Two 'wine gurus' uncork their dream with the opening of South Egremont Spirit Shoppe
South Egremont Spirit Shoppe had its grand opening last week in the historic yellow house with green trim — an old horse carriage axle manufacturer — on Route 23 next to Mom's Country Cafe and Egremont Market.
The shop is decidedly chic with none of the usual package store retail racks, cash registers and bottle deposit machines in site. Just about every display was purchased at an antique store and refurbished to hold wine — the bulk of the store's merchandise — and spirits. Local art hangs on the walls. After a while, you start to notice little jokes tucked into the decor, like a photo of Tom Selleck, Mr. "Magnum P.I.," right under the magnum-sized bottles.
"This has been a dream for a long time," said co-owner Tom Morrison, who, before starting his own place, was the "wine guru" at Spirited Wines in Lenox. "We worked hard for other people and now it was time to do something for ourselves. The opportunity came along in Egremont and this is a great community and an awesome spot to be in."
Morrison founded the shop at 71 Main St. with co-owner Dan Thomas, who just wrapped up about 10 years as the sommelier at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. The two beverage pros have known each other for the last decade or so and over the past year began making plans to open their own wine store.
"Retail is challenging," Thomas said noting that he was just browsing Amazon.com. "So, I want people to shop different. They can come here and it's an experience. We didn't want to have the traditional wine store."
South Egremont Spirit Shoppe specializes in affordable wines from vineyards little-known to the average wine-drinker. Most of the wines are in the $12-to-$30 range. They carry a lot of wines from familiar grape-producers such as Italy, Spain and France, but right now they're also selling wines from Austria, Croatia, the Finger Lakes, Greece and the Canary Islands.
They feature labels from winemakers such as Weingut Muller-Grossmann, Eric Kent, Chateau Rayas, Kruger-Rumpf, Masseria Li Veli and Minimus.
Thomas said with the owners' connections in the beverage business they are able to bring hard-to-find wines to Egremont as well. He picks up a bottle of Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape — one of the more expensive bottles in the store.
"In Massachusetts we're the only retailer that gets it in — and we have it in a red — because I know the broker," he said.
The store isn't just about introducing people to new flavors; the shop has familiar beverages as well including craft beer, liquors and traditional wine varieties.
"People need a bit of recognition, like Chardonnay," Thomas said. "People like Chardonnay, I like Chardonnay, but here are some good examples of it that we can introduce people to."
The organization of the shop has the wines displayed around the store on three tiers: the first being lighter wines; the second, mid-range; and the top, full-bodied vinos. There's a standing beer cooler and a wall dedicated to spirits as well as an open-top cooler for cheese and charcuterie. At the front of the store is the "twofer" section where people can purchase two bottles of wine for $20 or $30, depending on personal choice, from an array of preselected vintages.
Thomas said future plans for the South Egremont Spirit Shoppe include installing a comfortable wine tasting section with chairs and a couch for relaxed shopping. The owners are also looking forward to hosting seminars and talks about wines as well as tasting events.
"I'm a firm believer in variety is the spice of life," Thomas said.
Kristin Palpini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @kristinpalpini on Twitter, 413-629-4621.
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