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[DFW-Plano] Tony's Old Tactics Move To Plano?


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Mark Stuerz in the Dallas Observer reports that some of the controversal tactics used at Tony's Wine Warehouse when it was owned by Michel Monzain are surfacing at Premier Wines of Plano, lead by some of Monzain's former staff. See the related discussion in the Wine forum and the discussion on the new Tony's here in the Texas forum.

..., a couple of former Tony's employees led by instructor James Winkler have moved up north, birthing Premier Wines of Plano at the corner of Parker and Preston roads. And Premier seems to have pulled at least one page from the Tony's playbook. Posted on eBay May 29 is a wine-tasting class for 35 featuring "Classic Wines From Europe" valued at $1,350. For a June 25 Chris Ward dinner at Mercury Grill benefiting the Greyhound Adoption League of Texas, Premier donated a group wine tasting valued $1,000.

We'll see....

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Moderator's Note: I have received an email from someone reporting their experiences at both Tony's and Premier. While I am not going to pass on information I have received in an email, this individual has been invited to join the Society and take part in the discusion.

Has anyone had an opportunity to visit Premier, take a class or just take a look at what they have available, the facility and their pricing for classes and wine? Is their marketing and pricing similar to or different than Tony's?

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Any pricing variances found to normal retail?

I visited Premier recently. Attractive space with some of the furniture on loan from a furniture store. Surprisingly small inventory, or so it seemed from what I could see.

They had Piper-Heidsieck Champagne (Brut) at the highest price I have seen...$59+! It runs $27 at Costco and in the mid $30s at some wine shops. There may be some good deals in there, but this was not one of them.

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Nothing to report. The place was nearly empty, and I was not there for long. The only person working there was occupied with a couple of people tasting wine, but I have no idea what was said.

Perhaps someone else will report their experiences.

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I have been both to Tony's Wine Warehouse & Premier. I went to a Wine Tasting Class at Tony's a little over a year ago (prior to the November Observor article). I do remember them saying all the nonsense in that article but I had a short rude French man in our class that kept telling us to be quiet and "act like we were in church". My hostess was so embarrassed. I bought a bottle of peach champagne there at Tony's and it was $ 37.00. I know you probably think I am stupid for paying that but they assured me it was a private label. After I read that observer article I emailed the winery - of course it was a different label but not a different product from what sells all over town for about $ 15.00.

I was invited to a Wine Tasting at Premier back in June. Asthetically as Richard mentioned in his post - Premier is very attractive inside. A really pretty place with a huge fountain and neat furniture. I was in the first classroom - Richard they have a storage area in the back where the bulk of wine is stored. In the class they talked about differences between the grape varietals, how to order wine in a restaurant. They never mentioned anything about deep roots. And imagine my suprise when I saw Peach Champagne $ 24.00 LESS than what I paid for it at Tony's. I did buy some wine from them and when I was standing in line I heard one of the other guests ask the gentlemen behind the counter - "Are you affiliated with Tony's?". He said "No - we are not affiliated with them. They are 25 miles south of us and from what I understand they have a new owner. I wish them all the luck."

So - I have been hearing all these radio adds on WRR about Tony's so even though it was out of my way I went down there. They had been advertising Silver Oak Napa at $ 78.00. Of course when I tried to purchase one they didn't have any. The store is definately alot cleaner than before but it looks too empty now. I looked around at their prices and they are alot lower than before but the peach champagne was still about $ 9.00 more per bottle than what Premier sells it for. I haven't been invited back there for a class since their new ownership - I hope someone on this forum will post that has been to a recent class at Tony's.

I just know that if I was going to host an event for my business clients - I would have to say I would rather do it at Premier because the ambience and facility is so much nicer - there is alot more room to mingle. It just seems a shame that the Dallas Observer has tried to link the two businesses together. It seems to me that the former employees of Tony's that went to open Premier probably did so because they did not like what Tony's was doing and they knew that they could do a better job which it appears they have. But again, I have not been to a class at Tony's since the new ownership.

Thanks for letting me participate in this discussion.

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Thanks for your report Alison. Just to clarify, I don't think anyone here (or in Mark Stuerz's Dallas Observer article), said that Premier was "affiliated" with Tony's. The questions about Premier continue because James at Premier is the James who was the lead salesperson at Tony's, so people naturally wonder if he's taking some or all of his old sales and pricing techniques with him. You may want to re-read the first Obsever article from last November.

All wine shops have to keep much of their inventory in a back storage area (hopefully air conditioned). But they have bottles in racks on display, and my observation was that they had a fairly limited selection. They may have had many cases in storage, of course, of what appeared to be a limited selection.

