In the heart of Asbury Park, one wine bar is rewriting the rules of the game. Lovesick, with its unapologetically vast wine list curated by sommelier Andrew O’Reilly, is not just a place for sipping wine. It’s an experience that takes you on a journey through the stories behind each bottle.
“We’re just a small, fun, cool, weird, quirky little bar in Asbury with an eccentric sommelier who adds a unique flair by engaging in playful banter and sharing his unconventional opinions throughout the day, creating a memorable experience for our patrons,” O’Reilly chuckles.
Lovesick offers wine enthusiasts a unique and enchanting experience. O’Reilly’s passion for unconventional wines finds expression in Lovesick’s ambiance. The bar’s vinyl-centric approach to music, with a growing collection of records, adds a distinct touch.
And Lovesick is not just about serving wine. It’s about creating a community where regulars feel at home. This sensibility is evidenced by the fact that branded sweatshirts are flying off the shelves. In an exclusive interview with O’Reilly, we delved into the fascinating world of wine curation and community-building at Lovesick.
A Twist in the Tale
O’Reilly’s journey into wine didn’t follow a traditional path. In fact, he initially dismissed the idea of a career in wine. It was only later, after managing a burger place in New York City and feeling the need for a higher-end challenge, that he delved into the world of beverages.
His wine odyssey led him to Bordeaux, France, where he earned a degree from the French government as a sommelier wine consultant.
Returning to the States, O’Reilly, who also holds a diploma from the Sommelier Society of America, worked at renowned establishments like Restaurant Danielle and Oceania in New York City.
At the coaxing of a friend and mentor, he learned about Lovesick in Asbury Park. In the coming months, O’Reilly will further expand his range as he is set to take over the wine pairing for neighboring Cookman Avenue restaurant Homesick, promising an exciting relaunch.
Embracing the philosophy of “it grows together, it goes together,” he believes in pairing wines based on regional connections, bringing an authentic and harmonious experience to the table.
New Jersey’s Longest Wine List
Taking the reins at Lovesick, O’Reilly embarked on a mission to build an extraordinary wine list. With the help of innovative preservation methods, the bar boasts a diverse selection that includes small producers, natural, organic, and low-intervention wines.
During our conversation, O’Reilly expressed some of the challenges of discovering hidden gems in the vast world of wines. He emphasized the dedication required to unearth exceptional bottles that may not be mainstream but hold the potential to captivate discerning palates.
Lovesick, it seems, is on a mission to bring these extraordinary wines to its patrons. O’Reilly revealed the dynamic nature of Lovesick’s wine program, highlighting the diverse range, especially in the orange wine section. From clean, entry-level options to the eccentric Scotty Boy, Lovesick aims to cater to varying tastes and push the boundaries of traditional wine experiences.
“There’s a lot of wine that we have, especially in the orange section,” O’Reilly said. “I can’t keep orange wine in stock that some people are going to love, or some people are going to dislike,” he adds. O’Reilly explains that his belief that true exploration involves tasting wines that might not be universally loved. He encourages patrons to step out of their comfort zones.
O’Reilly’s commitment to demystifying the world of wine is evident in his disdain for pretentiousness. Lovesick’s ambiance encourages patrons to explore the extensive wine list without fear. Regulars often discard the menu, letting O’Reilly surprise them with selections tailored to their tastes, fostering a laid-back and approachable atmosphere.
“We’re able to kind of drag people out of their comfort zone little by little, step by step, and then find that weird little wine niche that they live in,” he said
Tasting Stories, Not Just Wines
O’Reilly’s focus on storytelling extends to Lovesick’s happy hour tastings. Lovesick seeks to educate and engage patrons, creating a space where the curious 23-year-old and the seasoned 65-year-old can bond over a shared passion for fermented grape juice.
O’Reilly, having worked in high-end restaurants in New York, expressed his joy at focusing on funky, interesting wines that might have been overlooked elsewhere. Lovesick, he explained, is not just a bar; it’s an ever-evolving experience, constantly introducing new and exciting elements to its eclectic wine list. “If you liked everything in a tasting, it wasn’t a good tasting,” he said. “It didn’t stretch you a little bit. It didn’t take you out of your comfort zone.”
For O’Reilly, professional development isn’t confined to textbooks. His travels through Spain, France, and the West Coast have been instrumental in understanding the personalities behind the wines.
Meeting winemakers in their element provides a level of insight that textbooks can’t match. And every bottle at Lovesick a vessel for a unique story. “There’s just so much out there,” he said. “It takes a lot of work to go and find it, and there’s not a lot of people that are willing to put in the groundwork to go and find these things. But once you find it, it’s just magic.”
A Toast to Authenticity
As the interview unfolded, O’Reilly unveiled the essence of Lovesick’s community-centric approach. The establishment has become more than just a bar; it’s a hub for wine enthusiasts, with regulars forming a close-knit community.
Lovesick’s events, ranging from recreating the Judgment of Paris to Halloween pumpkin carving with wine tastings, contribute to the unique and vibrant atmosphere that keeps patrons coming back.
We also touched upon upcoming events at Lovesick. Get ready for a unique Valentine’s Day celebration featuring a Newlywed-style game and a chance to win membership in the Love Club, Lovesick’s wine club.
Another distinctive event on the horizon is Lovesick’s guided wine tasting, Vines & Vinyl: Spain. Guests can listen to the powerfully-expressive classical music of Spain (with a bit of Flamenco, too!) selected by international curator, music producer and wine enthusiast David Spelman, while sipping on wine paired by O’Reilly.
And next month, Lovesick will celebrate Women’s History Month with an event featuring wines exclusively crafted by female winemakers.
Part of the Asbury Park Fabric
Lovesick has certainly found its role in contributing to the distinctiveness of Asbury Park. As a New Yorker, O’Reilly is determined to be part of maintaining Asbury’s quirkiness and be an integral part of the town’s history.
Lovesick’s success in creating a cool, bohemian space that embraces diversity speaks to the magic that O’Reilly and his team have brought to the community.
Ultimately, Lovesick is not just a wine bar: it’s a celebration of the offbeat, a sanctuary for wine enthusiasts. This spot is a testament to the joy of discovering the extraordinary in every bottle.
530 Cookman Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