What is thought to be the first wine bar in Wales is raising a toast to a special vintage.
The highly-popular Gales of Llangollen is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
The anniversary also marks a 40-year association between Richard Gale and his friend and accountant, Michael Coxey, of Coxeys in Wrexham.
It was back in 1977 that Gales Wine Bar in Llangollen opened its doors for the first time in one of the Denbighshire tourist town’s most historic buildings.
Richard, now 70, recalled he founded Gales – which also has a hotel, a wine and gift shop along with cottages to let – as the result of a joke.
He said: “Back in the 1970s I was working as a marketing manager for a big tissue manufacturer.
“I was based on Wrexham Industrial Estate, but I used to have regular meetings in the south of England with a fellow manager who also lived in Llangollen and became a very good friend.
“We used to meet up at a wine bar in Windsor and often shared a nice bottle of Muscadet.
“One day he joked that I seemed to like the wine bar idea so much that I ought to start my own – and he told me he knew just the place to do it.
“That turned out to be the cellar of a property in Bridge Street, Llangollen.”
He continued: “I went to have a look at it and decided it wasn’t suitable for our requirements, but the building opposite was just right and happened to be up for sale at a good price.”
Richard, who is originally from Dorset, added: “We opened up the wine bar in a building which has its origins in the 13th century and was rebuilt in 1775. As the Lion Inn it was one of the hostelries which for hundreds of years served the needs of travellers taking the road from London to Dublin. Eventually, in the 19th century, the inn became an ironmongers shop.
“When my wife Gillie, who then did all the cooking, and I took over we did the conversion work ourselves and I lost two stone in weight because I was working so hard.
“I recall on the night before we opened being down on my knees scrubbing and polishing the floor.
“In the early years we worked ridiculously long hours, seven days a week, but it’s all been worth it and I’ve enjoyed myself very much.
“Although I still come in seven days a week to help out, my son Pip is now in charge and Gillie runs the wine and gift shop next door to the wine bar.”
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