Archive

Archive for the ‘Wine Industry’ Category

The New(ish) Normal

April 3, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the e-mail that went out to our Free Range list last night:

Howdy Free Rangers,

We’ve been hearing this thrown around a lot: The New Normal. At this point, I take that to mean uncharted territory in every direction. Around Here, the website orders and pick-ups have been going fairly well, thanks to Derek and all of you. To get back to a little more of our usual normal, scroll to the bottom for a mini-Secret Whiskey List, of otherwise unpublished sale-priced whiskey. As many restaurants and bars aren’t ordering the volume they once did, we have access to bottles and cases that we’d normally only get a tiny taste of (or none at all), and I like to pass on discounts to you fine folks, when we can.

Now, for today’s moment of levity (and/or absurdity), which comes via Hila, who works with us when she’s not writing songs, making videos, or performing at House of Yes. Please enjoy: Quarantine Tips from Hilly & Nilly

We are still maintaining our limited days/hours schedule and are open Thursday – Sunday 1-6pm (at least). As always, please check out the web site www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com and/or call 718.643.2250 to place orders and/or ask any questions you may have. Again, most of our staples are visible online, but much of the old and rare is not yet there.

Stay hydrated, take care of yourselves, and be excellent to each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

This week only, as supplies last!
**These prices are not online, reply here! Sale     Retail
Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon        $39     $49
Bowman Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon       $49     $59
Bowman Brothers Port Barrel Bourbon          $49     $59

Delaware Phoenix Bourbon 375ml                 $28     $38
Delaware Phoenix Rye 375ml                       $28     $38

Eagle Rare 10 Year 1.75L                             $67     $85
EH Taylor Small Batch Bourbon                     $49     $65

Hibiki Harmony                                           $79     $89
Suntory Toki                                               $36     $45

Twitter
Facebook
Website
Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
Add us to your address book

Riders on the Storm

March 31, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the e-mail that went out yesterday, for those keeping score:

Hello Free Rangers,

Another beautiful day in the apocalypse. I know most of you haven’t been thrilled with the weather lately, but I spent three of my favorite years in Seattle, and I find these grey days comforting, especially yesterday while making deliveries through that misty rain that doesn’t actually penetrate the clothing. I’ve gone through phases of fairly serious anxiety over the last few weeks, as I’m sure many of you have experienced. While I stay up to date, through factual alerts from a variety of online sources, I’ve all but stopped watching the news, which seems to have helped my overall morale. The most complete and honest assessment that has made me feel like I have a reasonable grasp on the situation came from Dr. David Price, a critical care pulmonologist at Weill Corner in Manhattan. It is one of the finest medical institutions on Earth, and is currently treating a significant number of the most serious cases in our City. I highly recommend a watch: Dr. David Price 3/27/2020

Big Thanks to everybody who has been using the website, calling in orders, and generally helping us to help you, without prolonged contact. And apologies to anyone with whom I’ve been short(er than usual). We are still getting a handful of people per day coming in because they’re bored (their words), or just to look, and/or ask random questions about generic factory products that we would never carry: How much sugar is in Bacardi Limon? Do you know if Jack Daniels vegan? I am trying to reason my way around it, but we may have to move to a pick-up only policy, for the days that we are open. More on that as developments unfold.

Regardless, we are closed again this week, today (Monday) through Wednesday, and will again be open Thursday though Sunday, 1- 6pm (at least). Please continue to use the website, for reference, pick-up orders, and limited local delivery, and we will continue to keep its inventory as up to date as possible (and continue adding more of the old and rare items): www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com And you’re always welcome to call the shop directly: 718.643.2250

I know it won’t be any time soon, but I very much look forward to being able to again host in-store tastings, and share with you, all the fun things we’ve discovered recently. Aside from everything else, it’s still an exciting time to be doing what we do. There are some wonderful things going in the worlds of vinification and distilling out there in the world, including some truly exemplary work happening right here in Brooklyn.

