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Darrell Gibson

In your opinion, what defines a great wine shop?

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The lowest prices on in stock wine, futures and anything else. Longevity in the business if I am to have my money tied up for a number of years. The ability to act as a retailer for wines that i order from Importers or foreign makers and tack on a reasonable markup. All else is superficial.

That said, I do like to walk through Sam's in Chicago looking for gems. The prices are not usually the lowest but they do deliver futures at the agreed upon price.

Most retailers these days are only interested in selling you wine that they have purchased to realize the greatest profit margin. They could care less about the wine and what you like. -Dick

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Interesting thread given the location of the wine shop mentioned. I don't make a habit of heading up to that part of town on a regular basis, but I certainly would make a special trip up there to check the place out.

I'm "new" to wine. What I really need/want is "regular" everyday wine at an affordable price that I can buy today and drink "right away" along with the occassional need for a "special" wine. I'm still debating on whether I should get into "collecting" wine. (i.e. buying wine that should be laid down for several years before consuming).

I guess what would be important to ME for my needs would be a staff that could understand what me needs/wants were and help me meet them. I have a tiny bit of knowledge, but I'm sure I would mess something up. I don't want to be thought of as a fool for doing so. I also wouldn't want to be treated as a total rube and would hope to get suggestions that would make me more of an adventuresome wine drinker.

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If I'm going to become a devoted customer of a wine shop and use it for most of my purchasing:

1. I want to be able to call the store on the phone, say I need a case of white and a case of red for a party, at X price, give a very brief description of the food, and have a wine delivered that will make my guests say "This is so great!"

2. I want a manager to call me when a terrific wine that I'm going to like comes in.

3. I want the store owner to arrange vineyard visits for me when I travel.

4. I want to believe that my wine has been impeccably handled before I bought it.

5. I want to be able to ask for any wine and have the store bend over backwards to find it and get it for me.

6. I don't want loser reps from mass-market wine distributors standing around the store offering me tastes in specimen cups. The only tastes I want are of good wines, and the only people I want to deal with are ones who know what they're talking about.

7. I want Spiegelau glasses cheap, so I can break as many as I like.

There are also two things I don't need:

1. I don't need a huge selection. It's not relevant to me. I'm just as happy -- probably happier -- for a shop to have just one example of a particular region or whatever, provided I have confidence that the shop has already selected the best example for me. I mean, you take some big-ass wine shop that has four moderately priced Cotes-du-Rhone at the exact same price, yet the salesperson tells me one of them is clearly the best -- that just makes me want to know why the shop bothers stocking the other three. Why should I pay for the shop to be four times as big as it needs to be?

2. I don't need nice premises. My favorite wine shop, K&D on Madison Avenue between 95th and 96th Streets in Manhattan, is pretty much a dump. They fixed it up a little bit a couple of years ago but it still lags far behind the nice places (Sherry-Lehmann, Morrell) in appearance. But I've got to assume that means my favorite shop is paying less for real estate -- and I'm not interested in subsidizing any more real estate costs than are needed to house the wine I'm going to drink somewhere else.

Steven:

Have you checked out Moore Brothers New York yet? They definitely have everything but #5 of your wants covered, and #1 of your don't wants covered. It is a nice shop. Don't hold that against them.

Additionally, they will put you in the computer once you register and purchase some items and your portfolio of purchases is available to you online. You will always be able to look up what that lovely little Rhone blend you had was, even if you can't remember the name. You can keep notes on your purchases as well. An awesome customer service.

PM me if you need any other details on the place. Sounds right up your alley.

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If I'm going to become a devoted customer of a wine shop and use it for most of my purchasing:

1. I want to be able to call the store on the phone, say I need a case of white and a case of red for a party, at X price, give a very brief description of the food, and have a wine delivered that will make my guests say "This is so great!"

4. I want to believe that my wine has been impeccably handled before I bought it.

5. I want to be able to ask for any wine and have the store bend over backwards to find it and get it for me.

I don't consume wine at quite the culinary level of Steven, so here is my adjustment of his. Naturally, I will add a few that are important to me, too.

0. Being a hasher, carrying things other than wine is also important.

2. Stumbling distance from my house is handy.

3. Knowing something about food that doesn't come from mass media (Saveur, Cooking Light, Gourmet, Martha Stewart living...)

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If I'm going to become a devoted customer of a wine shop and use it for most of my purchasing:

1. I want to be able to call the store on the phone, say I need a case of white and a case of red for a party, at X price, give a very brief description of the food, and have a wine delivered that will make my guests say "This is so great!"

2. I want a manager to call me when a terrific wine that I'm going to like comes in.

3. I want the store owner to arrange vineyard visits for me when I travel.

4. I want to believe that my wine has been impeccably handled before I bought it.

5. I want to be able to ask for any wine and have the store bend over backwards to find it and get it for me.

6. I don't want loser reps from mass-market wine distributors standing around the store offering me tastes in specimen cups. The only tastes I want are of good wines, and the only people I want to deal with are ones who know what they're talking about.