Although you paid less for Peach Champaigne than you did at Tony's, I believe that you paid at least 25% more at Premier than the going rate most other places.

While I expect that the physical setting at Premier would be an attractive place to take business clients and friends for a class, I don't think I would be doing them any great favors if they are buying wine at significantly higher prices (25% for Peach Champaigne and over 200% for the Piper-Heidsieck Champagne-Brut) than other places.

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Hello Richard - I hope you are doing well. I read your reply earlier. I stopped in Premier last night on the way home to get a bottle of Chardonnay so I looked at their Piper Heidseck Brut - I saw it was

$ 29.00 not $ 59.00 but I am sure they probably do not beat Costco on some items. As you mentioned earlier - I did re-read the original Observer article. It seems to me that the previous owner of Tony's - Michel Monzain was the one who set the prices not the salesman. Have you ever heard of a salesman setting a price in a store? I never have.

If you really think Premier's prices are 25% more how much more do you think Tony's prices are ? After all, Tony's has a Restaurant which involves a considerable amount of overhead. The price I paid for the Peach Champagne at Premier was less than I paid for it at Majestic and way less than Tony's. I am certain that different retailers offer different prices on the same item - no doubt about that. But as far as entertaining clients I would still take them to Premier rather than Tony's. I also pulled out my class sheet from Premier and the one I saved when I was at Tony's - No Contest. Premier's prices were so much better. I certainly hope the new owner of Tony's revamps everything - I just don't understand why he hasn't changed the name - it seems that would be the first thing to do.

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Thanks for your comments, Alison.

I am puzzled, however, that you ignore the obvious connection between the James Winkler who was at Tony's and the James Winkler at Premier. As far as I can tell this is the same James Winkler that Mark Stuerz describes in his first Dallas Observer article on Tony's last November, Sour Grapes.

Wine fermented and aged in French oak barrels tastes like mushrooms, Winkler says. Wine matured in American oak tastes like a campfire. The reason? In America, winery workers jump inside the barrels and scorch the sides to a thick char before they're filled with juice. In France, it all boils down to what the trees eat.

"The tree that produces this barrel grows up against every black and white truffle in the world," he explains. "When you cut this tree down, the tree has been feeding off these mushrooms for centuries. And when you cut the tree down, all of the oil that's in these truffles is inherently in this oak."

Hence, these barrels are expensive. Typically, a single 50-gallon French oak barrel costs between $35,000 and $65,000, Winkler says. Burnt American oak barrels carry a $30,000 price tag. Oak barrels coopered in Australia--produced from a French oak forest replica (Australia is the first country in the world to successfully replicate a French oak forest, according to Winkler)--cost roughly $40,000. This is why wines fermented and aged in oak aren't cheap. Presumably, it's also why Tony's wines aren't cheap.

None of this is true.

Follow the link above to Sour Grapes for more on why this is not true and what is. And another James Winkler quotable quote:

"Rating systems and books written about wine are kind of silly to me," Winkler says to his class. "I've read them all, I've studied them all."

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Personally Richard - I have sat in Jame's class at Premier and he never said any of those things quoted by Mark Stuertz. I find it hard to take seriously everything the Observer reports ( after all they have what can be considered risque advertising - massages etc.). The fact of the matter is that Tony's did engage in some of the practices Mr. Stuertz stated in his article - this I know because I have been there but the person I heard saying the quotes you mentioned above was the short rude french man our group had teaching the class. Besides that the Observer article also mentions a Jean Bernard and he is still working at Tony's. So whether it is the same James Winkler or not is irrelevant as he was not the one setting pricing or business pratices at Tony's it was the owner Mr. Monzain. I am certain Mr. Monzain probably instructed his teachers on what to say. Regardless - I sincerely hope that Tony's has really turned over a new leaf and I wish Premier all the luck as well. The group that I was with had a great time at Premier and we will be going back for another event for the Holidays. Their staff was friendly and courteous to us, the facility was nice.

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Personally Richard - I have sat in Jame's class at Premier and he never said any of those things quoted by Mark Stuertz. I find it hard to take seriously everything the Observer reports ( after all they have what can be considered risque advertising - massages etc.).  The fact of the matter is that Tony's did engage in some of the practices Mr. Stuertz stated in his article - this I know because I have been there but the person I heard saying the quotes you mentioned above was the short rude french man our group had teaching the class. Besides that the Observer article also mentions a Jean Bernard and he is still working at Tony's. So whether it is the same James Winkler or not is irrelevant as he was not the one setting pricing or business pratices at Tony's it was the owner Mr. Monzain.  I am certain Mr. Monzain probably instructed his teachers on what to say. Regardless - I sincerely hope that Tony's has really turned over a new leaf and I wish Premier all the luck as well.  The group that I was with had a great time at Premier and we will be going back for another event for the Holidays.  Their staff was friendly and courteous to us, the facility was nice.

