Bye Bye Business: When Wine Shops Go By the Wayside

There is an adorable little wine shop I’ve enjoyed frequenting that is shuttering its doors after over a decade of successful operations and scores of happy, loyal customers. Don’t let the word ‘adorable’ fool you into thinking I mean quaint, or “nice try, considering.” Oh no. Their variety and selection is among the best you’ll find at any boutique wine shop. Wines are racked properly, lighting and humidity are just right, all wines are organized excellently, and there are just enough cute gifty items to make it unique without being too hokey. The owners really know their stuff and have a very impressive selection of both local and international wines.

I recently read that they were closing at the end of the month. The owners are retiring and closing their doors. My first thought was, How selfish. After building up a great little business that’s helped revive a retail district in a small city, they decide to put a cork in it (no pun intended whatsoever). 😉 No mentions of selling it to someone else. Just gone. Poof. All that work, investment, wine, sweat, and tears, down the drain. A crime, to say the least.

Now, catch me under slightly different circumstances, I would totally love to plunk down an offer to buy it and rescue it. I’d be like a wine warrior princess kneeling with a sword lifted overheard and a “Teach me everything you know, masters!” look about me. Your business is too important to too many people and the community to see it vanish after all your hard work.

Unfortunately, and this may be what they ran into, who’s willing to put money into a retail business right now, even a successful one? If my work in the business community has taught me anything, it’s that retail stores are dying out right now, no thanks to things like Amazon, etc. It’s just a new reality that is forcing businesses to be more competitive and creative with how they sell their goods and services (however, restaurants are still opening, especially in areas zoned for restaurants and where other established restaurants have laid the foundation for a thriving restaurant district. Wine bars should be no exception).

However, if my work in the local business community has taught me anything, it’s also that there are more great resources out there to make business ownership possible than the average person is aware of. There are loans, grants, free advisors, business brokers, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. The resources are just sitting there, waiting to be used. And at this time right now, with small business creating a large percentage of jobs in America, we NEED for budding entrepreneurs to take advantage of these dynamite resources.

I don’t know. Perhaps the owners did explore these options. Maybe they are just so tired and ready to retire they said heck with it, and are just looking to liquidate and sell the space. Who knows.

Perhaps they don’t like the thought of selling their baby to another set of parents. It is theirs, after all; giving up your child must be hard to fathom. But wouldn’t you rather see your baby in the arms of safe, good, loving new parents? Even if they will raise it differently and it will turn out differently in part due to their nurture? Why would you let that stop you from fulfilling your legacy?

But I felt better when I read a letter to the editor on a blog. Someone wrote an urgent and frantic message, casting the net out into the community to see if anyone else wanted to go in with him on forming an LLC and saving this wine store. Thank you! I thought as I read to myself. I’m not the only one who is shocked to see this business go by the wayside. There is a critical mass out there who care dearly for this wine shop. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Under different circumstances, I would have loved to have bought this wine shop and started a chapter of my life having a successful wine business that means something to the community (especially when all the groundwork has been laid for you, what a break!). But I’m on a track right now I’m not ready to veer off of just yet. Does that mean I’m not entrepreneurial enough, not enough of a risk-taker? Maybe. You have to recognize and seize the opportunities when they come your way. Can’t overanalyze it too much. 

But it’s super disappointing to see a great creation vanish without a trace, simply because the owners are retiring. It’s a sin, really. I don’t know what to do about it, since it wasn’t a case of good-business-owners-who-did-great-and-tried-but-got-swallowed-live-by-recession-or-big-box-retailer-next-door. Because they still remained competitive… maybe not the lowest prices, but unparalleled selection, free tastings every Friday and Saturday, and the attention and familiarity that kept people coming back.

Not that it was the perfect business. I remember well a day where I went in, and, feeling like spending some money on nice wine, went in, moseyed around, and bought three lovely or curious bottles of wine for $60. A free tasting was happening next door, so I wandered over there with my brown bag of wine, sidled up to the bar and indicated I would like to do a tasting.

