Five years ago, when Richard "Gus" Gusler bought Raleigh's oldest tavern, The Players' Retreat—fondly called the PR—beer and white zinfandel filled the sports bar menu, but not for long.
"I went in and threw out all of the white zinfandel," Gusler says, "and we still don't have it."
What he does have, however, is almost everything else, so much, in fact, that Wine Spectator recently awarded The Players' Retreat an Award of Excellence for its lengthy wine list. The bar boasts more than 100 different wine varieties, ranging from Mumm Split Champagne ($7) to Chateau-Lynch Bages Bordeaux ($210), and 65 (24 white, 41 red) by-the-glass options.
"It surprises a lot of people," Gusler says about the wine, but the surprise doesn't end there. Gusler, who refers to himself a "scotch fanatic," has extended the spirits menu, too. With 66 varieties of scotch, The PR now contains the largest collection of single malt scotch in the state.
The menu may seem random. Across from the oldest part of N.C. State's campus, The Players' Retreat took its name nearly 60 years ago from the actors it drew from State's Thompson Theatre, not Wolfpack athletes. Today it has a reputation for burgers, beer and sports. For Gusler, however, the bar is the culmination of many of his passions. His connection to the PR extends to 1971, when, as a senior at State, he worked in the restaurant's kitchen.
For fellow wine or scotch fans, Gusler provides ample ways to taste the bar's offerings. A membership to the PR's Scotch Club, which costs $250, entitles you to half-shots of 48 of the 66 scotches in stock. And there are three options for Wine Club memberships: $200 for a half glass of all 45 available wines; $150 for half glasses of the reds; and $75 for half glasses of the white wines, minus, of course, white zinfandel.