A couple of months ago, we had a discussion about what makes a great, independent wine shop. Here’s a bit more about one of excellent example of a neighborhood shop: Thirst Wine Merchants in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Michael Yarmark, born in New York, moved to San Francisco where he did a Masters in English literature at SF State. While living in the Bay Area, he met Emilia Valencia, who was working front-of-house at a restaurant. Together, they came to know the wines of Steve Edmunds who makes wines from Rhone varieties under the Edmunds St. John label in the East Bay. They eventually discovered the retail shop for the importer Kermit Lynch, which Michael describes as a turning point in their wine journey that led them to seek natural wines from independent winemakers.
Moving back to New York, Michael got a job as a sales manager for a book publisher while Emilia continued working in restaurants, including at Franny’s in Park Slope. Michael says that they liked shopping for wine at many of New York’s independent shops–and a handsome display of the corks they pulled while living in NYC attests to that diversity. Michael says, “it represents our thirst and our quest.” But they wanted something closer to their home in Fort Greene.
So in December 2006, they opened Thirst Wine Merchant. The 500 sq ft store stocks about 500 different wines, all with a natural bent, onto curved shelves made of biofiber (wheat) and sustainably harvested birch. The well-curated selection, strong in wines from the Loire, Burgundy and Italy, features many wines from Kermit Lynch as well as other importers and some domestic wines.
If you stop by the store, you’re likely to meet Michael or Emilia since they only have one full-time employee. When I stopped by last month, Michael was there and a $13 natural chardonnay from the Languedoc was being poured in the store. Prices are reasonable, especially with 5% off six bottles and 15% off case purchases. They also ship but don’t have inventory on their website. You can check it out in person or on my map of NYC wine shops.
Store info and photos after the jump: Read more…
Key players in Albany are seeking to break the impasse over wine retailing reform in New York State according to one retailer who was contacted.
Daniel Posner, managing partner at Grapes the Wine Company in White Plains, NY, tweeted about the new proposal. Reached for comment, he says that he received a call today from legislative negotiators floating these new proposals. Two calls to Albany were not returned.
According to Posner, the new proposal would offer existing retailers two “medallions,” requisite to maintain or obtain a license for wine retailing. The first medallion would be for their existing store. Shop owners could do what they wish with the second, including use it to obtain a license on a second store as the current ban on owning multiple licenses would be lifted. They could also sell it to another party, including a supermarket, to apply for a wine retail license.
This would effectively cap the number of new licenses to only double the amount of existing stores, currently 2,400 in the state. This medallion period would be a transition of three years before the market was further liberalized, phasing out the medallions.
“I think it’s hard for current shop owners to refuse this,” said Posner.
“The new proposal gives three years when a retailer could (a) open another store, (b) sell it to a supermarket and profit or (c) sit on it and wait,” he said. “They’re giving plenty of time for stores to react.”
Eric Asimov has a long piece in today’s NYT about small wine shops. He highlights a number of local, independent shops mostly around New York City. If you are familiar with our map of NYC wine shops, then you knew about virtually every store in his story already! I’d also highlight Le Vigne, which is a good, new shop that didn’t get mentioned. I’ve also recently discovered UVA Wines in Brooklyn, which has an excellent selection of wines from the Loire and Burgundy. Thirst Merchants in Fort Greene also merits a shout-out since they have a lot of the hard-to-find wines from the portfolio of importer Kermit Lynch. Hit the comments with faves in your area.
I love a good, small wine shop. When people ask me to recommend a wine, I often tell them that the best practical advice I can give them is to find a great, small shop near them. Read more…
I got a few wines from Astor Wine & Spirits in Greenwich Village via UPS the other day. When I opened the box, there was no Styrofoam. There weren’t any cardboard inserts. Instead, each bottle was wrapped in an inflatable plastic sleeve. It was the first time I’d seen this.