7. I want Spiegelau glasses cheap, so I can break as many as I like.

There are also two things I don't need:

1. I don't need a huge selection. It's not relevant to me. I'm just as happy -- probably happier -- for a shop to have just one example of a particular region or whatever, provided I have confidence that the shop has already selected the best example for me. I mean, you take some big-ass wine shop that has four moderately priced Cotes-du-Rhone at the exact same price, yet the salesperson tells me one of them is clearly the best -- that just makes me want to know why the shop bothers stocking the other three. Why should I pay for the shop to be four times as big as it needs to be?

2. I don't need nice premises. My favorite wine shop, K&D on Madison Avenue between 95th and 96th Streets in Manhattan, is pretty much a dump. They fixed it up a little bit a couple of years ago but it still lags far behind the nice places (Sherry-Lehmann, Morrell) in appearance. But I've got to assume that means my favorite shop is paying less for real estate -- and I'm not interested in subsidizing any more real estate costs than are needed to house the wine I'm going to drink somewhere else.

Steven:

Have you checked out Moore Brothers New York yet? They definitely have everything but #5 of your wants covered, and #1 of your don't wants covered. It is a nice shop. Don't hold that against them.

Additionally, they will put you in the computer once you register and purchase some items and your portfolio of purchases is available to you online. You will always be able to look up what that lovely little Rhone blend you had was, even if you can't remember the name. You can keep notes on your purchases as well. An awesome customer service.

PM me if you need any other details on the place. Sounds right up your alley.

Moore Brothers is a very good and interesting wine shop.

I would recommend them to anyone.

However, their big plus is in the end a big minus as well.

Commendably, they offer "hand selected" wines but those wines are selected from a very small universe. If Greg Moore was selecting his inventory from the full breadth of wines available it would be one thing, however he is working mostly with wine makers from a very short list.

For eg their offerings of red Burgundy are limited to those of a few wine makers. Heavy Rion for eg.

Now Rion makes fine wines-- however, in any given vintage, I would question if a customer would be better served if their wine shop offered "hand selected" examples from a wider range of wine makers from a quality and a stylistic standpoint.

There are many consumers who would be perfectly happy with Moore brothers as their only wine shop--one can do infinitely worse. Ultimately, though, I feel their strong point is also a weak point.

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Thanks guys. I appreciate all the advice and opinions. Keep them coming! If you are looking for the name of the store that I'm in its called "Vin Classic Wines" in the "Shops at Legacy" in Plano Texas. Please stop by - I would love to meet with you.

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Thanks guys. I appreciate all the advice and opinions.  Keep them coming!  If you are looking for the name of the store that I'm in its called "Vin Classic Wines" in the "Shops at Legacy" in Plano Texas.  Please stop by - I would love to meet with you.

I also would add that the wine world is undergoing a dramatic shift.

Basically, the rapid emergence and growth of new wine producing areas and in different varietals and styles of wine made in the old areas has made it more difficult to pigeon hole or stereotype wines.

It is critical for wineshops and sales persons to understand each wine's flavor profile so they can meet customer's needs. What is in the bottle (glass) is as at least important as where the wine comes from. I recently tasted two wines from neighboring producers in Italy both from the same grape--the wines were dramatically different.

Consumers are also accessing information from an ever growing number of sources. Newspaper columns, critics and newsletters, blogs, magazines etc etc etc. Wine shops need to be able to use these resources to their benefit rather than complain about them.

Prices? If you are pricing fairly and competitively for your market then someone coming in with a better offer from the internet can be dealt with--for starters ask them if they factored in shipping and can the seller vouch for the provenence and storage conditions of the wine--trust someone five hundred miles away or someone who is your neighbor.....

Most importantly, every wine shop should have an idea of who they want to be and who their customer is.

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Thanks guys. I appreciate all the advice and opinions.  Keep them coming!  If you are looking for the name of the store that I'm in its called "Vin Classic Wines" in the "Shops at Legacy" in Plano Texas.  Please stop by - I would love to meet with you.

I see you are affiliated with the Sigels chain.


Edited by jsmeeker (log)

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There are also two things I don't need:

1. I don't need a huge selection. It's not relevant to me. I'm just as happy -- probably happier -- for a shop to have just one example of a particular region or whatever, provided I have confidence that the shop has already selected the best example for me. I mean, you take some big-ass wine shop that has four moderately priced Cotes-du-Rhone at the exact same price, yet the salesperson tells me one of them is clearly the best -- that just makes me want to know why the shop bothers stocking the other three. Why should I pay for the shop to be four times as big as it needs to be?

*******

This may be a good example of "it's hard to please all the people all the time." Since there are often subtle and not so subtle differences in bottles from the same region, and what is "best" is often a matter of personal taste, I prefer having some choices and doing some exploring. While I may ask the shop staff if one is better than the others (and they sometimes disagree among themselves), I more often ask them if they can describe the differences. For me, trying different wines from the same region is just part of my wine education, and a pleasure in itself.

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There are also two things I don't need:

1. I don't need a huge selection. It's not relevant to me. I'm just as happy -- probably happier -- for a shop to have just one example of a particular region or whatever, provided I have confidence that the shop has already selected the best example for me. I mean, you take some big-ass wine shop that has four moderately priced Cotes-du-Rhone at the exact same price, yet the salesperson tells me one of them is clearly the best -- that just makes me want to know why the shop bothers stocking the other three. Why should I pay for the shop to be four times as big as it needs to be?

