SAN DIEGO, November 12, 2015 – Despite being enjoyed for thousands of years, many people find wine intimidating. They might enjoy it on a basic level, but when they start exploring wines, they run into confusing terminology and so many details and nuances they give up and choose another beverage rather than risk looking silly in front of their friends.
San Diego based caterer John Crisafulli of BTS Hospitality found himself advising catering clients who wanted help buying wines for their personal dinner parties, special occasions, even help building their own wine cellars because they didn’t feel confident enough to do it themselves. Crisafulli says it started happening so often, “we decided to open a neighborhood wine bar.” Three years later, Village Vino is thriving. Crisafulli says, “It’s grown to be a more vibrant, complex project than we envisioned. It’s really caught on because of our unique approach to wines and offerings.”
Neither wine nor wine bars are anything new, but Crisafulli’s approach focuses on the smaller wine producers and family-owned wineries, both in the U.S. and from other wine producing countries – which includes every continent except Antarctica. The secret: Crisafulli’s connections through his catering business (which works with clients worldwide including the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero) allow him unique access.
“I’m able to leverage my buying power from the catering side. We get allocations of wines people couldn’t normally get. We deliver things people can’t get or find, small production wines. Village Vino is the kind of place you’re never going to find a wine you could buy at Costco, Trader Joe’s or grocery stores. Village Vino has been voted ‘Best Wine List in San Diego’ for the last two years. It speaks to our unique approach to wine and guest experience. We want our patrons to be as excited about the wine as we are.”
Crisafulli, along with wine buyer Cori Holstedt, say this is where the magic happens at Village Vino.
“We focus in on small producers because as a general rule, a smaller batch of anything, whether food or wine, tends to have a little more hands-on approach,” explains Crisafulli. “The winemaker is literally out in the vineyard, checking the grapes. There is more finesse with the way the grapes are farmed and harvested. You’re not going to find that in mass produced vineyards harvesting with machinery. The smaller you go, you get better quality. You get the finesse of the winemaker and it comes through in every glass.”
Holstedt says the fun for her is helping beginning wine drinkers find things they like and learn about wine. “That is more fun to me than impressing the more experienced wine drinker. Their eyes light up, and they say, ‘I didn’t even know I liked wine from Spain!’ You could be the make or break person that keeps a new or even moderate consumer interested.”
“The idea is to get people to come in, find something they like, something they’ve never tried before,” adds Crisafulli. “It’s fun for us to extend people’s horizons a little bit. People tend to pigeonhole themselves when they don’t know wines to well. There is such a broad range of wines. A majority of wine drinkers are out there learning as they go. That’s the audience we cater to, people who want to be more adventurous and try new things.”
Holstedt admits wine can intimidate anyone. “Some days it intimidates me!” she laughed. “It’s the unknown. You see a wine list and you don’t want to play financial Russian roulette. There is so much information. It’s a wild card and it’s scary,” said Holstedt.
Inevitably with the vast unique offerings, people often-times end up playing it safe with something they already know. Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon.
“My whole thing with starting Village Vino and the reason we do what we do is introducing people to things they haven’t tried,” said Crisafulli. “That’s my whole philosophy with food too; getting our clients and guest to be a little more adventuresome.
“We’re willing to try almost anything to get people to open up their horizons. There are so many gems. The more we share, this formula has proven successful for us. The idea is we want to win people over as our clients and guests, trust what we are recommending, and it keeps them coming back, committed and part of the culture and family. That’s what has moved our growth in a positive direction,” explains Crisafulli.
San Diego has become a hotbed for the craft beer industry. Rather than compete with his business, Crisafulli says it’s turned out to be a boon for him, too. “It’s complimentary, it’s not too dissimilar to what we do. As people try craft beer, that whole attitude rolls over to wine drinkers, or people who become wine drinkers… especially because craft beer makers also tend to be boutiques.
Crisafulli says he hopes to expand his model of boutique focused wine bars to additional cities. Until Village Vino reaches your city, what can you do to become a more open minded and adventurous wine drinker?
“Come in with an open mind,” advises Crisafulli. “Try new things, have faith in your server or wine professional or wine retailer. Describe what you like about wine. Someone in the industry can take even a little smattering of adjectives and put it to use to find something similar for different for you to enjoy.
“A willingness to try something else is the best way to expand your palate and your horizons,” says Crisafulli. “There are so many different wines and different regions. A wine person can take that and find the translatable things there. Now you like five varietals instead of just one.”
Village Vino is located at 4095 Adams Avenue in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego, California. On the web: http://villagevino.com/
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