Styrofoam is popular with retailers and wineries shipping wine because it cradles and insulates the bottles. While it is ultralight, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the shipment, it essentially never biodegrades. I always try to bring my Styro shippers back to a store so that they can be used again before their life taking up space in a landfill. One store, Grapes the Wine Company, actually includes a pre-paid label so consumers can return the empty box back to the store via Fedex for reuse and a store credit. Corrugated cardboard inserts are recyclable but they are quite heavy, increasing the carbon footprint. Pulp inserts are light and biodegradable.
The plastic sleeves that Astor uses, branded as Air-Paq, are both light and recyclable (though they are resin code 7, which many municipalities don’t recycle). Their staff inserts the bottles in the sleeve, then use a gizmo to inject the air and seal the sleeve (you can see a scintillating demo video here).
Reached via email, Andrew Fisher, owner of Astor, pointed out that it is much more space-efficient in their shipping area than Styrofoam, since there is just a plastic roll and a compressor. He elaborated, “Since Astor produces its own electricity and recaptures the waste heat to provide heating and cooling for our space, it seemed both incongruous and inconsistent to cling to Styrofoam shipping materials.”
Each bottle rests in an independent sleeve from the others so it can also be separated and used again for your wine travel needs. Or, if you have two boys like us, they each can put them on a hand and have a sword fight!
New York legislators are considering a shift to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets–and wine stores to sell gourmet cheese, cigars, beer and even have ATMs. To find out how small shops can even exist in such an environment, we turn to three “mom & pop” shops in three of the 35 states that currently allow such competition. Click through for tales from The Bottle Shop in Wilmette, IL, Wine Authorities in Durham, NC, and Wine Expo in Santa Monica, CA. To their thoughts, after the jump! Read more…
Have you ever been in a New York wine store and thought there was something missing? Maybe gourmet cheese? Gift bags? Cigars? No, no–an ATM!
Well, if you’ve ever thought that then you will like Governor Paterson’s latest proposal to allow wine sales in food stores. He tried it last year but the measure was poorly thought out since it just focused on the grocery stores selling wine and not what would happen to current wine and spirits stores. Ultimately, it met resistance, and was dropped.
But it has been re-animated this budgetary year and this time the governor is trying to mollify the opposition by allowing wine stores to also sell Read more…
After three years of very rapid growth — placing it among the top 15 fastest growing private companies in the SF Bay area from 2006 to 2008, Vinfolio experienced a much more difficult sales environment during 2009. A few weeks ago, we found ourselves in need of additional capital on a very near-term basis. The company investigated several options but new capital could not be obtained on a necessarily compressed timetable. Because of the situation, and to safeguard the interests of our customers and creditors (including for wine purchases, wine sales, and wine stored with Vinfolio), the board of directors and the shareholders of Vinfolio approved and undertook a form of restructuring known as an Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors (the “Assignment”) on Friday evening, January 15, to provide the business with the flexibility to develop the appropriate course of action going forward.
The San Francisco-based company had just raised $4.5 million in September, they said to fund an expansion in Asia. According to the same article, the company, founded in 2003, had raised $6.1 million in previous rounds of financing (both debt and equity).
The company sources fine wine from collectors, wineries and has an importer’s license. Their other offerings include VinCellar, a system for wine inventory management, both on computers and as an iPhone app. The company also has 17,000 square feet of temperature-controlled storage for customers. Last July, the company launched VinFolio Marketplace, an online marketplace where not only wineries and importers could list wines for sale, but individual collectors could sell wines from their collection to one another. When launched, the company proclaimed that it enabled “access to the $500+ million in wine” making it the “world’s largest fine wine marketplace.” At the time of launch, in any given Marketplace transaction, the seller incurred a fee but the buyer did not.
In his post, Bachmann said that operations will continue during Assignment, a state-level insolvency measure. But in the eBob forum, several commenters on eBob debated whether collectors with wine in storage should arrange for immediate pick-up of their wines.
Back in 2008, the prediction about 2009 was that wine consumers would opt for less expensive wine or stop drinking wine in favor of beer, vodka or shoju (actually, nobody said shoju).
So now that the book is closed on 2009, how did your wine buying and consuming change, if at all? Did you deplete your existing stock? Only buy wines on closeout? More dining at home? Hittin’ the Carlo Rossi?
Have your say in the poll and comments.