Women Wine Retailers – Part 1
A woman’s love affair with wine is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. Women are out-purchasing men two-to-one when it comes to wine. This is according to a 2016 report by the Wine Market Council. With this information, it’s no surprise that stores and brand marketers are catering to women. It also makes perfect sense that a growing number of women are taking the reins when it comes to running the retail stores. Some transitioned from wine sales and marketing to running a retail shop, but for others it’s a complete career change. Most work hard to promote women winemakers, and all focus on assembling an eclectic collection to tantalize their customers. With this much control of the purchasing power, it’s safe to say that a woman’s wine-work is never done!
Meet a few of these notable women wine retailers from coast to coast:
Debbie Zachareas Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, San Francisco and Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchant, Napa
Visitors to either the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco’s restored Ferry Building or the Oxbow Wine & Cheese Merchant in downtown Napa, will find selections hand-picked by Debbie Zachareas. Debbie is one of the Bay area’s, and nation’s, most respected wine specialists.
As a Sommelier and Wine Director for top-rated Bay area restaurants including Bacar, EOS Restaurant and Wine Bar, Rubicon, and Vertigo, Debbie was named “Wine Director of the Year” by San Francisco Magazine not once, but twice. She’s a renowned wine judge and lecturer around the United States In addition to running the two wine stores in San Francisco and Napa, Debbie is the consulting wine buyer for Boulibar, a casual Mediterranean style restaurant, and a wine luminary for ifonly, a service that curates one-of-a-kind experiences and gifts.
A partner in Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants for 14 years, Debbie says her wine selections are mainly small production and highly cultivated to offer the best wines for the money from around the world. “We have such a diverse clientele. These days we’re seeing a lot of interest in Italy across the board as well as the tony and exciting California producers.”
Regarding encouraging customers to expand their palates: “It starts with a very simple conversation about what they like and what they are eating with the wine.”
Hidden gems: “Fiano from Campania, Vermentino from Sardinia, Assyrtiko from Santorini and rosé and red from Corsica.”
Palate-pleasing pairings: “There are lots! Two would be Spain’s Txakolina and oysters and Grϋner Veltliner Smaragd with leg of lamb.”
If I were a wine varietal: “I’d be Champagne. I try to make every day a celebration!”
Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants, One Ferry Building #23, San Francisco, CA (415) 391-9400
Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant, 610 First Street, Napa, CA. (707) 257-5200
Coly Den, Vinovore, Los Angeles
Third generation restaurateur-turned-retailer and certified sommelier, Coly Den Haan spotlights women winemakers around the world. This practice fits her shop Vinovore’s locale perfectly as it is located in the progressive and artsy Silverlake neighborhood in central Los Angeles. She says, “Vinovore’s selections are global with an emphasis on old world wines and what I like to call ‘new California’ wines. Most of our wines are made with organic, biodynamic, and natural practices but our specific focus is female winemakers and owners. All sections and programs at Vinovore are focused on women in wine! It was a big decision to move solely in this direction but one I feel very strongly about and proud of. All my customers, women and men alike, seem to really enjoy the female focus as well, and feel good about supporting and drinking delicious wines.”
What customers are buying: “Rosé is definitely still a thing. It doesn’t hurt that we are in sunny southern California, but I also carry some fun, colder weather, richer rosé options. Another thing that has been a big hit for us and a very easy sell is our liter-sized bottles. A liter works out to be a bottle and a half which seem to be the Goldilocks size of ‘just right,’ for many of my customers.”
Hidden gems: “I love orange wine. It can be a little bit of a hard sell as the price point is, generally, not super approachable. But it’s totally worth it! For those who don’t know what orange wine is: It’s actually an ancient way of making wine; in Italy, they call it Ramato, which has been making a comeback in the last few years. So, if rosé is red grapes made like white wine with just partial skin contact, then think of orange wines [as] being white grapes made like red wine with long skin contact.”
Palate-pleasing pairings: “I’m going to go back to an awesome Beaujolais on this one for its versatility and great ability to pair well with [the] especially tricky dishes that involve vegetables. Anything featuring artichokes or brussels sprouts can be particularly hard for their bitter characteristics, but a chilled Gamay can handle it. And Beaujolais with a spicy seafood stew is heaven in your mouth… I feel some people have a bad connotation with Beaujolais [Nouveau] but the right ones are fantastic on so many levels. Gamay all day!”
If I were a wine varietal: “Cabernet Franc: a little spicy and down to earth with a light and funky wild side.”
Vinovore, 616 North Hoover Street, Silver Lake, CA (323) 522-6713
Virginia Philip, Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, West Palm Beach
Master Sommelier Virginia Philip wears many hats: Wine Director, Educator, Retailer. She holds an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Oenology from her alma mater, Johnson & Wales, and she’s a 2012 recipient of The James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional. In 2002 Virginia became the 11th women in the world to be accredited as a Master Sommelier and currently is among only 26 women to hold this certification out of 206 wine professionals. The American Sommelier Association named her “Best Sommelier in the USA for 2002-2006.”
And just to keep her super busy, especially during Florida’s winter season, Virginia also serves as Wine Director for The Breakers Hotel & Resort Palm Beach, truly one of the nation’s grand dame hotels. This oceanfront architectural masterpiece, modeled after the Villa Medici in Italy, has welcome U.S. Presidents, European nobility, and both the wealthy and famous from around the world. Virginia oversees the beverage department for its nine on-site restaurants and bars and a Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning wine list of more than 1,600 selections.
