works at nomadwineworks.com or follow them on social. Their next event, a doughnut pairing, takes place on July 18.

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