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Oct 07

Wine Shop Wednesday: Stocking and Shelving

This is the one several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David's posts will appear on Wednesdays.

In my last post, I stopped right as we had applied for our license and had started contacting wine distributors.

The fun was really beginning. We were tasting wine in preparation for stocking the store. I had already ordered our wine racks and since they had been delayed by several weeks, I figured we would be delayed in getting things going. Well, we got the liquor license in the mail just a couple of weeks after the final hoop had been jumped, surprise!

The racks are still not here we have just begun sampling wine. The holiday season is still several months away, so no sweat. We also needed to come up with a logo, cards and a sign. We had decided on a name: the building sits right across the street from Mt Washington’s iconic art deco water tower, so of course we should call our store Water Tower Fine Wines. We contacted a graphic designer, who proposed several concepts and we gave our input. It took three more visits and three weeks until they finally produced the drawing that I had asked for after the first meeting. We had our logo and business card design.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com The fun part was actually anything but … I am not saying that sampling all of those wines was not fun, in fact, that part was great. The hard part was the the decisions I had to make. After all, I couldn't buy every wine I liked! The obvious reason, money, was a factor, but space was also a major piece of the puzzle. I had planned to open with 400-500 wines, and I really tried to stay within that number, but there were just too many good wines out there and some of the distributors got to me after I had already filled the bulk of my slots. I could not help myself, I had to buy more. The remaining distributors got fewer orders and yes there are wines I wanted to buy, but did not. I hope to bring some of them in the future. Even with a little self restraint, I still ended up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 wines.

I ordered the wines and set the deliveries for the week before we planned to open. I figured this would be plenty of time. Wrong. We had scheduled to host a fundraiser at our house the Sunday before we were to open. Just a little more pressure, no problem.

The deliveries were a special joy all to themselves. I had ordered three bottles of each wine selected, so there were many split cases with three bottles of four different wines each. Each and every bottle needs to be checked in and at least one of the distributors could not seem to get all three bottles of the same wine in one case! At least when this wine came in the salesman came in and helped check the wine in.

Once all the wine was in the store, we had to hand price every bottle, plan out the racks and place the wines. I had rack space for about 480 different wines and almost seven hundred different wines. So I had to run out and get metal racks to hold the overflow. We were working to get wines shelved until we opened our doors and actually had four cases still not priced or on display.

image from farm3.static.flickr.com
During our first week being open, we have had multiple sales each day even though we have done no promotion. Our computerized cash register and inventory system is still at least a week away from being installed, but we have been able limp along with a cash register left by the previous owners. This has a lot of work, more than I anticipated at the outset.  Having to select a large number of wines at once to stock a store is difficult. I ended up caving to my desire to have a lot of neat wines and thus have more wine in the store than I had intended. Hopefully our customers appreciate the unique selection.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:00 am in Guest Writers, Wine Shop Wednesday, Wine Shops | Permalink | Comments (3)
Sep 30

Wine Shop Wednesday: Planning

This is the first of several recurring posts from David Lazarus about the intricacies of opening and running a wine shop. David's posts will appear on Wednesdays.

Last week my wife and I realized a portion of a dream we have nursed for the past ten years or so. We opened our very own wine store! If you had asked me ten years ago what it would be like to accomplish this I would have said just order the wine, load up the racks and open your doors. I probably would have said the same thing as recently as 4 months ago. Now that we have done it, I can say that it is far from that easy and some of the tasks that I thought would be easiest turned out to be the hardest.

We started our journey roughly four months ago, after an attempt to buy an existing wine store fell through. Our first hurdle was finding a location. We had several ideas and contacted a real estate agent who investigated several properties, which found were either not available or way too expensive. The agent made several suggestions none of which appealed to us. Then my wife suggested we investigate a building five minutes from our home, which had been empty for several months. The building had lots of charm and was located in near the Mt Washington business district. It had off street parking, a small commercial kitchen and spaces perfectly suited for a retail store and a wine bar. It was perfect.

image from farm4.static.flickr.com

We started negotiations and quickly came to an impasse, as the owner was unwilling to budge much on price. We had several choices at this point: we could start looking again or we could meet his price. We spent a week or so looking at several other properties in the area, but found nothing as suitable and ready to go as the building on which we had made the offer. We decided that it would make sense to spend a little more money than we had intended so that we could be open in time for the holiday season. We felt that since so little needed to be done to the building in Mt Washington, we would save money in the long run, by not having to do many improvements and being able to open sooner.  We were right on the second point anyway. The building, which we ended up buying, had a few warts. It needed a new roof and box gutters, cha ching! It needed new heating and cooling, cha ching!