*******

This may be a good example of "it's hard to please all the people all the time." Since there are often subtle and not so subtle differences in bottles from the same region, and what is "best" is often a matter of personal taste, I prefer having some choices and doing some exploring. While I may ask the shop staff if one is better than the others (and they sometimes disagree among themselves), I more often ask them if they can describe the differences. For me, trying different wines from the same region is just part of my wine education, and a pleasure in itself.

As I noted earlier in this thread, the size of the wine shop most often has little or nothing to do with pricing.

Cotes Du Rhone (and most every type of wine) are made in different styles. While one can certainly find a "typical" version, having a few different styles is IMOP not a bad thing for the customer.

A good salesperson needs to do two things--ascertain what type of wine the customer is most likely to enjoy and make appropriate recommendations. A good salesperson will, in most cases,

have more tasting experience and/or knowledge than the customer so their opinion as to what is "best" counts for something. However, in the end, it is what the customer will like that is of utmost importance. So the salesperson should offer personal opinion with supporting evidence and be able to describe differences between similar wines.

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This is a great thread, good points all around. I think that I agree most with the sentiment that what makes a wine shop great is pretty much the same as what makes ANY shop great. For me, customer service is the foundation on which businesses succeed or slip away due to a very powerful marketing tool: word of mouth. I will recommend shops whose staff is friendly, available without being over-bearing, and knows a lot about the product.

But one thing that wine stores have had to do to differentiate is something that requires extra work from the staff (at least where I live): offering an e-mail newsletter with picks, listing the latest inventory & sales and/or offer regular tasting in-store events. I haven't come across many shoe stores that have regular try-on events. Why do you think this is?

I venture to say it's because a few things:

1. The wine market is highly-saturated and producers/importers fund tastings to help their products stand out.

2. More importantly perhaps, I think tastins and e-mails are essential in establishing the merchant as a resource and building a relationship with customers on a personal level. With so many wine stores around, your choice to remain loyal to one will likely have a lot to do with the relationship.

I'd be interested to hear what others have to say about this piece of the biz.

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This is a great thread, good points all around. I think that I agree most with the sentiment that what makes a wine shop great is pretty much the same as what makes ANY shop great. For me, customer service is the foundation on which businesses succeed or slip away due to a very powerful marketing tool: word of mouth. I will recommend shops whose staff is friendly, available without being over-bearing, and knows a lot about the product.

But one thing that wine stores have had to do to differentiate is something that requires extra work from the staff (at least where I live): offering an e-mail newsletter with picks, listing the latest inventory & sales and/or offer regular tasting in-store events. I haven't come across many shoe stores that have regular try-on events. Why do you think this is?

I venture to say it's because a few things:

1. The wine market is highly-saturated and producers/importers fund tastings to help their products stand out.

2. More importantly perhaps, I think tastins and e-mails are essential in establishing the merchant as a resource and building a relationship with customers on a personal level. With so many wine stores around, your choice to remain loyal to one will likely have a lot to do with the relationship.

I'd be interested to hear what others have to say about this piece of the biz.

I am not sure how it is in Portland area as far as wine shops go.

Many wine shops on the East Coast have web sites with their inventories listed.

Also many wine shops around the country list much of their inventories on sites like wine searcher.com.

I would say that most shops in the NY area hold regular free wine tastings. These are often led by a representative from a distributor as opposed to an employee of the wine shop.

Also many shops hold off site wine dinners and tastings and many have on premise space devoted to tastings and dinners. Many do have newsletters and/or mailed catalogs.

Some wine shops are becoming involved in wine education and hold classes in wine appreciation etc.

You should check to see if Oregon has any local laws restricting on premise events/tastings.

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You should check to see if Oregon has any local laws restricting on premise events/tastings.

Most wine stores in Portland do have regular tasting events, I've "researched" this heavily.

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Take care even of the the kids buying $10 wines to impress their dates (and please stock a variety of good value $10-20 wines).

Bless your heart for bringing that up. ( this is coming from an unemployed college grad's perspective, FWIW) I frequent my current beer/wine shop (I confess, it's a Total Wine) over the others in the area for two reasons:

1) The staff are pretty clued in, at least as far as I'm able to tell, and offer suggestions that I'm consistently pleased with.

2) They carry LOTS of what, in most circles, would be considered "Cheap Wine" --in all frankness, I'm on a budget here. I'll be much more thrilled to find a tasty bottle that I manage to keep on hand, rather than something mind blowing that's Christmas-bonus type material (besides, everyone knows the Christmas bonus goes to Scotch :cool: ) now, I'm exaggerating some, but a staff and store that can take my low-ish price range and show me some overlooked gems get my undying appreciation.

Point number 1 is common sense; #2 I suppose depends on the segment of the market you're trying to hit.

Just a thought on the note of tastings, that store (maybe this goes for all TW locations?) seems to do its tastings based on the employee's feedback. I find that a bit more pleasing than having an event hosted by a distributor.

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