Thanks for your comments, Alison. I am still puzzled. Let me make sure I am understanding your opinions on this.

On the one hand you object to Mark Stuerz raising a question about the practices at Premier Wines of Plano based on the fact that the James Winkler at Premier is the same James Winkler portrayed in his original report on Tony's when it was owned by Monzain...and on the other hand you question Mark Stuerz's journalistic competence and practices based on a class of advertising in the Dallas Observer. It is also your opinion that it is irrelevant whether or not James provided wildly inaccurate information in order to sell wine (and sometimes wine, errm, well past its prime) at extraordinarily high prices, because Mr. Monzain made him do it. Is this a fair portrayal of your positions?

While newspapers do make errors, despite armies of editors, fact-checkers and corporate attorneys, they also typically are agreeable to publishing a correction for even minor errors when it is pointed out to them. Since I have not seen a correction, or a new story in the Observer elaborating on your view that it was a case of mistaken identity, we are pretty much left with the impression that either James did not ask for a correction or that he did, but the Observer stands by its story. Perhaps you could ask James if he has simply asked for a correction.

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Thank you for your comments Richard. First off, I am NOT questioning Mark Stuertz' abilities. I read the arcticle he published in November - it was a well researched article. My points are simple - I did not take a class at Tony's conducted by James Winkler; therefore I cannot say he said those things in his class. I did however take a class conducted by a short rude frenchman who did say the things Mr. Stuertz mentioned in his article. I did take a class by James at Premier which none of those things mentioned in the Obersver were mentioned at all. So again, my point is the intructors at the "old" Tony's obviously were saying what the previous owner Mr. Monzain told them to say. The subject of this post is have Tony's old tactics moved to Plano - obviously they have not. My other point is the salesmen at the old Tony's did not set the pricing nor did they order the product for the store - the owner did. I do not think a personal attack on a salesman is appropriate when they are not responsible for either the product or the prices. Obviously James quit Tony's because he didn't want to be part of that anymore. Please do not twist my words to suit your own agenda. Perhaps you should take a class at the new Tony's and one at Premier.

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Thank you for your comments Richard. First off, I am NOT questioning Mark Stuertz' abilities.  I read the arcticle he published in November - it was a well researched article. My points are simple - I did not take a class at Tony's conducted by James Winkler; therefore I cannot say he said those things in his class.  I did however take a class conducted by a short rude frenchman who did say the things Mr. Stuertz mentioned in his article.  I did take a class by James at Premier which none of those things mentioned in the Obersver were mentioned at all. So again, my point is the intructors at the "old" Tony's obviously were saying what the previous owner Mr. Monzain told them to say.  The subject of this post is have Tony's old tactics moved to Plano - obviously they have not. My other point is the salesmen at the old Tony's did not set the pricing nor did they order the product for the store - the owner did. I do not think a personal attack on a salesman is appropriate when they are not responsible for either the product or the prices.  Obviously James quit Tony's because he didn't want to be part of that anymore. Please do not twist my words to suit your own agenda. Perhaps you should take a class at the new Tony's and one at Premier.

Thanks again, Alison, but I am not sure in what way you see me as "twisting" your words. Today you say, "I am NOT questioning Mark Stuerz's abilities." But previously you said, "I find it hard to take seriously everything the Observer reports ( after all they have what can be considered risque advertising - massages etc.)," referring to his portrayal of James Winkler. That sounds to me like questioning the accuracy of his reporting. Maybe I am missing something.

While I am still puzzled about your position on all this and your strong defense of Premier, James Winkler and the other salesmen who worked with Monzain I guess that it makes a certain kind of sense if you think that a salesman such as Mr. Winkler is not responsible for what they tell people about their products and what they sell to them. I think that other people, probably even most people, would see Mark Stuerz's article as "investigative journalism" rather than "a personal attack". And all anyone here has done is raise questions that the average, reasonable person might raise based on his articles.

You also say "Obviously James quit Tony's because he didn't want to be part of that anymore," referring to Mr. Monzain business practices. While that may be the case, how could you know such a thing? People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons.

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Has anyone else taken a wine class at the new Tony's or Premier? If so, please post a report in the appropriate topic.

Man Ive been by that place tons of times and once or twice when my girlfriend said she wanted to learn more about wines, we thought about it. Things kept coming up and we had to put it off, man, I am glad I read this before trying that.

And soon, this month, we are moving to Preston really close to the Premier, good heads up. Damn I love Egullet.

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