The next challenge was transferring the liquor license from its previous owner. There were many hoops to jump through, not mention the hefty check to purchase the license itself and the fee to the attorney who brokered the deal. We also had pre-inspections by the health department (mostly because the license we were buying was a restaurant license), the building department, the police and last but not least, liquor control. We survived all of these with only a few scrapes. We had a few minor tasks we had to get done before final inspection. A couple of weeks later, we were ready and scheduled the follow-up inspections, which we passed with flying colors. Hooray! Now we had to wait for Columbus to process the transfer and mail us the license. We thought this might take several weeks and began making contact with the various wine distributors in anticipation of getting our license.

Tune in next Wednesday for the process involved in selecting the wines.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 1:24 pm in Guest Writers, Wine Shop Wednesday, Wine Shops | Permalink | Comments (1)
Jul 10

Guest Post: When You Wish Upon a Grape: Disney-Related Wines

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Tom Streeter and Carla Gesell-Streeter
, who are dear friends and like me, they are fellow Disney addicts. Tom & Carla run the popular blog Hoperatives.com, a
Cincinnati based beer blog aimed at Believers in Better Beer (In Cincinnati
and Beyond), but they love wine too. Thanks Tom & Carla – and happy anniversary!


love Disney and we love wine (almost as much as beer).  For the longest time, we’ve been
wanting to have friends over for a themed wine tasting.  There are three great Disney-related
wines out there. All are from California, appropriately enough, though each is
produced in a different part of the state.  These wines are frequently featured at restaurants at Walt
Disney World, Disneyland and on the Disney Cruise ships and most are also
available in the Cincinnati area.

Silverado Vineyards:
Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, California

Image Credit: Joe Shiabotnick

by Diane Disney Miller (Walt’s daughter) and her husband Ron Miller (former
president and CEO of Walt Disney Productions), Silverado was established in
1981. The Millers purchased
existing vineyards and originally intended only to grow grapes, but decided to
build their own winery a few years after purchasing the land. The winery was
designed by architect Dick Keith and is reminiscent of the old California mission-style
structures found in the area. The
name comes from a nearby abandoned silver mine.

Current winemaker Jonathan Emmerich produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon,
and some special limited reserve wines. 
Prices begin at about $20.00 a bottle.

Fess Parker Winery: Los
Olivos, California

Image Credit: Spencer Cross

Fess Parker was an actor who is famous for playing the original Disney Davy Crockett. (He also starred in Old Yeller.) Fess Parker is no longer westerns and coonskin caps, however. His name is increasingly associated more with his wines. Much like the Millers of Silverado, Fess Parker and his family originally
intended only to have a small vineyard and source grapes to local producers. They quickly added not only a winery,
but also an inn. Son Eli Parker
started as an assistant winemaker, moved into the position of winemaker in 1995,
and now serves as President. Daughter Ashley Parker Snider started running the tastings and now handles the public relations, marketing and
sales.  Blair Fox is the current
head winemaker.

Fess Parker produces produces Reisling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir,
Syrah as well as several red table wines. Prices start at about $12.00 a

MacMurray Ranch: Russian
River Valley of Sonoma County, California

Photo from winery web site

playing everyone’s favorite dad on My Three Sons, actor Fred MacMurray starred in several
Disney live action films including The Shaggy Dog, The Absent-Minded
, and The Happiest Millionaire.  In 1941, the actor purchased land near Healdsburg, which became MacMurray Ranch, from descendants of the tract’s original 1846

Susan Doyle has been the MacMurray Ranch winemaker for more than fifteen
harvests.  The MacMurray vineyards
specialize in Pinot grapes so the wines produced are Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.  Prices start at about $18.00 a bottle.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Disney, Guest Writers, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (2)
Jul 09

Guest Post: An Italian Wine Primer, Part 2

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome back Kevin Keith, continuing his post from last week.


Welcome back, it’s Kevin Keith, your friendly neighborhood
wino from Liquor Direct, back with more Italian primer – this time we
take a brisk walk through the Italian wine landscape, starting at the top of
the boot, with the tiny region of the Valle d’Aosta.

Image Credit

Valle d’Aosta is
the smallest of the Italian wine regions, bordering Switzerland to the north,
France to the west, and Piedmont to the south and east.  An ancient growing region, grapes have
been cultivated since the Roman days, with around 22 varieties authorized for
growing, including Picotener (the local name for Nebbiolo), Neyret, Vien de
Nus, Fumin, Mayolet, Prie Route, Petit Rouge, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), Gamay,
Dolcetto and Syrah for the reds, and Moscato Bianco (also called Moscat de
Chambave), Pinot Grigio (also known as Malvoisie), Blanc de Morgex, Prie Blanc,
Muller-Thurgau, Chardonnay and Petit Arvine.  There are no DOCG wines from this area.

