Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to Start Your Own Wine Shop - Part II

Part II of our interview with Alyssa Becker, owner of Brooklyn wine shop, Donna Da Vine.

SwirlSavvy: When did you open the shop?

Alyssa: We opened halloween of 2008. I couldn't have picked a better day of the year. People love to let loose and enjoy themselves on Halloween and my neighborhood is so great about coming together and enjoying as a community. For our 1 yr anniversary this year we'll be having a killer tasting to mark the occassion.

SS: What were some of the initial challenges?

A: The hardest part for me was getting the liquor license. It's a long process and you never know until your finally called before the commission, about a 6-8month process(and that's a conservative estimate) whether or not they'll grant you a license. It's a nerve wracking situation...but lucky for me people on the commission saw my vision and knew that I would be an asset to the neighborhood and granted me my wine license. THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SS: What's challenging now?

I think what's always a challenge for me is sticking to that initial vision. When customers come in they have all kinds of special requests, suggestions...etc, and I love to hear them because it helps me give them what they need. But the hardest part of my job day in and day out is staying true to my vision, my taste (which is really off the beaten track-and what brought the customers into my shop in the first place) and balancing that with what customers really want and what makes them happy. Every day it's a juggling act, but with 400+ frequent buyers on my list it seems like I'm making it work. And I hope to continue to keep that balance between the wines I love and the needs of my customers.

SS: What do you like best about running a neighborhood wine shop?

A: What else...the neighborhood, and the people in it. I love knowing pretty much every customer that walks in the store- their kids names, their dogs names and what the last bottle of wine they purchased was . I grew up in brooklyn and I've chosen to raise my family here in Boerum Hill - I love being an integral part of the neighborhood and sharing my first love with the people who live here.

SS: If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

A: Nothing else worth matter what I would have found a way to do this.

SS: How many hours a week do you work?

A: 24/7. Owning your own place is beyond a full time job, Even if I'm not at the store- I'm out tasting wine, updating our website or placing orders with my distributors (usually while I'm trying to entertain my 5 month old). But I wouldn't have it any other way.

SS: What advice do you have for others who dream of owning their own wine shop?

A: Patience is key when starting your own business...especially a wine shop. It's a lengthy process so don't lose faith. And drink a lot of good wine along the way.

1 comment:

John said...

When starting your own wine shop, one of the things that needs to be taken care of is the wine license, for them to cleanly start selling one. Other than the license, just like starting up a restaurant, loans are usually made, to smoothly finance the establishment. Usually for small businesses, credit card financing is the common method used for business owners.

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

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