Pandering to the Palate

Wine shop owners eager to share
knowledge, tastes

Novice wine drinkers can learn a lot
by attending these free, fun, social events

By Don Ward

2012 December Edition Cover

December 2012
Edition Cover

(December 2012) – When Erik and Jennifer Grove bought the former Perry-Dunbar Pharmacy in Madison in 2006, the business came with a liquor license. Without giving it much thought at the time, the license suddenly offered the Groves an unexpected side business opportunity for their newly named Madison Apothecary: the sale of wine.
Erik’s love for wine and his interest in learning more about wine led him to enroll in classes in Cincinnati to eventually become a certified sommelier. Today, he holds a second level of that certification and enjoys serving a large number of regular wine customers in Madison with his significant collection of wines. He brings in wine distributors each month to hold wine tastings during special events. And he enjoys teaching others about wine.
As a result of these efforts, Madison Apothecary has perhaps the largest wine selection in town.
“There is a surprisingly large number of sophisticated wine drinkers in Madison, and most of them are regular customers of mine,” said Grove, 35. “There’s probably about 200 people who buy wine from me, and they have a pretty good knowledge of wine. It’s something I really enjoy.”
With the holidays upon us, many people are planning parties and special events, and with that often comes decisions about wine – what kind to serve with what foods? Red or white or blush? What brands or types? What price range? There is so much to learn about wine, it can be somewhat intimidating to those who may not regularly drink wine.


 Madison Apothecary, 835 W. Main St., Madison, Ind. (812) 265-4621. Sommelier Erik Grove. (Tastings are $10 and held on the Fourth Friday of each month. Call about special tasting events)
• The Wine Rack, 2632 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, Ky. (502) 721-9148. Sommelier John Johnson. Visit: www.wineshoplouisville.com (Free wine tastings every Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m.)
• Westport Whiskey & Wine, 1115 Herr Lane, Louisville, Ky. (502) 708-1313. Owners Richard and Wendy Splan and Chris Zaborowski and Robin Penick. Visit: www.westportwhiskeyandwine.com (Free wine tastings every Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m.)
• 4 Flights Wine Boutique, 9440 Norton Commons Blvd., Louisville, Ky. Owners Alex Tinker, Neil Morgan, Jim Frazier. (502) 718-0842. Visit: www.4FlightsWine.com (Free wine tastings every Tuesday evening)
• Taste of Fine Wines & Spirits, 634 E. Market St., Louisville, Ky. (502) 409-4646. Sommelier Paul Meyer. Visit: www.TasteFineWinesAndBourbons.com (Weekly tastings and happy hours)
• The Wine Market, 1200 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, Ky. (502) 451-7446. Visit: www.thewinemarket.net
• Old Town Wine & Spirits Inc., 1529 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, Ky. (502) 451-8591. Visit: www.oldtownwine.com

Websites on Kentucky
& Indiana wineries


Website on Wine Education
• www.MasterSommeliers.org
• www.WineIntro.com
• www.WineSpectator.com

Fortunately, wine has become a hot commodity in recent years as more people become interested and seek ways to learn more about it through classes or – better yet – wine tastings at area boutique wine stores. There are several such wine stores in Louisville, each with its own style and approach to wine tastings. It is there that wine shop owners, distributors and sommeliers eagerly talk about wine and feature new types for customers to taste and buy. Many offer weekly wine tastings, either for free or with a small charge. In some case, these weekly tastings have become popular social events, in and of themselves.
Here is a look at a few of the popular wine shops offering such opportunities to learn about – and of course, taste – wine.
• Madison Apothecary in Madison, Ind. As mentioned earlier, the Groves offer a substantial selection of wines from California, Washington state and around the world – Chili, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Greece, France, Italy and Australia. The Groves offer wine tastings for $10 to sample up to 10 wines each month during the Madison Main Street Program’s Fourth Friday events. Other special Reserve Wine tastings also are organized for those with a more sophisticated taste – and price range – to sample more expensive wines.
“I took the master sommelier course so I would better understand wines and be able to discuss wines with my customers,” Grove said. “I’ve tasted most of the wine I have in this store. I’m not going to stock anything I don’t like because the worst case scenario would be that I don’t sell it and have to drink it myself.”

Neil Morgan

Photo by Don Ward

Neil Morgan (left) of 4 Flights
Wine Boutique discusses a wine
with customers Karen Willis
and Mark McCloud.