“We’re doing a fundraiser tasting today, so we’re asking for donations  today to raise money for blah blah blah,” one of the owners said. “Oh, that’s great,” I said. “But I haven’t got any cash on me.” I don’t remember his response very well after that, but he wasn’t about to pour me a tasting since I clearly wasn’t able to donate (in spite of spending a good chunk of change that day in his business!). A nice lady at the bar said, “Go ahead and serve her, I put in a $20, don’t you think that will cover a couple free tastings?” So I got my tasting, but don’t remember enjoying it very much, no thanks to Mr. Ebenezer Grumpypants. That one sour customer service incident definitely flavored the rest of my experience there. Some people just don’t get it. Customer service truly is everything.

With every business that closes, another one is getting ready to open up just on the next block. Fingers crossed that now we’ll get something even better than this great little place.

Here’s to a great example made, and to a new wine business legacy! May they do what you did best, wine shop!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012 – Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Luck of the Draw: Ultra-Premium Red Wine

Quilceda Creek 2006 Columbia Valley Red Wine

It was one of those extremely lucky nights, the kind where you go home with a nearly $300

Put on your fancy pants when you imbibe this beauty!

bottle of ultra-premium wine… like that happens, ever. Well, it did! At a friend’s auction, I paid a few bucks for the opportunity to draw a paper bag off of a mystery bottle of wine and whaddya know, I pick the most expensive bottle of wine on the table! Our friends were next in line, and they drew the second most valuable bottle of the night, a magnum of wine (aka 1.5 liters of wine in one ginormous bottle).

On a side note, did you know that a double magnum is called a jeroboam? There are some pretty funky names for wine measurements.

Anyway, while wine tasting in Woodinville one day, I mentioned this to someone next to me who – whaddya know – happens to be the wine buyer for a major grocer in the area. He said that the wine I had on my hands could easily be cellared for 12-14 years.

So, yeah. We didn’t wait that long. We opened it on a Monday night when we had a friend over for dinner who’d had a particularly bad day. It tasted perfect!

Sometimes, when you have a super special bottle of wine, you risk building up too much hype around it and overvaluing it for yourself and perhaps never opening it, instead of opening it up and drinking it! I was reading the other day that 90-95% of wines made in this day and age are intended to be consumed within the year of purchase… did you realize this? Crazy! Only a very small percentage of wines are created with the need for prolonged aging in the bottle to develop the flavors, let the tannins soothe, etc. With that in mind, I feel less guilty for not having a fancy climate-controlled wine cellar.

The moral of the story is buy wine you like, and drink it soon. Share it with friends and family, ideally. Don’t worry so much about preserving it and never enjoying it. That’s what some single-malt Scotch collectors do and then they never actually enjoy this precious liquid they’ve been storing for decades. Don’t be that guy.

Now, turning our attention to this lovely wine. This blend consists of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec.

From the winemaker’s notes: “The Quilceda Creek 2006 Red Wine Columbia Valley is a blend of declassified lots which reflect the richness and complexity of the vintage. This is one of our favorite Red Wine offerings to date. This medium bodied wine displays black cherry fruit, cedar, spice, vanilla and minerals. Approachable now, this blend will be best enjoyed over the next 15 years.”

And critical acclaim from the Wine Advocate, which gave this wine 92 points: “Dark ruby-colored, it displays a bouquet of cigar box, pencil lead, violets, black currant, and a hint of licorice. Medium to full-bodied, intensely fruited, and with enough structure to evolve for 2-3 years, this lengthy effort will drink well from 2011 to 2018.”

This wine is so so unbelievably smooth, it takes smooth to a whole other
level. The alcohol, sugars, tannins, are all in perfect harmony. Because it was so jarringly smooth and different, I missed the backbone, the bite, from a wine that has more tannins or acid. Other than that very minor complaint, it was truly excellent wine. Try to have some at least once in your life.

Disclaimer: OK, I exaggerated… I honestly was under the impression this wine cost way more than it did… it is sold out but retails at $65, not $300. Sigh. The $300 one is the Cabernet Sauvignon, not the Red Blend, which I got. Anyway, I kept the price at $300 for dramatic effect, and since I was under the impression that was what it cost anyway. It’s still an amazing wine!

© Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Brenna Arnesen and The Rambling Vine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.