Stay hydrated, take care of yourselves, and be excellent to each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Twitter
Facebook
Website
Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
Add us to your address book

Life During Wartime

March 25, 2020 Leave a comment

This is the e-mail that went out to our Free Range e-mail list 3/23/2020 (links in this one were included in the the original e-mail), after which we’re officially caught up and Free Range e-mail blasts will be posted here, shortly after going out to our shop subscribers:

Hello Free Rangers,

On my tougher days I try to remind myself that, unlike a lot of people in the world, I didn’t wake up this morning in a war zone, or in a region on fire, or completely displaced from everything I’ve ever known. There have been a lot of days like this recently.

All told (tolled?), I am well aware that I am one of the lucky ones. While so many people are out of work and/or losing their businesses, we continue to thrive (gratefully!) amongst this wonderful neighborhood that helped us get off the ground seven years ago. I’m saying this now, as a few people have asked if they could buy gift certificates from us, seemingly to help infuse cash now for future products, rather than for gift giving. It warms our hearts to know that many of you feel this way about us, but having been deemed a necessary business, we’ve been able to stay open, and are doing quite well, by our own historical standards. And just to reiterate, while we are closed today through Wednesday, we will be open Thursday through Sunday 1-6pm (at the very least). Rest assured, everyone who works here will continue to be paid their usual full-shift amounts, regardless of hours worked, besides Derek, who will get a sizeable overtime check for his many hours of invaluable service this week.

Many local businesses are not fairing so well. Our buddy, Kareem, next door at Absolute Coffee is staying open, for take-out only. He is a hard-working, highly moral, multi-lingual immigrant just trying to live the dream, and his landlord seems uninterested in helping at all through the current crisis. So, if you need to stretch your legs, without straying too far from home, please go grab a cup of coffee or tea from him, and/or some of his delicious coffee beans to go, which he’s happy to grind for you on the spot, if you don’t have the ability at home.

You can also support our fine friends at French Louie (and Buttermilk Channel) by purchasing a gift certificate from them, and/or support their out-of-work staff(s) by donating to a fund set up to help them out: Here.

Now, for your amusement, by request from a number of you, the following were our two worst customer experiences (only two bad ones, really) since I last wrote:

1) A woman came in looking for Moscato. “Well, that’s easy,” I tell her, “as we only have one, but luckily for you, it’s quite tasty. It’s a frizzante, so it has a light bubble to it, and that quintessential white peachy sweetness. Foris was a true pioneer in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon and have been there since 1971, when they…”
“I’ve had that one,” she interrupted, “It’s bad.”
“Oooookay,” I replied and went back to restocking our decimated shelves, not bothering to explain to her the difference between her personal taste and empirical quality. I returned from the back, many bottles in hand to find her on the phone, standing directly between all 4 of our new no cell phone signs, and pointed to the one directly in front of her, at eye level, saying as gently as humanly possible, “We have a no cell phone policy.” She rolled her eyes at me, and left.

2) Two women came in the shop, with two spaniels (whom we offered treats, but their humans neither looked at us, nor offered response). Both Derek and I offered to help, separately, and were declined. The pair walked back and forth between the fridge and the shelves, taking up space, and making social distancing impossible. We both pleaded with them to do their shopping on the wall, and assured them that if they intended to open the bottles right away, we’d be happy to get them one from the fridge. They continued doing as they pleased, and then planted themselves in front of the fridge, as a pack, completely blocking the front door. Eventually, they left in a huff, and went home to leave us a 1-star Yelp review. Naturally, I replied publicly. Although, the review was so short that it very well could have been the lady from the previous incident. Whoever it was, she has literally never left a review above 1-star for any business.

Stay strong, keep hydrated, offer help to everyone to whom you have access, and take care of each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Holy F@ck…

March 24, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the e-mail that originally went our to the Free Range Wine & Spirits list on 3/18 (with a few added links):

Ladies, Gentlemen, Children of all ages (over 21 years),

I’ve said this for many years, but it is truer today than ever before: Any day you can you can walk away from is a good one. It’s getting really real out there. Unless genuinely forced to close our doors, we will remain open, though days and hours will be limited.

According to word that has come down from the Mayor’s and Governor’s offices, as long as we reduce our staff by half, and discourage people from gathering here, we can keep the business going. If cops or military show up, and inform us that we are closed, then we will be. Otherwise, going forward, we will be closed Monday – Wednesday, and open Thursday – Sunday 1-6pm.

