Size of store: 320 sq feet, possibly the smallest in Manhattan [66 West Broadway; Tribeca]
Style of selections: well-edited! My version of the well-stocked wine closet: including daily essentials, quirky finds, and higher end treasures. Selection skews toward the Southern Hemisphere.
price average: 50% of stock is $20 or less
A cool bottle: “Syrocco” Syrah 2006 (Zenata, Morocco) – eye-rolling aside at the clever, rhyming name, the wine is a great value at $16.99. Alain Graillot of Northern Rhone fame is the man behind this project.
Date store opened: December 14th, 2007
Position on proposed reform to allow food stores to sell wine: There’s a Whole Foods around the corner, so the possibility that this will pass, combined with the current economic environment does worry me. Prior to opening my wine store, I ran the national business for several wine brands, so I understand that independent wine/liquor stores can co-exist with large, corporate grocery chains that also sell wine. However, given the current economic environment, this is probably not the best time to test the entrepreneurial spirit of the existing independent retail base to adjust to a drastically changed regulatory landscape. What I find interesting about this proposal is that the benefit (or possible lack of benefit) to the consumer barely enters into the discussion. The proposal was issued as a way to raise state funding, and as such, I think the financials need to be given real, detailed scrutiny.
I’ve seen top-line numbers from both sides, but the devil is in the details – and the only detail I have seen is the written testimony submitted by Whole Foods on 11/30/07 in preparation for last year’s budget (found herein pdf). I hope that unlike the scenario in that document, the State’s calculations take the negative consequences of existing store closures into account. I hope that “700 full-time-equivalent jobs” are enough to off-set the jobs lost due to those closings. And I hope that if passed, the actual franchise fee per location isn’t actually 10% – 0.2% of location sales for small stores ($500K or less per year) and only 0.05% – 0.06% of sales for the largest stores.
My suspicion, although I welcome hard numbers that firmly indicate otherwise, is that this plan will transfer wine sales from small, local retailers to large, corporate chain grocery stores at the time when these retailers have the least chance of success to successfully adjust their business models.
What you might do differently if passed : I already focus on smaller, boutique brands and offer a very high level of service. Ideally, the legislation would allow me to sell high-end beer and a small selection of gourmet goods – without turning myself into a full-on grocery If a grocery store gets to tag wine onto their existing business model, I should think I should have the opportunity to tag beer and cheese onto mine.
And if grocery stores are now allowed to sell wine in multiple locations under the same corporate license, shouldn’t wine stores be given the same ability to gain scale and compete? I’d love to see Frankly Wines logos in locations across the city….I bet I can pick up some old Starbucks leases on the cheap…if only I could find the funding.
Buying crudité and rosé at the same time might help New York solve its budgetary woes. Or so Governor Paterson thinks.
That’s why he has proposed to allow food stores to sell wine, a subject we discussed the day the idea was floated. To recap the budgetary logic, he proposed to more than double the excise tax on wine and increase the points of sale beyond the 2,400 wine and liquor stores in the state and allow the 19,000 grocery stores to sell wine. The Governor’s office estimates that it will bring in an additional $150 million over three years, presumably from new store license fees and excise taxes rather than an increase in overall purchases. The deficit for next year alone is forecast to be $15 billion.
Shortly after I moved to New York State from Chicago four years ago, I was looking for a supermarket wine for a story and wondered where you found “supermarket wine” in New York. The answer is epitomized in this store I saw the other day, which we can call “Wines & Liqu” since that’s the only part of the neon sign that was illuminated. It’s these stores, uninspiring package stores, that don’t much invest in human capital and stock high-volume brands that will be most threatened by the impending change.
But alongside the Wines & Liqu stores are thriving boutiques that is probably the best concentration of wine stores in the universe. Read more…
“Rampant price discounting in the wine industry means 2009 will be party time for wine drinkers while winemakers will be left with the hangover.”
Low prices! Party time! Love it! Oh, wait, that quote actually came from New Zealand’s stuff.co.nz and was referring to a “massive harvests” in Australia and New Zealand.
Here in the US, it may be a different story. Restaurants, many of which have seen a sharp decline in their business, seem to be doing a lot to attract diners, as Frank Bruni detailed on Wednesday in the Times. This includes cutting wine prices, which in many cases, certainly had plenty of room to come down. To the tape: “Wine discounts, waived corkage fees or wine lists showcasing less expensive bottles can be found in Midtown at Alto and the Modern, where bottles under $50 appear in the Bar Room as “wines for our times”; in TriBeCa at Capsouto Frères; and in Greenwich Village at Perry St., owned by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.”
A story in Wednesday’s LA Times suggests that New Zealand’s party time may even have arrived on the West Coast. Patrick Comiskey writes that there’s a “mini-boom for wine lovers” and describes “a buyer’s market for retailers and consumers alike.” But much of what the article describes sounds like smaller retailers stocking more wines at lower price points although some larger stores are using their heft to extract deals from wholesalers “whose warehouses are full of inventory accumulated in better days and who are striking deals to move it out.”
Here in New York, it doesn’t seem like “party time” has made it to stores. Sure, there are a few across-the-board sales in January and February, such as Moore Brothers 10% off everything and Crush Wine & Spirits 25% of whites one week and then reds. But these types of sales happen after the holiday binge every year, the same as case discounts at some retailers. Some stores seem to be offering more selective sales either through a store card or special clearance items. And there’s a stream of emails announcing one or two selections–sometimes more–of fine wine that have become available, perhaps from a distributor, perhaps from a collector. But to get the most for your wine dollar, it seems you have to be opportunistic and well informed and discounting is far from “rampant.”
