Alchemy wine director Meaghan Robinson has helped transform a Martha’s Vineyard stalwart into a spellbinding experience for oenophiles, as Becky Sue Epstein finds out

It was love at first sight for Meaghan Robinson: the first time she visited the elegant Alchemy restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard, she was determined to work here. “I was 22 and had never had cocktails that delicious before. The service here was the best. It was the epitome of great service and I wanted to be good enough to work here.”

Now Alchemy’s wine director, the tall, blonde, 30-something Robinson greets me dressed all in black on a late afternoon in spring. It’s still quiet inside since it’s about an hour and a half before service begins, though I can hear the hum of prep from the back kitchen, and a bartender is busy restocking his station in the street-side dining area where Robinson and I meet. We sit over by the far wall, on leather banquettes in a cozy booth.

Alchemy Bar and Bistro is located in the heart of upscale Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. Just off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the picturesque island is a favorite summer retreat for artists and former presidents alike, and many businesses here seasonal. Yet Alchemy is uncommonly – and wondrously – open year-round.

Robinson, originally from southeastern Massachusetts, began her restaurant career in Boston as a server and worked her way up. She relocated to Martha’s Vineyard in 2008, joining the Alchemy team six years later. Her knowledge of wine expanded at the restaurant, as “I had the opportunity of learning more and drinking more,” she relates. After graduating from the Wine Executive program at University of California at Davis, success was swift: her wine program for the restaurant won the 2019 “Wine Spectator Award for Excellence” – and, remarkably, they have been awarded this honor every year since.

“That first time was just so exciting,” recalls Robinson. “Because it was such a labor of love to develop the list. Having the creative freedom, and having other people acknowledge I had put together a great, representative list. Year after year I fill in little gaps, gaining confidence to source more rare wines,” she says. “And I get the same thrill with the award, every year!”

Opened in 1999, Alchemy is situated in a beautifully renovated historic building, which began life as a grocer’s establishment early in the last century. Now a dinner-only restaurant, Alchemy has three different seating areas, as well as an open-air, second-floor terrace. When Robinson shows me around the restaurant, I sense that the arrangement of “rooms” allows diners to feel they are in an intimate setting, not a restaurant that seats over 150 people. Meanwhile, though its lighting is modern, the restaurant retains the ambiance of the building’s history in its dark wood accents, and chairs upholstered in navy leather.

There are about 170 wines on the menu, with a generous amount of by-the-glass as well as half bottle offerings. And, at the insistence of owner Todd Dagres, who took over in 2018, the prices are accessible for both glass and bottle. Robinson says he gives her “glorious freedom” to order wines throughout the year.

Robinson feels she has earned the trust of her loyal clientele, which spills over to newcomers. “The people who have been coming here for years know me so well,” she says, adding that many get hugs on arrival. “The feeling also envelopes new customers. When I go over to a new table, I try to maintain the same rapport, and let them know they can trust me.”

If someone loves a certain wine, she says she doesn’t attempt to change their mind. However, if she senses an opening, she’ll talk persuasively to excite them about a wine they may not have considered from a different place, or with a slightly different blend of grapes.

For guests who are traditional consumers of Bordeaux or California reds, she may introduce them to Il Seggio from Poggio al Tesoro, Marilisa Allegrini’s winery in Italy’s coastal Bolgheri region, since the wine is made with a similar blend: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Robinson is also excited to communicate about different white wine styles such as the great, bone-dry Rieslings from Germany; or the “ripe tomato” taste she finds in Sauvignon Blancs from Italy’s Collio region.

Her most fun challenge is in pairing wines from her list with dishes that reflect the seasonal foods from Martha’s Vineyard. Chef Christopher Stam is inspired by the cultures and culinary styles of Italy, France and Spain, but he gives each a unique twist with a touch of Vineyard tradition.

Alchemy sources its ingredients locally whenever possible, from vegetables and seafood to cheeses and meats. The restaurant also participates in “Fork to Pork,” a program on the island that sees scraps from restaurants taken to a local pig farmer, who then provides the venues with pork.

Robinson is all in with this concept, declaring “I love Martha’s Vineyard because it’s such a tight community. We have cultivated relationships with local farmers, fishermen, butchers. The local fishermen – we’re the first call they make when they come in with fresh fish. We love to support other people in the community, it’s a circle. And people know this about us.”

One final key element factors into Robinson’s choices on her program: “I never put anything on the wine list I wouldn’t like to drink,” she states. Words to live by… or drink by.


Poggio al Tesoro Il Seggio Bolgheri DOC

This classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot is from the prestigious Bolgheri region on the west coast of Italy. Robinson would recommend serving it to begin a meal on a chilly evening. And on any given night she would pair it with two of Alchemy’s dishes that combine meat and cheese: the “Fork to Pork” meatballs and rigatoni, and the Wagyu burger with Vermont cheddar.

Pieropan La Rocca, Soave Classico DOC

This revered white wine comes from one of the most well-known producers near Verona in northern Italy. The grapes are 100 percent Garganega, grown in a certified organic vineyard. Robinson would serve this either before or with a meal on any warm day. She recommends pairing the Soave with shellfish or “a nice rich fish preparation,” she says, which at Alchemy means the grilled asparagus and Jonah crab salad, or the halibut with risotto.

Alternative places to try: Water Street Grill in Woods Hole and Tiger Ramen in Falmouth.

Photography ©Alchemy

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