The 1800 square-foot Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy stocks 650 hand-picked selections covering every inch of the globe. The store offers weekly wine education programs and guest appearances from wine makers as well as eight-week wine immersion courses. They even host a chef’s series of cooking classes, such as a recent series in Spanish food.
Regarding Expanding One’s Wine Knowledge: “If you want to learn more about wine, you should travel, travel, travel! There’s no better learning experience.”
Advice to other wine professionals: “I believe accreditation is critical these days for a wine professional. Being a Master Sommelier, Master of Wine or Best Sommelier of your county goes a long way.”
Palate-pleasing pairings: “For holiday lamb anywhere to ham, try Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape”
Virginia Philip Wine Shop Academy, 101 North Clematis Street, Suite 150, West Palm Beach, FL 33401 (561)721-6000 www.virginiaphilipwineshopacademy.com
Leora Madden, Pearl Wine Co. New Orleans
A professionally trained musician and dancer, Leora Madden, decided to follow a different beat. After working in education sales in California for seven years she returned to her native New Orleans to open a wine store. “I wanted to bring a piece of my wine country experience home to New Orleans.” says Leora. With this sentiment, she opened Pearl Wine Co., a combination retail store and wine bar located in Mid-City, a bustling residential neighborhood near City Park (a short drive from the French Quarter) filled with small bars and restaurants. Keeping in spirit with a city that likes to “laissez les bons temps rouler” (let the good times roll), Pearl Wine Co. offers community events almost daily, from afternoon wine tastings to live music at night.
Leora says, “Pearl Wine Co. is not just a place, it’s an experience, an attitude, a hidden gem. My previous life was in education so everything I do is centered around teaching: free wine tastings every Thursday, many times with the winemaker or a winery representative. We host classes and private tastings in both the bar and store and vary the topics, wine and opera, natural wines, Chenin from around the world, etc. We try to think outside the box as much as possible. My goal is for each person to learn something new every time they visit Pearl.”
“We offer Mid-City’s largest selection of wine, spirits, and beer, which is also one of the largest in the entire City. We proudly curate our selections each and every day and we taste each wine before we bring it into the store. Our focus is to bring quality small producers or the ‘overachiever’ to the consumer. We also have a Women in Wine section where we highlight female winemakers from around the world.”
What’s selling: are customers drinking? “[Our customers] are buying mostly in the $18 range from all over the world. Top categories include the Southern Rhone, Languedoc, Provence, South Africa, Argentina and Spain.”
Hidden gems: “South Africa. Although I’ve made enormous strides in the last four years people still think it’s all Pinotage. There are some wonderful wines being made in Chile now; I look forward to visiting. And have you tasted any Virginia wines lately? I’m serious!”
Palate-pleasing pairings: “Red beans and rice with California Zinfandel. And for something offbeat, try ostrich and Pinotage.”
If I were a wine varietal: “I don’t identify with one specific varietal; I’m a blend. I wear many hats and have a passion for people, so it bleeds into many aspects of my life. I’m eclectic, daring and you can’t box me in. I’m going to challenge you every year.”
Pearl Wine Co., American Can Building, 3700 Orleans Avenue, Suite 1C, New Orleans (504) 483-63124 www.pearlwineco.com
Perrine Prieur Gallardo, Perrine’s Wine Shop, Atlanta
Growing up in Burgundy, France, wine and food was second nature to Perrine Prieur, who attended a hospitality and culinary arts-focused private school starting at the young age 14. For years she traveled and worked in restaurants throughout France and eventually decided to focus her career on wine. After graduating the prestigious Le Castel sommelier school in France, she moved to London to work at the Michelin three-star rated Le Gavroche.
After collecting an award as “Bordeaux’s best young sommelier,” Perrine moved to Atlanta in 2006. She studied English and became certified as a sommelier. After working four years as a sommelier at the high-end JOËL Brasserie, when it closed its doors in 2010, she decided to open some new ones with her own wine shop as the sole proprietor. The store features around 450 selections.
“I think my customers describe it [my store] the best… It’s nothing you can find in a ‘regular store.’’’ Perrine says. “I source wines from smaller producers with the same philosophy: Good wine starts in the vineyard. Respect of the soil and vines will give you great fruit, so [therefore] delicious wine. A lot of our producers work in organic or biodynamic farming. (wine with a soul).”
Hidden gem: “Mencia. Watch out for this grape in five to 10 years,”
Palate-pleasing pairings: “I love blanc de blancs Champagne with East coast oysters…..aged Northern Rhone Syrah with Duck Confit….Champagne and Fried chicken… or Lambrusco with blue cheese.”
If I were a wine varietal: “I’m more like a Northern Rhone Syrah: a little spicy and earthy with some delicate violet notes. But I want to grow old as a Burgundian Pinot Noir: sophisticated, delicate with a lot of finesse. Only people who truly are experienced with wine understand true Pinot Noir.”
Perrine’s Wine Shop, 1168 Howell Mill Road, Suite B, Atlanta, GA Phone 404-254-5077 www.perrineswine.com
Listening to these dynamic women share their stories and enthusiasm for their trade, should alleviate anyone’s concerns that buying wine is an intimidating experience. Gone are the days of the curmudgeonly wine snob behind the counter. This generation of wine retailers make learning about and buying wine a fun adventure.
In part 2, we spotlight women in wine retail in TriState New York, so stay tuned!