What’s happening near you? Is it deal or no deal? And if you live outside the US, be sure to share your thoughts too.
“I used to say that the shop was 400 square feet,” Christy Frank told me when I visited her in her downtown wine shop, Frankly Wines, last week. “But it’s actually closer to 350.”
The diminutive shop at 66 West Broadway has a selection that skews toward wines from the Southern Hemisphere and wines under $20. But perhaps the most distinctive feature of the shop is what might well be the world’s largest cork board made entirely from corks pulled from wine bottles.
Christy says that the covered portion of the wall, approximately six feet by eight feet, has about 15,000 corks affixed with wood glue. It took a total of 30 hours of labor to adhere them all. The original inspiration was to tastefully cover a fusebox but it grew to cover the whole wall.
The amount of corks that she actually pulled herself is a relatively small, she told me gesticulating at a small corner of the space. Instead the bulk of the corks came from purchases on eBay where she said there is a thriving market for corks.
Christy says that kids love the tactile nature of the wall and some have written their initials on the corks. Take that Facebook: people can write on Christy’s real wall.
Cara, who runs the green room (or whatever that waiting room is called) for Fox Business, asked me a great wine question when I was on the station in December. Instead of asking me for a specific wine that she might or might not be able to actually find, she asked me for on how to get the most out of wine. Nice! Context! You know I love that.
So I asked her whether she meant actually consuming wine or finding wine. She said both. So here’s what I said:
1. Spend a little extra on good stemware! You don’t have to break the bank since, undoubtedly, the glasses themselves will break at some point. But they can elevate modest wines and do fine wines the appropriate justice. Ravescroft has some good crystal stems starting at $10. And our house staple, as I’ve written before, is the Tritan Forte, which is “impact resistant” thanks to titanium infused in the lead-free crystal.
2. Find a good independent wine shop! You can read all you want about great sounding wines on blogs or in the paper but unless you can actually try the wines, your fun is severely limited. Work with an articulate member of the staff to find wines that you like.
You can read more about these suggestions–and more!–in my new book A Year of Wine: Perfect Pairing, Great Buys, and What to Sip for Each Season. If Cara asked you for your top two general wine tips, what would you tell her?
Also, the first segment I did on Fox Business over the holidays has just unearthed from the great video vault somewhere (although the poor audio and video quality makes it look like I was in a witness relocation program). “Enjoy!”
On a trip this past summer, my family and I got stranded in Chicago overnight because of airline delays. We called a friend who was able to take us in when the airline would not; she put us up even though the delay was entirely their fault (canceled flight). So we decided to make dinner for our friend and I was dispatched to the nearest shopping center where I knew I would get the food at Trader Joe’s. But what about the wine?
Somewhat surprisingly for a suburb with $96,552 median household income, there didn’t appear to be an independent wine shop for miles. But Trader Joe’s sells wine in Illinois stores. And there was another choice: Wine Styles, a franchise wine store wedged in between a karate space and a day spa. I went to both to see what I could find. Read more…
A couple of weekends ago, I attended the grand re-opening of Wine Connection in Pound Ridge, NY. Max Marinucci moved his store to a handsome, custom-built facility and it was an amazing tasting by any measure. There were about six Barolos available from producers that ran the modern-traditional axis, E. Pira, G. Mascarello, G. Conterno, and Sandrone among others. They also poured the 2004 Hudelot Noellat Richebourg (about $259; find this wine), and several current release Bordeaux. Then there was the amazing 1985 Leoville Las Cases (about $379; find this wine), whose aroma was so enticing with tannins were smooth as silk.
And the price for this tasting? Free.
In this tough economy, even seeking solace in a wine glass can still cost a lot. But there is one place where you can still taste fine wine for free: New York wine stores. Granted, you’re standing up and the pours are sometimes barely enough to cover the bottom of the glass, but they are a great opportunity for broadening your tasting experience–as well as talking with some interesting people who are usually doing the pouring.
While there are many silly (separate entrances for separate licenses) and annoying (not being able to to sell cheese in a wine shop nor wine in a food shop) aspects of New York wine retail laws, the free tasting is a definite boon for consumers. Stores can’t charge for tasting since that would be profiting from the sale of liquor on-premises, which requires a different license. Other states have different rules about in-store pourings and they are not always free, but are often a good value. (Sadly, one place where free tastings may someday be illegal is the little-known wine country called France.)
And the downturn in the economy means that some shops are eagerly pouring wines (or, technically, having the distributor reps pour the wines) to attract foot traffic. So check out your local retailers and see what’s on the calendar. Here’s my map of my favorite NYC wine shops.
TO: wine shop managers and their webmasters
FROM: Dr. Vino
RE: adding importer information to e-shops
I was surfing the sites of a few online wine retailers today looking for some specific imported wines when I should have been working. Some of the sites generated other imported wines suggestions that sounded good but I hadn’t heard of the producers. Since you already list tons of information about the wine including the producer, region, vintage, possibly grape variety, and a critic’s opinion, how hard would it be to add a field to list the importer as well? I, for one, would be more likely to throw a bottle in my virtual shopping cart if I knew it was from one of my favorite importers. If I am in a shop I can look at the back label, which provides that info, but not online…