People have their reasons for buying wines at a particular shop.
Location tops most lists, followed by value and then probably
And while these are all valid points, to me the best reason to
patronize a shop is because you like and trust the people who are
selling the wines. Unlike buying, say, gasoline, or groceries, the
act of walking into a wine shop, perusing the shelves, getting a
recommendation and ultimately selecting a bottle to take home
can, and should be, a fun experience. One you look forward to.
And that is where a knowledgeable and engaged wine professional
can make all the difference.
Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, we have a plethora of choices
for good wine shops, but two recent additions, the Basalt Wine
Shop on Midland Avenue and Sopris Liquor and Wine on Highway
133 in Carbondale are worth checking out. And I make this
recommendation not because they are conveniently located,
have good prices and interesting wines, though they do, but
rather because the people running the floor and selling the wines
make wine-buying fun.
In Carbondale, the catalyst for the greatly improved and still
improving wine program has been Johnny Ivansco, who came
aboard as wine manager in November. Many of you will remember
the curly-haired, bespectacled Ivansco from his long stint at
Aspen’s Of Grape & Grain, where he learned about grapes under
the tutelage of Gary Plumley.
Sopris Liquor and Wine is huge, perhaps the biggest liquor
store in the valley. Until recently, however, the wine program consisted
mostly of high-volume brands that had been selected
based on price and dealer discounts. Owners Terry and Julie Kirk
were keen to change that image and create an accessible program
focused on higher quality, small producers of great wines from
around the world. That’s where Johnny came in. A Carbondale
local who lives with his wife and 11-week-old son, Sawyer, just
three blocks from the store, Ivansco has completely revamped the
Great values from Spain, a country Johnny has traveled extensively,
mingle with cult classic Pinot Noirs from Oregon and spicy
Zinfandels from California. An emerging Australian and New
Zealand section cuts out the marketing fat and gets to the quality
wines that are real values in those regions.
Johnny knows his wines, is enthusiastic about explaining them
and cares enough to try to make sure every customer gets a wine
that works with their palate and their budget. There is a 10 percent
discount on all six-bottle purchases, which by the way are
presented to customers in a slick recyclable sack, and each
Wednesday there is a wine tasting with different distributors
pouring their wines.
Richard Chelec’s newly opened Basalt Wine Shop is a different
thing entirely. With just 250 selections at any given time in a store
that is roughly 700 square feet, Richard has picked a path based
on affordable quality and a neighborhood clientele. The result is
a place that is as much fun to hang out in as it is a great place to
Chelec will be remembered, by many of the same people who
remember Ivansco, as the guy who ran Blue Maize in Aspen for 11
years. After closing the popular restaurant and taking a year off,
he decided that he wanted to remain in the food and beverage
biz, but didn’t want to do another eatery. When the sweetly small
space on Midland Avenue became available, he snapped it up
and filled it with bottles, books and a few knick-knacks.
He prides himself that either he, or his store manager, Chris
Kelly, has tasted everything he sells and 80 percent of the inventory
consists of wines selling for $20 or less. Richard’s personal
tastes run to new-world wines from Chile and Argentina and he
has a strong selection of great values from Spain as well. The front
rack of the store changes monthly to showcase wines from different
regions (this month, Washington and Oregon get front
billing), and the store has twice-monthly wine tastings that have
become increasingly popular with locals. Open from 11:30 a.m. to
8 p.m. daily, there is a 10 percent discount on all Sunday sales. It’s
a good post-church stop.
I’ve shopped in both stores recently and came away with good
wines, good values and great vibes. Both Johnny and Richard are
as much fun to do business with as they are to talk wine with. Be
sure to stop in and see both next time your wine rack has a few
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of
Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino.
He can be reached at email@example.com.