A Wine Shop Bestowing Bottles with Unique, Delightful Notes

One of my favorite activities as a buyer at the QFC Broadway Market in Seattle was hand-writing notes about wines I personally selected for the store. (I also had crazy things happen there.) We refer to such written missives in the business as “shelf talkers.”

What they all have in common is a long profile and a width less than that of a wine bottle. Huge brands have really “meh” generic ones. Some sales reps write their own. I remember fondly one rep who made these really fun laminated shelf talkers. That was great because they take a lot of abuse. Her superhero persona was “The Laminator.” Her powers? Selling a hell of a lot of wine with her enthusiastic prose.

Recently I was in Cold Spring, New York. A charming little town in the Hudson Valley, I toured around with a fellow wine biz pro/local resident/all-around ace (thanks, Sarah). We popped into many delightful, highly instagrammable shops. One notable location was Flowercup Wine.

Frankly, they have the best shelf talkers I’ve ever seen. The combination of the layout, words, and images was an informative delight. Here is one example:

You start with a little tasting note, brief geography/soil info, plus a fun fact about beekeeping. Region and grape are then listed, followed by nuts-and-bolts production methods. It all finishes with the winery’s sustainable practices.

Then, the fun part.

I love the images used to denote the style, personality, effect, and flavors of the wine. The “effect” is really cool, as I like to think emotionally/philosophically as far as the impact of an intriguing bottle.

They also are clearly aligned with my interests and passions, like supporting dark rosés. Also, the owners are fans of dinosaurs and cheese.


Two More Stops in Cold Spring

There’s a nice General Store. Don’t forget to pick up some flowers in the back of the shop.

Even if you don’t need a haircut, go to Barber and Brew and have some beers. There’s a bar past the chairs. If you do need a trim, you get a discounted beer afterward. How cool is that?

Tell me about a wine shop you dig.

For more on shelf talkers, check out this article in SevenFifty Daily.

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Our robot overlords: Whole Foods store replaces wine specialists with iPads

Algorithms: 1. Humans: 0.

So it will be in the wine aisle when the new 365 store by Whole Foods opens in two weeks. The store aims to target millennials by delivering foods in the Whole Foods ethos but with out the Whole Foods price tag (insert your own Whole Paycheck comment here). There will be fewer products in the stores and fewer employees. In an article in today’s NYT business section, the author compares the new 365 stores to Old Navy with Whole Foods being the Gap. No word on what that means for the wine section, but I’d bet on lower-priced offerings in a variety of formats.

The first 365 store will be opening in Silver Lake, ground zero for hipsters in LA (Moby has a vegetarian restaurant there). Hilariously, some Silver Lake residents had been hoping their neighborhood would be served by a “regular” Whole Foods and at some even mounted an online protest derisively calling the forthcoming 365 store “Half Foods.”

The NYT story provides more details on the store and its robots. There will be a tea-dispensing robot. But more to our purposes, the staff that linger in the wine aisle in Whole Foods that sell wine will be 86’d. In their place will be iPads.

The iPads will run an app developed specifically for 365 stores by the engineers and designers of Banquet and Delectable. Here’s how spokesperson Julia Weinberg put it in an email:

What we built for Whole Food’s new 365 stores draws upon the Banquet foundation, but is actually an independent product we are launching with them. It is an iPad-based in-store guide that is a hybrid of Banquet and Delectable. For their new 365 concept stores, Whole Foods approached us to help reinvent the way store guests experience and navigate the beer, wine and spirits section. The genesis of the project was the goal to find a better solution to the antiquated retail hang-tag model.

Since Banquet and Delectable have the ability to purchase wines from various retailers, that feature will not appear on the new 365 iPads, which will favor navigating the in-store inventory. Customers will also be able to scan any wine and info from the Delectable database will appear, including user reviews.

While the human touch is always nice for consumers, this approach actually sounds promising. I like Delectable, so the 365 team made an astute selection. The hardest thing may be actually getting the consumer to engage with the iPads instead of just judging wines by the label art, a common supermarket shopping strategy. Now all the store needs is a machine to spit out wine samples and the wine aisle will be the most happening spot in the store.

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Flatiron Wines to open in San Francisco

Flatiron Wines to open in San Francisco

Flatiron Wines, a boutique wine shop in the shadow of the Flatiron building, will be opening a new location in San Francisco in January 2016. The shop is one of my favorite wine shops in the city. (Check out my post from when they opened in 2012.)

Jeff Patten, an owner, said that the new store will have the same focus as the Manhattan store, “just bigger.” It will have in-store tastings, sell spirits, and stock a similar range of small-production wines from the US and abroad. Patten said that it will give them the opportunity to better serve their existing California clients as well as to attract new ones.

The new store will carry the same name, Flatiron Wines and will be in the Palace hotel at 2 New Montgomery Street. Beau Rapier, a manager from Manhattan, will be moving to SF to oversee the new store.

It’s an interesting development. Mostly, when wine stores expand to other states, it is big box stores. But here’s an independent shop going bicoastal. We’ll have to keep an eye on their progress and see if any others get similar urges to look West–or California shops who might decide to look East.

Flatiron Wines
Manhattan: 929 Broadway (bet 21st and 22nd), New York, NY 10010. 212-477-1315
SF: 2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco CA 94105 (opens January 2016)

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The Haggler addresses Premier Cru


The topic of wine futures has roiling the wine world recently. Yes, the lackluster campaign for Bordeaux 2014 futures has shaken some corners. But what I’m talking about here the payment and then non-delivery of futures at Premier Cru, a retailer in Berkeley, CA. Wine discussion boards have bubbled over with frustration as consumers have paid money to secure wines–some as long ago as the 2008 vintage–and are still awaiting delivery. Futures are tricky; complaints of non-delivery of wines sank 1855.com, a French retailer, into bankruptcy.

It’s great that the NYT’s The Haggler columnist, David Segal, took up the issue in today’s paper. While he provided an overview of wine futures and the situation at Premier Cru (including a few bons mots), he didn’t reach a resolution as the column often does while advocating on the behalf of consumers. Segal promises a second part of the column to follow next week.

In anticipation of next week’s column, if you are among the aggrieved it’s a good opportunity to further articulate your problems. There isn’t a comment thread on the article but you can comment elsewhere or write haggler@nytimes.com. Let The Haggler know your issues!

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