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Archive for Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grape expectations: New retail market simplifies wine-shopping experience

Steve Wilson and Jamie Routledge are co-managers of City Wine Market, 4821 W. Sixth St., which carries a selective inventory of value-priced wines.

Steve Wilson and Jamie Routledge are co-managers of City Wine Market, 4821 W. Sixth St., which carries a selective inventory of value-priced wines.

August 8, 2010

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Specialty wines from all over the world fill the shelves at City Wine Market. About 90 percent of the stores inventory is priced under $25.

Specialty wines from all over the world fill the shelves at City Wine Market. About 90 percent of the stores inventory is priced under $25.

City Wine Market also carries specialty beers.

City Wine Market also carries specialty beers.

Place

City Wine Market

4821 W. Sixth Street, Suite N , Lawrence

Shopping for wine should be as stress-free as sipping a glass of your favorite vintage on a lazy summer’s evening.

That’s the shared philosophy of Jamie Routledge and Steve Wilson, co-managers of City Wine Market, 4821 W. Sixth St.

Yet, research shows that’s not always the case.

“A large national survey was done by the Constellation brand, I believe, and it showed that roughly a third of all wine shoppers described their experience as ‘overwhelming,’” Wilson says.

“For us, that was kind of glaring.”

Wilson and Routledge were college roommates who shared a love of wine but took different career paths before joining entrepreneurial forces.

Wilson is the former owner of Prairie Fire, an upscale restaurant in downtown Lawrence. After it closed in 2002, he worked as a wine educator and consultant for Wines by Jennifer in Parkville, Mo., and Cellar Rat in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, Routledge was learning the ropes as bar manager at Kansas City chef Michael Smith’s 40 Sardines in Leawood and eventually Michael Smith and Extra Virgin restaurants in Kansas City.

“In the evenings, I’d just talk to guests on the floor and serve wine,” Routledge explains. “That was my role. It was about taking a few descriptors and finding out the styles of wine a customer might prefer. And, if I didn’t carry what they were looking for, knowing what I would have to match to them at their price point. Learning how to do that took a little time. But, the more interactions with customers, the easier it became.”

Though one worked in retail and the other in the restaurant world, the future partners were learning their customers didn’t want to be bombarded with an abundance of choices, but demanded bang for their buck.

“Jennifer’s was focused primarily on value,” Wilson notes. “Most of what she was selling was not-collectible types of wine. And I could see that really appealed to people.”

With that in mind, Wilson and Routledge, along with Steve’s wife, store owner Susie Wilson, opened the west Lawrence shop on July 3 with an inventory they hoped wouldn’t overwhelm, and prices that wouldn’t intimidate the average consumer.

“Most restaurants don’t carry every product in the world,” Wilson notes. “They carry good representatives of the products they do carry, which pleases most of the people most of the time. That’s the model we thought we needed to use. Doing a project where the inventory was deliberately curtailed and the products were deliberately selected.”

“The hot zone really is between 10 and 15 dollars. Ninety percent of our inventory is under 25 dollars.”

Note worthy

Routledge, a sommelier, takes pride in knowing a manager has sampled every one of the 300 bottles in the store.

“There’s nothing on my shelf, except maybe for 50 bottles that I’ve not had and, out of those, Steve’s had them, at one point,” he says.

Unlike more traditional wine sellers, City Market doesn’t use “point cards” from Wine Spectator or other publications to market select wines.

“Those are a good reference source and a jumping-off point,” Routledge says, “but magazines take advertising dollars from the same people whose wines they’re ranking. So, if somebody has a full-page ad and then their wine gets a nice score, I look at it a little skeptical. And, a high score definitely doesn’t mean it’s a good wine for you, as well.”

Instead, Wilson and Routledge write their own wine notes, which are on display throughout the shop. And they’re always on hand to personally answer customer’s questions.

“For instance, some of the Italian grapes are never listed on a label. You can tell the person what it is and what it tastes like. Then they might be more willing to take a gamble on that 14 dollar bottle when the taste profile has been described to them by a person and not by a mass-produced little blip from the salesperson.”

Nice pair

Routledge calls on his restaurant experience to assist shoppers with food and wine pairing suggestions, like what to match with a pork tenderloin, for example.

“You find out if it’s grilled, if it’s going to be smoked while it’s on the grill,” Routledge says. “Is it going to be grilled on gas over charcoal? One of the things about working for Michael so long is that his food knowledge was so extensive, I picked up from him the cuisines from different regions around the world. Generally, if it grows together, it goes together.”

City Wine Market customer Marci Leuschen, Lawrence, says having children forced her and her husband to start buying and drinking more wine from the value category. She says she appreciates the selection of lower-priced labels.

