A few years ago, Sarah and Rich Piepenburg stumbled upon a store in Chicago that sold gourmet olive oils. Since the couple loved going to California’s wine country and sampling various vineyards’ products—including vinegars and olive oils—they were inspired to bring that experience to the Twin Cities. Since they opened up shop in 2009 on 5006 Xerxes Avenue S in Minneapolis, a number of similar stores have sprouted up throughout the greater Twin Cities area. However, if you’re looking for unique olive oils and vinegars from small family growers around the world, as opposed to products from just one large company, your best bet is probably Vinaigrette.
A visit to the shop is a pleasure in itself, as row upon tidy row of stainless steel drums are filled with olive oil from Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Greece and California. Vinaigrette also carries fused extra virgin olive oils in flavors ranging from porcini mushroom to lemon, grape seed oil, and aged or flavored balsamic vinegars. All of Vinaigrette’s oils and vinegars can be sampled in the store, with small chunks of bread for dipping. Rich Piepenburg states, “Find what you like—there’s a little bit of everything.” He adds, “The whole point of our store is to taste. We bottle it for you right then and there: bottles range from wine bottle-size, 750 milliliters, to a 1.7 ounce, which is kind of fun.”
The staff is friendly and well-versed in recipe ideas for every product in the shop. Want to spruce up your next martini? Try balsamic vinegar. Or drizzle chocolate or pear balsamic over vanilla ice cream. A number of recipes can be found through the store’s website, and many of those come from Vinaigrette’s own foodie customer base. Many of those recipes are fairly simple, but even if you’re all thumbs in the kitchen, balsamic vinegar and olive oil sets also make perfect hostess gifts. Piepenburg hints, “The consumables are always a good gift, and wine can kind of get lost in the shuffle.” Soy candles, imported Italian chocolates and olive oil-based lotions and soaps are also available for purchase.
In the future, the Piepenburgs are hoping to add Australian and French olive oil, local honey, and mustard. However, their biggest investment continues to be with their staff. “The biggest thing in any business that sets them apart is people,” Piepenburg begins. “We are in the process of having people come in—all people from the neighborhood—and we just really want to invest in them and train them, so you have the same experience [whenever] you come in.”
Rich & Sarah Piepenburg
5006 Xerxes Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55410