Quantcast

New wine shop opens downtown

"I taste on average 300 wines a week," says self-described wine geek Sandeep Ghaey. "Maybe I make a decision to bring in four or five of those. I have the flexibility and independence to bring in things I believe are good wines for the money.That’s always my goal."

"I taste on average 300 wines a week," says self-described wine geek Sandeep Ghaey. "Maybe I make a decision to bring in four or five of those. I have the flexibility and independence to bring in things I believe are good wines for the money.That’s always my goal."

Ghaey is the owner of Vinic Wine Company, which opened at 1509 Chicago Ave. at the end of October.

"I’m here because I think Evanston needs a great community wine store. I’m not going to try and re-invent the wheel or anything like that," Ghaey says. "It’s about finding great wines and bringing those deals and that information to people."

"In college I found myself drawn to draft beers and single malt scotches," he says. Then he got into wine. "There was so much information I just loved learning it. I can’t tell you how often I found myself reading a wine book over a school book." After college, "I became a distributor’s representative for 6-7 years and worked my way up to a fine wine house called the Heritage Wine Cellars," Ghaey says.

Then he decided to go into retail. Planning the store took several months. "While searching for space, we visited every retail space in Evanston that could have made sense," Ghaey says. Then of course, he had to get zoning approval.

But deciding what wines to carry was the biggest challenge. "Picking a comprehensive wine selection as well as hitting some of my high points was really difficult. I carry 500-600 products. I love this one Greek wine. I have to have it on my shelf, and I do. But that kicks out something else that’s more of a traditional wine." He adds, "I think I could fill a 2,000 bottle wine store with really spectacular wines. Paring it down to a quarter of that was staggering."

So what does it mean to be a community wine store? "It’s about reading the customer," Ghaey says. "If someone comes in here harried and wants to get something to go to a dinner, no problem. ‘What do you want? What price do you want? What do you normally drink?’ They give me those three answers. I run them around the store. These are the five wines I think you should consider."

But, he says, "If people want more of that other side, I definitely try to take the time with every customer to walk around and say, ‘Let me tell you about these wines.’ There’s so much effort that goes into these wines and I think if you appreciate that you can appreciate the wines more."

"It doesn’t mean it has to have a good story behind it," he says. "That’s important to me, but I know for my customer, when they buy a $10 bottle, they’ll be much happer if it delivers like a $15 bottle. I’ll take it on the chin if I have to to get it to the price I need to, or I’ll beat up my distributors and say it’s not going to sell at these prices. You need it to be here and it will sell like hot cakes. I try to convince them that the volume will outweigh their loss in margin."

"It’s the same for me," he continues. "If I can make this at whatever price point, it will move. Trying to find that balance is what’s upmost in my mind."

"I try for aggressively priced wines starting around $6. We don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing an interest in wine because it’s out of their price range." He adds, "we do carry wine that’s all the way up to whatever your pockebook will manage. All of my wines regardless of price, $6 to $300 or whatever, they overdeliver."

The store is open and bright, with art on the walls from local artists Anne Elisabeth Hogh and Alice Dubois as well as a piece by Connie Gillock, proprietor of the Gillock Gallery. Comfortable chairs and a long table invite relaxing, tasting (on Fridays), and talking about wine. Ghaey loves talking about wine. "I think that’s part of it," he explains, "telling people a little bit about the producer, about where they’re from, about how they got into wine, how they decided to do what they’re doing."

Besides wine, the store carries other products. "There are things that complement wine, the wine culture, and the community of eating and drinking," Ghaey explains. "Why not make it easy for people?" His mother helps him pick the products. "There’s a lot of crossover in olive oil and wine producing. We brought in some of that and some aged vinegars, hard to find items, very aromatic items." He also carries breads from La Farine Bakery and hopes to have pastries from Floriole Bakery.

Ghaey even has a wine chiller that will get a bottle at serving temperature in minutes. Just look for the rubber ducks.

Editors’ Picks