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.
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.
Friends of ours, David & Jan Lazarus, have opened a new wine shop over in Mt Washington (sort of between Riverbend and Anderson). Water Tower Fine Wines will be hosting wine tastings on Friday nights, with regular and premium tastings.
Tastings will be Fridays, 5:30-8:30 pm, and will cost $15 for 6 wines. For more information, call the shop at 513.231.WINE. Tastings begin this Thursday!
Additionally, David will be a recurring guest writer for us, with some inside tidbits on what it's like to open and own a wine shop, as well as occasional wine reviews.
Full disclosure: Kevin & I are handling the web site for the shop (site currently under construction), but it's mostly out of friendliness (I believe we're being paid in things such as wine).
For those new to the blog, occasionally my husband Kevin chimes in with beer and spirits posts. Since I'm not a sake fan, he's covering that as well, including our recent trip to a sake maker in Vancouver.
On our recent vacation to the northwest, one of the places Michelle, Steven (my younger brother) and I went to was Osake Artisan Sake Maker on Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia. I had not heard of Osake sake prior to arriving at the hotel and reading through Where magazine. Osake is reported to have been the first sake made in Canada. Armed with that knowledge and a rough idea of where we were going, we took left out of our hotel, walked down Jervis street to Sunset Beach where we picked up the Water Taxi to Granville Island.
On Granville Island, we explored the amazing Public Market before heading to the Artisan Sake shop. The sake tasting area is next to the tanks used to by the distillers which adds a nice level of ambiance to the tasting. Steven and Michelle were able to sit at the street-facing bar and people watch while I delved into the tasting. All sakes were served cold and there were 5 different types of sake available, the two premiums were $2 each and a flight of the 3 entry levels was $5. (All prices in Canadian dollars.)
I started with the Ginjo Genshu. The use of Ginjo means that 40% of the rice was ground away and only the remaining center was used in the distilling of the sake. Genshu means the sake was undiluted and can pack a slight punch.
The Genshu was a filtered sake resulting in a clear drink that had a lot of plum sauce characteristics. This was awarded a spot in the top 100 wines of 2008 by the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition. Overall I liked the well rounded flavor and sweetness. Michelle also tolerated this one (she's not a sake fan) and we paid it the highest compliment any traveler can give on a trip: we bought a bottle. At $25 for a 375 mL bottle, this was expensive but worth the price and hassle of bringing it home with us.
Second was the Ginjo Nigori. Nigori implies cloudy due to no filtration done once the sake is made. This has a chewier texture, as expected in a nigori sake, and a nice long bitter finish. In comparison to other nigori sake, my thought is that this one had a touch more ripe melon flavors and less creaminess. Once again, I enjoyed the overall experience, while Steven and Michelle were slightly less thrilled. Once again $25 a bottle is reasonable pricing for the small batch quailty sake. Both ginjos were aged for 1 year in bottle, while the junmai were aged 2 to 3 months.
I ended with a flight of the three entry level (junmai) sakes. For junmai, 30% of the rice is milled away and no alchohal is added in the process of creating the sake. The first I treid was Junmai Nama Genshu which was a nice entry level sake and at $35 for a 750 mL bottle is once again a very nice value. The main flavors were along the papaya and graininess expected. I thought the ginjo had a more vibrant plum flavor, but this would also have paired well with a lean steak or a rick meat like duck.
Second in the flight was Junmai Nama which seemed to have higher acid. The slight lime flavor and very little creaminess made me think grilled shrimp would be a very nice food pairing. In comparison to the others, this was probably my least favorite, but still ranks as a nice entry. At $27 for 750 mL, the quality/value ratio is there, but not at the same level as the other options.
Finally, I tried the Junmai Nama Nigori, which had a very nice melon flavor from start to finish. This one costs $29 for 750 mL and is again a nice value for sipping. This was the "ricey-est" of all the sakes due to the nigori style and was closest to what I have tried in the past.
For each of these three, my review is a .
Overall, the trip to Granville Island was worth it just for seeing a sake house. Luckily the small batch products that were created were enjoyable. Sadly, they did not have an open bottle of their sparkling sake, which I would have loved to try. $24 a bottle was a little high to buy without first trying it, but it is still on my list to try when I return to Granville Island, as we do hope to return to Vancouver.
We're about to brave the possibly inclement weather and head to Kinkead Ridge, Meranda-Nixon, and Harmony Hill for the day. Cross your fingers that the rain holds off for us.
Before we leave, I want to tell everyone about a new tasting that Party Town has added. It's on Tuesday evenings from 6-8 6-7 pm. This is in addition to their popular Saturday/Sunday tastings and their Friday night beer events.
I was told that soon, these Tuesday night tastings will become wine and food pairing events. They're starting off small, gauging interest. Since I know we all want these to evolve into pairing events, please go!
As always, wine tastings at Party Town are free!
Party Town is located at 6823 Burlington Pike, Florence, KY, right off Turfway Road. I'll see you there!
On Friday and Saturday this week, I'll be hosting a tasting at Liquor Direct.
On Friday, you'll find me at the Covington store and on Saturday, I'll
be at Fort Thomas. My theme, of sorts, is Spring Wines (or perhaps,
Wines That Remind Me of Spring). All week I"ll be posting the tasting
notes for some of the wines I'll have on my table. Come out to the
tasting this weekend – I'd love to see you and the tasting is free!
So, because some of my choices weren't available, we're only going to have one red wine on the table this weekend (but a lot of great whites). If you scorn reds, that's okay. Mike will have a whole slew of them on his table at the opposite store.
Our lone red for this tasting is the Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. I think a Pinot is perfect year round, but because it's not as heavy of a red as say a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel, Pinot Noir is a pretty good choice for Spring as well.
Back in January, I got to meet Adam Lazarre, former winemaker for Hahn, at The Party Source. I was instantly smitten with the man and his wines, so it was a no-brainer to put one of his amazing Pinot Noirs on my table.
Here are my notes for this particular Pinot from that Party Source event:
So it's a sexy Pinot, and I bet you'll enjoy it. I hope to see you this weekend!
Don't forget to buy tickets for the 2nd Annual
Krystal Pepper Memorial Scholarship Dinner & Silent Auction. It's
April 18, 6-10 pm. Buy Tickets Now.
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