Piedmont means
“at the foot of the mountains.” 
This region is by far one of the most recognized regions in Italy.  It is the second largest region and has
the most DOC wines (over 40) and DOCG wines (7).  Most of the production of wine originates in the heart of
Piedmont, the Po River Valley. 
Here you will find Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Moscato
d’Asti.  The first three I
mentioned are all made with the Nebbiolo grape, and the last mentioned is from
the ancient Muscat grape.  Dolcetto
and Barbera are also widely planted red varieties, as well as Freisa,
Grignolino and Brachetto.  The most
popular white grape is the Cortese, used for the DOCG wine, Gavi.  Arneis (nicknamed the “white Barolo”)
and Erbaluce di Caluso are also grown. 
Another important wine product produced here is Vermouth, made with at
least 70% wine, and fortified and flavored with various roots, spices, herbs
and wood – this is what is known as an “Aromatic” wine.

Lombardy sits in
the semi-circle created by the Alps that enclose Italy to the north.  The mountainous north and the flat Po
River Valley in the south define the topography of the growing regions, which
are divided into three:  the
Valtellina in the North, the Oltrepo Pavese in the southwest, and the
Franciacorta in the east. 
Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca, is the primary red grape grown
in the Valtellina.  The Oltrepo
Pavese is known primarily for Pinot Nero. 
And the greatest sparkling wines from Italy come from the Franciacorta,
and is derived from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and/or Pinot Nero.

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Guest Writers, History, Knowledge | Permalink | Comments (1)
Jul 08

Guest Post: A Culinary Tour of St. Louis (or, where the locals eat)

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Kara Christopher
, who has been a close friend for countless years.  Like me, Kara started blogging around the turn of the century. It's been a while! Kara lives in St. Louis and is, without a doubt, a foodie. She's also a foodie on a mission to get healthy, although you wouldn't know it from the culinary tour on which she's about to take you. St. Louis is a fun weekend trip – I've done it – and I highly recommend eating where the locals eat. Thanks Kara!

While Shel is away in the wilds of Alaska, allow me to take you on a brief culinary tour of St. Louis. These are some of my favorite places, not necessarily the ones you'd be told to visit if you were in town for a weekend. Until now, at least.

I should probably tell you who I am, though. I'm Kara & I've been blogging about life, knitting, and everything else for a little over 5 years at StarMonkeybrass.com. The name is a play on the Beastie Boys Brass Monkey & came about because I like monkeys. I am a knitter, music geek, graduate student in biostatistics, and I like to eat. When I travel, I don't want to eat at chains, at least not ones that I can also eat at in St. Louis.

So let's say you find yourself in St. Louis for a weekend and you'd like a little guidance on where to eat. If you happen to be driving up from the south, I'd recommend a stop at Dexter BBQ for lunch. There are several locations, but the one in Cape Girardeau is about a mile off the highway and probably the easiest to find. I heartily recommend the sammich with slaw on it. *Drool*

Best Fries EVER.

Once you get into town and settle in on Friday night, you're gonna be hungry. I'm sending you to the Highway 61 Roadhouse & Kitchen in Webster Groves. Let's be completely honest: you're here for the fries. The Roadhouse Fries. They are a masterpiece in the world of potato products: waffle fries covered in pulled pork, a creamy cheese sauce, applewood smoked bacon, and scallions. And this is just the appetizer. I can recommend the burgers & pulled pork as entrees if you're feeling traditional. I love a good burger & the folks in the kitchen definitely know how to make one. I'd also recommend going with a side other than the fries since you just gorged on the ones in the appetizer. For a side, I'm a fan of the sweet potato pie. As tempting as it is to order the banana pudding for dessert, don't do it. You'll get dessert in about 20 minutes.

Once you've recovered from the pork-tastic goodness at Roadhouse, head back to Southwest City and stop off at Ted Drewes. There are two locations, but the original is on Chippewa. It's legendary around here and a Friday night is going to be busy. But it's so worth it – I swear they have the best banana split in St. Louis, although the concretes are what most people go for. My favorites are the Hawaiian & the All Shook Up (peanut butter cups & bananas).

YIP 45.365 Ted Drewes

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Dinner and Drinks, Food and Drink, Guest Writers, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)

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