Dec 22, 2022 10:42 PM

Pairing wine with cigars

Posted Dec 22, 2022 10:42 PM

Above: Tyler and Sierra Huggins opened up the Concordia cigar and wine shop downtown at 611 Jefferson St., in what was home to the Concordia Beer Hall in 1874. They offer wine from 17 countries and nearly 60 different brands of cigars. Tyler also does glass and wood engravingPhoto/Chris Faulkner

By Chris Faulkner

Tyler Huggins has lived in Burlington for the past 10 years but grew up in the Quad Cities area.

“I was looking for a location in Burlington with a wider variety of cigar choices,” he said.

Years later, with no stores to meet his satisfaction, he and his wife Sierra decided to open one themselves.

But he also has a passion for wines and began studying them two to three years ago.

So while wine is normally paired with food, the couple is pairing wine with cigars.

They opened Concordia cigar and wine shop Friday, Dec. 16, at 611 Jefferson St. in downtown Burlington.

“We’re excited about being downtown,” Tyler said, “and of being part of the revitalization of the district.”

“We’ve only been open since Friday and already the community support has been unreal.”

The business is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

While Tyler has knowledge of the products, Sierra, who has a background in retail and real estate, handles the administrative duties and the day-to-day operations.

“I had been in transportation for the past 10 years,” said Tyler, working in the office of W.W. Transport.

“Earlier this year, I decided it was time for a career change,” he said.

In addition to the cigar and wine store, Tyler uses his engraving skills and a capable machine and makes customized glass and wood products and sells them.

He works on those projects during the morning hours while Sierra runs the store, and you can see some of his work at the store.

Tyler’s wine expertise comes from taking courses through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and he passed the introductory level exam in April. He’ll take the certified level exam in November 2023.

While there are plenty of good wine locations around, Tyler says his store stands out “for the variety of locations, the variety of wines you can’t find in other places.”

“The last I counted, I have wine from 17 countries.”

“We have a good variety of fortified wines, ports, marsala, Madeira, sherries,” Tyler said, and he also sells sake.

The business serves a dual purpose: providing the Burlington area with a large variety of wines and fulfilling one of the requirements of the master’s class, which is working with wines.

“In order to pass these courses, you have to ‘live’ wine,” Tyler said. “This is just a way to learn about wine while I’m preparing for that last exam.”

As extensive as his collection is, Tyler said, “We’ve had a lot of people come in looking for something that he may not have.

“We try to do our best to provide great customer service and help them find what they’re looking for.”

He also helps with the food pairings.

As for how cigars became paired with wine, “I had my first cigar when I was 17 years old,” Tyler said. “I saw my older brother and my stepdad had a cigar. All is right with the world when you’re having a cigar with good company. It’s an event.”

Concordia offers nearly 60 different cigar brands, with prices ranging from $4.99 to $28.99 per cigar.

He’s already working on getting a separate location for a cigar lounge downtown, and he hopes to have that in the next few months or so.

The store’s name does not come from concord grapes, and Tyler said those don’t make the best wine.

Sierra, a Burlington native, said, “I love the Burlington history.”

A plaque outside the building states this was the Concordia Beer Hall in 1874. “I wanted to continue that and just bring back a little history,” Sierra said.