• 4 Flights Wine Boutique, Louisville, Ky. When Alex and Meghan Tinker bought a town home in Norton Commons, near Oldham County, the couple wanted to open some type of retail business in the first floor. After talking with other residents, they decided there was a need for a wine shop. The two loved wine, anyway, and found this to be the perfect side business to their busy “regular jobs.” Tinker partnered with two other men – Jim Frazier and Neil Morgan – to open 4 Flights Wine Boutique four years ago. The store has grown and moved next door to a larger location in Norton Commons, next to Karem’s Deli. In addition to offering weekly free wine tastings on Tuesday nights, 4 Flights Wine teams with Karem’s every quarter to offer a wine dinner, which introduces wine drinkers to new wines and wine-food pairings.
Tinker is passionate about wine and offers this advice to newcomers: “The best way to learn about wine is to go around to the various boutique stores and talk with the owners and taste wine. These people are in the business because they have a passion for it, like me.”
Tinker says that to some, wine drinking may have a connotation of snobbiness, but it doesn’t have to be that way at all. In fact, he makes every effort to make customers comfortable when discussing and tasting wine. “I want them to get a real fun experience and not a snobby experience, and to come to enjoy it.”
Home parties and wine dinners offer other opportunities to share and learn about wine, he added. “There’s really no right answer when it comes to wine because everyone’s palate is different. That’s the fun of it.”

Paul Meyer

Photo by Don Ward

Paul Meyer greets
customers at his Taste
of Fine Wine & Spirits.

• Taste of Fine Wines & Spirits, Louisville, Ky. Paul Meyer sold cars for 35 years and then bought a liquor package store on Frankfort Avenue. He offered free samples but his accountant told him he was losing too much money doing so. So when the NuLu business district started developing on East Market Street, he opened a wine and bourbon boutique shop, Taste of Fine Wines & Spirits there on Oct. 1, 2011, complete with a tasting license. This meant he could now sell wine and bourbon by the taste or glass, in addition to carryout bottles. His store offers a cozy, five-table atmosphere inside and an outdoor patio where customers can sit and drink wine.
“Customers can carry anything out as long as it hasn’t been opened,” says Meyer, 63.
Meyer offers wine tastings anytime. He sells tastes of wine from $3 to $5. Glasses of wine range from $6 to $10. His bourbon tastes are $5 each.
“We are really busy here during the monthly Trolley Hop and during special events,” he said.
Meyer says the advantage of the smaller boutique wine shops like his are that he can buy more variety of specialty wines in small case productions. That offers more variety for his customers who like to try new wines. “I don’t compete against the big box stores, and I don’t want to,” he says. “Here, you get to taste a wine before you buy it.”
Meyer serves a large base of repeat customers, and because of his location in the popular, chic NuLu District, he gets lots of walk-in traffic. He puts 10 new wines on the board every Tuesday for people to taste. “I try to learn about these new wines from my distributors so I can talk intelligently about them to my customers. You can always be sure to find something new on the board to try here.”

Richard Splan and Chris Zaborowski

Photo by Don Ward

From left, business partners
Richard Splan and Chris Zaborowski
pose inside Westport Whiskey &
Wine store where they
hold weekly tastings.

• Westport Whiskey & Wine, Louisville, Ky. Chris Zaborowski spent 30 years in the food and beverage industry before he and his wife, Robin Penick, teamed up with partners Richard and Wendy Splan to open Westport Whiskey & Wine in Westport Village Shopping Center. When the store first opened in June 2008, the recession hit a few months later, so it took a while before the new shopping center filled up with stores. But now the center is vibrant and active with shoppers and wine and bourbon enthusiasts who show up each Thursday night for a fun social time of wine and bourbon tastings.
Additional tastings are held on Tuesday nights. The store opened before the new Westport Road exit was built on the Watterson Expressway. Now the new exit has made the Westport Village much more accessible to area residents.
So every Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m., the store fills up with eager customers who want to try new wines and bourbons from area distributors. The price is right: $5 for five tastes of wine.
The store also offers a classroom style of wine education every quarter, and beer sessions as well. The store has both a bar and package license so it can sell wine by the taste or bottle.

Jim Clair

Photo by Don Ward

Jim Clair, a distributor for Southern Wine Spirits, pours a glass of wine for Mimi Sims, who attended the Nov. 28 wine tasting at Westport Whiskey & Wine in Louisville, Ky. The store is located in Westport Village Shopping Center.

Splan said he befriended Zaborowski after having taken a class from him on wine 18 years ago. “Chris has a unique skill set when it comes to food and wine, so it made good business sense to open a store like this with him,” Splan said.
Zaborowski said his customers range from the novice wine drinkers to the expert. “They come to try new wine and have a good time doing it,” he said. “We offer a casual atmosphere and always have knowledgeable distributors on hand to tell people about what they are drinking. It makes for a fun and casual and educational experience.”
Westport Whiskey & Wine is a large, fully stocked store with a small store atmosphere. A staff of seven employees is available to serve the customers. “We try to make people feel comfortable when they come in. Our approach here is like being in the hospitality business, and yes, we sell wine and spirits. We try to be a resource for people when it comes to wine and helping people with wine-food pairings.”
Whether it’s learning about wine or simply tasting wine for fun, these wine shops offer a great way to enjoy wine – especially around the holidays. Area colleges, such as Bellarmine University, also offer continuing education classes on wine. These classes teach students how to describe wine, smell wine, taste wine and understand the influence of climate and winemaking on the taste and flavor of wine, and also the basic varietal flavors of wine.
You don’t have to be a snob to enjoy wine. But most would agree that the more you know about wine, the more you will enjoy it.
Maybe those wine snobs are on to something!

Back to December 2012 Articles.



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