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Sep 25, 2010 02:13 PM


A small wine shop opened nearby a few months ago. It’s great for the neighborhood and very convenient. It’s tiny though, smaller than a one-car garage. Prices for most bottles are in the $10-20 range, with most $12-16.

On the positive side, the owners are enthusiastic, helpful, and explain their wines. The interior and displays are pleasant. The owners follow their own drummer in selection: no mass producers here. Small wineries I’d never heard of.

Of course, their selection is small. I estimate about a dozen reds and dozen whites with a couple of roses and sparklers to round out things.

It is a curious selection. Only one French red (Bordeaux) and one French white (Muscadet). Maybe one or two Californians. Germany, Australia, Argentina, and New York State are the bulk of their offerings. A couple of Italians and S. Africans.

While admirable that they are following their own tastes, I am finding their tastes don’t line up well with mine. I’ve had a couple of truly good whites, but honestly I personally find something missing, or peculiar, in many of their offerings. Or, let’s say I can find much better $12 wines in another store a bit further away.

Should a store offer some wines a bit outside the taste preferences of its owners? I wonder what experienced wine drinkers would make of the place. I will continue to patronize them, and want to see them do well, but wonder if it would be appropriate to talk to them about their selection.

And perhaps I need to give them more time in business before squawking too much!

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  1. I like the idea of a wine shop selling only wines that the owners think are good.

    If your tastes don't align with them then go elsewhere. Those followers of wines from places that other stores don't offer much choice on will no doubt find this place perfect.

    1. Agree with the comment by GF. These owners obviously have an emotional investment in addition to a financial one. And, I assume, they are authentically selling wines they favor rather than selling what they don't like. If that business model fails them, I'm sure they will adjust.

      Little places like that shop aren't destination stores. They will need to rely heavily on repeat business from the neighborhood. I bet if you asked them if they could bring in one or two labels that you particularly like, they would do so. That's a win-win from my perspective. You don't have to travel far, and they keep your business.

      1. I agree with Brad B. If you don't make your desires known to them, they can't read your mind. Sounds like perhaps they've started out with their own personal favorites, but being a young business, I'll bet they're planning to expand their selections based upon (at least some of) the requests of their neighbors/customers.

        1. This is a tough call. On one hand, they have their tastes, and you indicate that they know "their" wines. However, they are in business to sell wines.

          Still, I hope that they stay true to themselves, and will prosper, rather than sellout to the lowest common denominator. I have seen some similar shops go well, and some fail.

          Here's to their vision!


          1 Reply
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Yes, here's to their vision but only 12 bottles? One Bordeaux and a Muscadet? How can they expect to build even a niche clientele? This is not a business, but an eccentric hobby. I marvel at and support at smaller shops that have a clearly assertive and intelligent point of view, but the best of them should be able to accommodate a reasonable range of tastes and budgets. I'm thinking of one now where you could see the logic of the choices--I happened to be comfortable with most of them, but there were still bottles that spoke to the vision that I think anyone could enjoy trying. Honestly, how can they be taken seriously as knowledgeable wine lovers--much less sellers---with this meagre cabinet on display?

          2. No idea what their rent might be but it would be very difficult to imagine a successful retail wine business based on 25-30 wines................. no matter who selected them. Perhaps they're just testing the water at first to see what reactions they get? Is that really all they sell in the shop???

            When I owned my shop I never bought ANYTHING I didn't think was "good"............... or at least a good representation of a grape or varietal I thought there would be a market for. Feedback should be something they'd want, provided it's done constructively and with good reasoning behind it. "Squawking" sounds negative. That small a selection doesn't give them much room to experiment......... or ANY for that matter.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Midlife

              Just FYI, here is a rundown of the 10 current reds:

              Italo Petrontonj Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007 13.95
              Gunn Estate Pinot Noir, Central Otao, NZ 2008 16.95
              Bouke’ Red Blend 2007, N. Fork of Long Island 21.95
              Warwick “The First Lady” Cabernet Sauv. 2008, S. Africa, 17.95
              Alma Mora Malbec, San Juan, Argentina 2008 12.95
              BOE Social Club Red, N. Fork of Long Island 15.95
              Hugh Hamilton “Jim Jim” Shiraz 2008 McLaren Vale, Australia 13.95
              Alverdi Sangiovese Rubicione 2008 “Old School Italian 8.95, also magnums 14.95
              Chateau Brun Labrie Bordeaux AOC 2008 11.95
              Tunquelen Malbec 2004, Mendoza, Argentina 14.95

              1. re: comestible

                I'm in California and there are probably 25,000+ wineries (just a guess) distributing wine in the US, so it's not all that unusual that I've never heard of a single one of those wines. As long as they meet the local consumer's needs that's not really relevant at all.

                Regardless of that, though, I still don't get a business model based on 25 or so <$20 wines. They've got to sell a whole lot of each of those just to pay the utility bill. Of course, carrying good but unknown wines does allow a shop to make a higher profit margin than if the customer can price compare.