Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Start Your Own Wine Shop - Part I

Do you dream of owning your own neighborhood wine shop where you know all the customers by name and can pick out the perfect bottle for them because you know their tastes. The picture is completed by your chocolate labrador lounging peacefully behind the front desk. Learn what it really takes to turn that dream into reality with SwirlSavvy's two-part interview with Alyssa Becker, owner of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn wine shop, Donna Da Vine.

SwirlSavvy: What did you do before starting a wine shop?

Alyssa: Believe it or not I was a corporate bond trader on wall street for 4 years and then went to work for Bloomberg's financial technology firm for 8 yrs. I didn't really take the most direct route to opening a shop, but I'm not going to lie, being surrounded by a couple of thousand bottles of wine is a heck of a lot more fun.

SS:What's the philosophy or style of Donna Da Vine?

A: I'm all about small production, unusual wines. Strange grapes...off the beaten path regions....vineyards no ones ever heard of ... wines with production of less than 100 cases..if it's something funky and delicious I'll bring it in. Of course I'll always carry a chilean sauvignon blanc, or a california cab, but my babies are the diamonds in the rough...the dark horses of the wine world that most people don't know about. That's where my heart lies.

SS: How did it get that name?

A: I was looking to name the shop after my mom, donna, since she was the one who inspired me to really go out and do something I loved for a living. And my husband came up with donna da vine because it means woman of the vine in italian...we thought it was fitting.

SS: What kind of wine experience did you have before starting your own shop?

A: I have come to wine in kind of a roundabout way. I took my first wine class for my 21st birthday with a man named Willie Gluckstern ("the wine avenger") and I fell in love...with wine,not Wilile :). From that point on every opportunity I had for a vacation meant me traveling to a wine region to taste(everywhere from tuscany to tasmania). I took classes at the IWC ( certificate and advanced cert classes), took classes at UC davis, moonlighted evenings and weekends at a wine shop on the upper east side and at vineyards in napa and sonoma. I was fortunate enough to befriend some winemakers from the barossa who allowed me to work part of harvest with them, as well as with some fine people out in california. I did this all while working a full time job. When my mom passed away 2002 it was the catalyst for me to leave wall street and make my love my profession.


John said...

Thanks for sharing your tips! Now I'm pretty confident on starting my own system. I'm actually thinking of starting a business with my friends. We did a little brainstorming for the business, loans, equipments, the permit and all the other necessary stuff. For the equipment, I suggested that we look for a firm that gives unsecured loans with good perks.

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How to Pick a Summer Wine: The Gentler, Lighter Side of Wine

Summer’s soaring temps beg you to step away from heavy Cabernets and check out the gentler, lighter side of wine. When choosing the perfect summer wine for your outdoor engagement party or wedding, think light, crisp, refreshing--and because people tend to drink more in the heat--lower in alcohol. Nothing more prettily suggests summer than a dry (i.e. not sweet) rose. Avoid the simple, syrupy versions and try French roses from the Mourvèdre grape or roses made using the Saignee method for more complexity. Pick wines from countries where you imagine the locals sipping leisurely at sidewalk cafés while basking in the sun, like Spain. A Spanish fave is Albarino from the Rias Baixas region. Made to drink young, Albarino is a crisp, white wine with intense fruit, lively acidity and generally a lower level of alcohol. It pairs perfectly with summer foods from seafood to grilled vegetables. But you don’t need to swear off red wine for summer. Look for light bodied wines like Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Valpolicella from Italy, both capable of standing up to barbequed foods. And don’t be afraid to put a slight chill on your red wine. It is summer after all!

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain, “Exceptional with Everything” Oh Really?

There's nothing we love more than a challenge. It's in our makeup. We're two women, thirties. One Indian. One Filipina. The first, founder and CEO of a business in the arguably male-dominated wine world. The second, building experience to be a future proprietess of a wine store. Add to this: In New York City. So when presented with the opportunity to play wine and food critic for a night—to pair Rías Baixas Albariño wines, proclaimed to be "exceptional with everything" with Mercat’s offerings —it is impossible and simply against every ounce of who we are, to refuse.

Mercat means “market” in Catalan, the language of the northern Spanish region where owner, Jaime Reixach, is from and where the restaurant’s menu draws its inspiration. The albariños we’ll be drinking also originate from the northern region, and so we’re already anticipating more perfect wine pairings than tragic mismatches.

It’s a beautiful warm Thursday night—and we are tasting two Albariño wines: Alba Rosa from Martinez Serrantes and Pazo San Mauro, both 2006 vintages. We take our time with each wine—assessing them alone and then side by side. At the end, we agree that both are delightful: the Alba Rosa is sparkling with surprising depth while the Pazo San Mauro would bring life to our springtime picnic. Further, we imagine that if each wine were to be personified, they might just be these two ladies, described as such:

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"

Alba Rosa Martinez Serantes Albariño | Scarlett Johansson: "Sparkling with surprising depth"
This golden blonde hued wine gives an almost effervescent quality that shoots racy brightness into your mouth. It has the usual grassiness and citrus qualities one expects from this wine. The reason why this wine fits Scarlett most is because it has the quality of lightness but comes with surprising depth of character and fullness in body. The comparison would be perfect were the wine to show great legs, but its light-bodied, lower alcohol nature doesn’t allow it.

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”

Pazo San Mauro Albariño | Cameron Diaz: “Livens up your springtime picnic”
Cameron would be a fun addition to any springtime outing. Her lightheartedness would make everyone smile and this wine does the same. The light yellow straw color gives way to granny smith apples, peaches, melon, and citrus scents that jump at your nose, smelling like springtime in a glass. This wine begs to be explored further. The crisp and pleasantly tart apple is balanced with pear and makes it the perfect brunch wine.
Now, we move on to the heart of our challenge: Exceptional with everything? Oh really? How do these two beauties handle themselves in company? After the three and a half hours of glorious sipping, chewing, and chatting, among ourselves and the restaurant staff, here are our findings:

No surprise, our lovely wines get along splendidly with their classic and traditional partners: we have raves for the nicely seasoned patatas bravas—not too spicy, not too garlicky—and the padrones/blistered shishito peppers, the char and oil offset by the tartness of the wines. One of us goes wild for the Canelons de Verdura/eggplant wrapped spring vegetables, manchego, and cranberry reduction. And then Chef Lowder sends over Trencat d’Ous/mushroom with salsa verde topped with a fried egg, which again, goes splendidly with our wines. Even the suckling pig/Cochinillo, which we think will surely clash, in fact becomes the surprise of the evening. Like the beauty and the beast, our wines and the pig make an unlikely but harmonious pair.

We ask ourselves for the last time: Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with Everything?

If not for being the gluttonous bottomless pits that we are, we would certainly have answered YES with an exclamation point. But since we order those two desserts—Torrades Sta. Teresa/fried bread with lemon yogurt and Pa Amb Oli Xocolata/bread, olive oil, and chocolate, our answer must be: Almost. These two desserts with our two Albariños — are disastrous.

Rías Baixas Albariño from Spain: Exceptional with almost Everything.

--Anu Karwa and Marie Estrada

Visit http://www.riasbaixaswines.com for more info on Rías Baixas Albariños from Spain

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