For bigger reds, many people habitu-
ally turn to Cabernet, but D’Amico enjoys
recommending Spanish reds under $20:
“Spain is producing ridiculous value for big
wine fans. Garnacha and Monastrell in
particular lend to big flavors without big
price tags. There are also so many Califor-
nia red blends that are reasonable and have
many Cab-ish characteristics, too.”
It’s About the
In Coral Gables, FL, proprietor Jeffrey
Wolfe of Wolfe’sWine Shoppe, has tailored
his store to encourage conversation. “We
try not to carry the big brands from around
the globe, says Wolfe, “and deal with the
smaller farmers and obscure varietals.” He
also utilizes no point-of-sale materials.
When people walk in, he says, “We
ask a few simple questions. What part
of the world; white, red, rosé or bub-
bles; and what’s the budget. This gives
people a sense of empowerment since
they are usually freaked out that noth-
ing is familiar and the only info is
coming from us.”
Often, an initial exchange will provide
a sense of direction. “If they have specific
varietals that they are interested in,” says
Wolfe, “we will show them what they ask
for, but I can also ask if they want to try
something ‘similarly different.’ Questions
help direct the sale, using the client’s own
likes and dislikes. If someone asks for Pinot
Grigio, we have two Italian PGs stacked
on the floor, between 11 to 18 bucks, so
there is safety there. But then I can chal-
lenge them with a Pinot Gris from Alsace
or even one from California that has had
some skin contact.” And if the conversa-
tion veers toward food, that Pinot Grigio
hunter may go home with a different Ital-
ian white, such as Ligurian Pigato or a
Greco du Tufo.
Similarly, a request for Pinot Noir can
turn into “Cru Beaujolais or a Sciacca-
rellu from Corsica,” Wolfe notes. Malbec
can be a gateway to Bonarda, Priorat or
Nero de Avola. Someone who walks into
Wolfe’s Wine Shoppe thinking Cabernet
Sauvignon may well walk out with Syrah,
Garnacha, Bordeaux, Zinfandel or Petite
Sirah. “The best customers are the ones
that develop trust with you and lose their
inhibitions,” says Wolfe.
ON the
Bold Side
Before he bought West Side Wines in
West Hartford, CT, 12 years ago, Greg
Nemergut spent many years at IBM. “I
brought a consumer perspective to owning
a shop,” he says. “But coming from IBM,
I had a laser focus on customer service.”
One of his goals was to make both his
physical store and website “bright, open
and inviting.” That he established early on.
Another goal—superior service—is on-
going. Staff members are used to people
coming in and asking “Do you have…?”
And in many instances, the store does not.
That is precisely where skilled cross-selling
begins. “We focus on trying to identify a
style the customer is looking for, and then
direct them that way,” Nemergut says. “We
are very food-centric as well.”
People looking for “not oaky”
Chardonnay may be encouraged to try an
unoaked Mâcon-Villages or Saint-Véran.
Pinot Noir seekers may be steered to
Cascina Ballarin’s “Cino,” a $15.99 blend
of Nebbiolo (20%), Dolcetto (40%) and
Barbera (40%) with generous red cherry
fruit and an easy texture. Big red lovers will
get turned on to Toro, Spain; Nemergut
says of the $19.99 Bodegas Maurados
“Prima” bottling, “I’d stake my reputation
on this drinking like a $40 Cabernet.”
“We are a niche player,” says Nemergut.
“We understand that.” Fittingly, their web-
site’s home page search links include not
only country, grape, type and price range,
but also importer—from Vias and Dalla
Terra to Terry Theise and Robert Kacher.
That self-awareness, plus intimate knowl-
edge of the carefully selected inventory,
breeds confidence “Everything we carry
overachieves,” Nemergut asserts. “We’re
at the front lines. If anyone should know
[about the wines], it’s us.”
Greg Nemergut got
into wine retailing
after a career at IBM,
bringing with him
a “laser focus” on
customer service.
Cross-selling is a
skill, and a tool.
Recommending wines
that fit a shopper’s
preference is a
fundamental aspect
of good service.
At West Side Wines in Hartford, CT, staffers
know they need to be skilled at cross-selling
because the inventory leans toward niche
wines more than mass-market brands.
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