After a perfunctory weekend Trader Joe’s jaunt – and a walk down a the visibly revitilzed northwest end side of Atlantic Ave, this reporter found herself at Heights Chateau [123 Atlantic Avenue]. I was drawn to a group of carrier bags of wines displayed in the front of the store. That display as well as well as a tasting going on in the back of the store was a welcoming and creative sight. The store has been in business for over 26 years (originally in the “Floyd” spot down the street), but clearly makes a point of staying timely.
BHB spoke with Alex Ward at Heights Chateau “wine and spirits consultant,” aka the person who runs the store’s sampler program and the wine & spirits clubs.
Q. You’re an undeniably great store. What made me want to profile you was your Sampler Program. Can you tell me about them? Especially the one I was enticed – no the one I was DYING to buy – was “Geraldine’s Crispy Six.” Can you tell me broadly about the program and specifically about my purchase?
Samplers are a fun and easy way for customers to taste a variety of wines at a really good price. Each month different members of the staff pick out six bottles that they want to package together. Sometimes the wines are new and this is a great way to give them exposure. Other times we find gems that may have been overlooked. Either way, the selection is usually done thematically, revolving around a season, a particular grape or a certain part of the world. Last month, for example, we had a sampler of “Chillable Reds,” that is red wines that are delicious and refreshing when served cold. It’s not something that many people would necessarily think about, but our customers are pretty adventurous and we’ve sold a lot of them.
Once the wines are chosen, we discount them at 17% off the shelf price, put them in a handy 6-bottle Heights Chateau wine tote, and they’re ready to go.The sampler you bought was Geraldine’s Crispy Six. Geraldine has been working at the shop for about a year now. She is French by birth but before moving here she lived in Greece for 22 years. Her Sampler featured red, white and rosé wines that she found particularly refreshing, and well-suited for what is usually the hottest month of the year.
Here is a list of the wines you enjoyed:
Sampler D: Geraldine’s Crispy Six
(2 white, 2 red, 2 rosé) was $83.99 now $69.99
San Felice 11 Vermentino “Perolla” $12.99
Vibrant, aromatic and dry
Langoux 11 Pouilly Fume $16.99
Delicate and zesty Sauvignon Blanc
Source de Vignelaure 11 Rosé $14.99
Soft fruit is balanced by bright acidity
Solitude 11 CDR Rose $14.99
Bone-dry and refreshing
Schloss Mühlenhoff 10 Dornfelder 1 L $10.99
Easy-drinking with cassis and orange zest
Geffard & Guilbaud 09 Equilibrium Red $13.99
Bright and fruity bland of Gamay and Cab Franc
Q. Which Sampler has been the most popular? Does it become a fun competition among the employees?
Last month the “August in Pink” rose sampler just beat out Geraldine’s Crispy Six by a hair (Our customers drink A LOT of rosé).
It does get a little competitive, but it’s all in good fun. The creation of the sampler isn’t necessarily predicated upon the desire to sell more than anyone else, but of course you think a little bit about what people will enjoy. Still, sometimes the samplers can be really out of left field, and that person knows they’re only going to sell a handful. It’s all part of what makes it cool.
Q. What can we expect in the fall?
The September samplers are up! It’s a fun mix this month. Matthew, the owner, is revisiting some of his favorite whites of the summer. Judy is starting going back to basics with the ABC’s (That’s Albarinho,Barbera and Chardonnay). I’m doing a selection of Pinot Noirs from around the world. Geraldine chose some wines in expectation of an Autumn in NY. We’re also featuring a rosé sampler again, and might do a special selection for the Jewish holidays.
Q. I understand September is special month! Talk to us..
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. For the third year in a row we’re celebrating by offering a bunch of extra tastings featuring Bourbon, as well as a few Ryes and American Whiskeys. Bourbon has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity over the past few years and this is a great way to try a few old favorites as well as some new offerings. This year we’re doing ten extra tastings which should amount to over 25 whiskeys. We post upcoming tastings on our calendar.
Q. What other programs do you guys offer?
Our weekly tastings, which are Thursday-Saturday. These are very casual walk in tastings and are always free. On those days any wines we taste are 10% off and any sparkling is 5% off. Fridays are generally reserved for spirits tastings. We expand our tasting calendar in the Fall, so there will be as many as five tastings a week September through December.
We have Wine of the Month and Spirit of the Month clubs that are a lot of fun. Again, we curate the selection and deliver each installment to your door with with comprehensive tasting notes. Many members receive these as gifts and then continue in the club because it’s a neat way to explore the world of wine and spirits.
Customers really enjoy our case discounts and free delivery. We offer 17% off a solid case of wine and 15% off any mixed case (5% off sparkling). We delivery for free throughout Brooklyn, Queens and most of Manhattan. Local deliveries can usually be done within a couple hours, seven days a week. We deliver outside the immediate area on Tuesdays through Saturdays.
We do occasional wine-pairing dinners and special event tastings. We have an event coming up at the end of September at Frankies 457 Spuntino that is already close to sold-out.
Q. Have you noticed an uptick on Atlantic Ave since some of the new stores have opened?
There is definitely more foot traffic on Atlantic Avenue these days. In the past year and a half our block has had a couple welcome additions in Colonie and Chez Moi, and there is more to come. It’s exciting to see the changes. Sundays used to be pretty quiet around here, but now they can get very busy.
Q. Am I missing anything?
We’re always coming up with new ways to keep things fresh and exciting around the shop, including in-store specials and web-only deals. Customers can sign up for our mailing list on our web site, check out new releases, and also read our monthly blog The Focused Palate, where staff-members write about interesting wine and spirits-related topics.