“You always think a good bottle of wine is going to cost you an arm and a leg,” Leuschen says, “but when I’ve had wine suggestions from them, it’s always in my price range. We’re on a budget, and they’re not wine snobs there.”

Wilson and Routledge plan to partner with local restaurants for wine-tasting events and are promoting a wine club offering members 2 to 3 wines per month for $35 and a 10 percent discount on all wines in the store.

Comments

frankfussman 4 years, 4 months ago

"Marci Leuschen, Lawrence, says having children forced her and her husband to start buying and drinking more wine from the value category." Any wine for the children? I hope not.

lance1jhawk 4 years, 4 months ago

Congrats to Jamie and Steve on the store opening. I hope you two have a long and successful run in the wine business. I can't wait to get back into Lawrence and buy another case of wine from you.

Ray March 4 years, 4 months ago

Steve Wilson is a great guy. He knows more about wine than anyone I've ever met. I worked at the original Thai House. Steve owns that building (where Joe Shmoe's later resided). He would occasionally educate the staff or have wine tastings in the celler.

He is very passionate about wine. Everyone definitely stop in. I've met Jamie a few times. Collectively, they know more about wines and pairing of wines than the rest of the city's population combined.

It's great to see them open a wine shop in Lawrence!

Calliope877 4 years, 4 months ago

"City Wine Market customer Marci Leuschen, Lawrence, says having children forced her and her husband to start buying and drinking more wine from the value category. "

That sentence made me laugh...

RogueThrill 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't really shop for wine anymore. I just b-line to the [yellowtail] Reisling and then home.

sad_lawrencian 4 years, 4 months ago

Free advertising (again), courtesy of the Journal-World?

he_who_knows_all 4 years, 4 months ago

It's called a business article. Look at any paper and you'll see these types of stories.

sad_lawrencian 4 years, 4 months ago

Yes, I'm commenting twice. This article is not news. This is an ad. When I first moved to Lawrence (in early 2008) and found the Journal-World's website, I was appalled to see how they linked normal news articles on the main page on the same list / main area where they link to blogs, reader essays, cyclist articles and money-saver shopper coupon hints. There was no way, from reviewing the list on the main page, to distinguish the actual NEWS from all the crapola (blogs, recipes, coupons, opinion pieces, etc.). To make matters worse, they had news (local and national), weather, sports, shopping, KU, underwater basketweaving, all together in that same list with no sense of order or organization to it. I think the JW is a great newspaper (compare its Sunday print edition to that of the KC Star) but this website is more like a blog and a local's hangout place than a news organization. Hopefully after this cable sale goes through, the news staff at World Co. will revamp the website and make it look less like a web portal and more like a journalistic organization that wants its readers to take it seriously. This is not go.com, it's a news organization and it's time they treat it that way.

he_who_knows_all 4 years, 4 months ago

Is this really a place for a comment like this? Why don't you write a letter to the editor regarding this? But I'm sure you won't do that because you would have to use your real name instead of anonymously commenting here.

This store is awesome. I'm hooked. Great customer service by people that really know wine.

brent flanders 4 years, 4 months ago

Steve's failures to date downtown are a direct result of his lack of understanding of business, being an entrepreneur, or how to treat people in general. This new venture will last 6 - 12 months top, then like the rest of his attempts at being a small business owner will fall sharply off a cliff. Jo Shmos could have been a success had he not gotten in the way.

Marty_McFly 4 years, 4 months ago

I've been a failure when I've tried to date downtown too...

brent flanders 4 years, 4 months ago

Steve's failures to date downtown are a direct result of his lack of understanding of business, being an entrepreneur, or how to treat people in general. This new venture will last 6 - 12 months top, then like the rest of his attempts at being a small business owner will fall sharply off a cliff. Jo Shmos could have been a success had he not gotten in the way.

Marty_McFly 4 years, 4 months ago

Look at me. I'm not impatient when I post on line and only comment one post at a time

brent flanders 4 years, 4 months ago

Marty, you're awesome, I posted once, the system posted twice.

Love your movies though.

brent flanders 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey, McFly. I thought I told you never to come in here.

he_who_knows_all 4 years, 4 months ago

Yes. Sixth & Wakarusa in the little strip mall next to Dillons.

Kontum1972 4 years, 4 months ago

so "sad lawrence" why u still living here if it sucks so bad....?

try tongie....

Driver_611400 4 years, 4 months ago

Remember, Public Transportation is a common target of international terrorism. Every time you disrespect the T, the terrorists WIN. Why do you hate America?

Ray March 4 years, 4 months ago

Proforged, Jo Shmoe's wasn't Steve's failure. He was just the landlord. He just rented the building. It was the failure of the owner. I was in there a couple times & wasn't impressed. The food came in small portions and wasn't that good. I ordered a burger and fries. I think they gave me 2 shoestring french fries w/the burger. It didn't beg for repeat customers.

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