In the name of discouraging gathering and/or lingering (and for our general collective sanity) we have instituted a NO CELL PHONE USE policy in the shop. Most people have been pretty cool about this request. And for those few who have been shocked and appalled at being politely asked to take their call outside, I’m guessing you’ve already unsubscribed and aren’t reading this. And quite frankly, if at a time like this, you can think about how put out you are by not being able to stroll around our little shop on the phone, you should probably go that terrible over-priced spot on Smith Street. You can do anything you want in there, because they don’t care about you.

Thank you all for the kind words and continued support and encouragement, we quite literally wouldn’t be here without you. Be safe, and take care of each other.
Also, take care of your shoes (if you’ve never been a Phish fan, you won’t get that one).

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Twitter
Facebook
Website
Copyright © 2019 Free Range Wine & Spirits, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you are a customer of Free Range Wine & Spirits.Our mailing address is:
Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
Add us to your address book

Op-Cred: Do Not Drink This Story

March 26, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve been trying to make sense of Bianca Bosker’s loathsome piece in The Times on engineered swill wine since it first darkened my inbox. I get that it’s opinion, but any editor who lets this kind of crap slip by should be ashamed. If there isn’t a better point to be made, maybe give that space to another writer, or even a remotely entertaining ad. I read a smart and fairly measured response by Rachel Signer, and very much enjoyed Eric Asimov’s sober assessment via Twitter. So now that the rest of the wine world has moved on and no longer cares, here goes.

What irked me so fiercely about that absurd defense of shit wine for schmucks is that it posed industrial engineered plonk in a direct continuum with the current natural wine fad. This completely disregards a profound array of good, honest, tasty wine that is neither, to no discernible useful end.

Many great winemakers are doing things right, being relative stewards of the earth, but still choose to intervene in the process, and/or add a tiny amount of SO2 for stability. These are very often the most consistently pleasurable wines on the market, and are completely ignored by this absurd piece of clickbait penned by the self-styled Cork Dork (a title ensuring that I’ll never read the book). It’s about wine and wine people, not the life and times of the Quercus suber, yes? Oh, I get it; it rhymes, and it’s easy to remember. Anyway, many climates require a little help to produce viable grapes, even if not necessarily every season, and many wines need a little stability so they don’t continue to ferment (or immediately start deteriorating), such that every bottle in the same case tastes different. Neglect and chance are not viable winemaking techniques.

Besides being the ethos of many wonderful dedicated juice artists ‘natural’ is a buzzword used to sell stuff, just as is ‘organic’, and to a lesser extent, ‘biodynamic’. The best of natural wine is most definitely a wonderful and welcome movement, but it’s also a trend to be generous, and a fad if we’re being honest. Many natural wine purists don’t differentiate between good/tasty/balanced natural wine and brutally acidic, unstable, undrinkable crap that happens to fit the criteria. Natural does not mean good, and never will, just as literally will never mean figuratively, no matter how many language shredding Philistines use the terms interchangeably.

Marketeers continue to confuse people for their own obvious ends. More often than I’d like, I’m faced with a customer demanding sulfite-free wine. When I gently (sometimes not so gently) explain that the process by which yeast turns sugar to alcohol also creates sulfites (naturally!), they often look at me as if I’ve just told them, “Your god is dead.” One customer simply told me, “That’s not true”. Since nothing good happens at the intersection of ignorance and certainty, I suggested that she shop somewhere that doesn’t mind lying to her, to preserve her fragile false reality, in order to make a sale.

Is organic farming and biodiveristy in soil a good thing for wine and for the earth? Yes, absolutely. But farming and winemaking are very different endeavors, and both are required to get fermented juice into a bottle. And there are many wines that are organic and/or natural that just plain suck. A shocking percentage of walk-in cold calls to my Brooklyn retail shop are by reps spouting off about how natural and organic their wines are. Which immediately begs the question: Are they any good?

To open a natural wine exclusive shop, bar, or restaurant, and leave wine off the list because of a pinch of SO2 seems to miss the point. There’s a huge difference between adding a little tartaric acid, deliberately manipulating the amount of water during vinification, or using a small amount of egg white to clarify (sorry [not sorry] vegans!), and straight up dumping flavor changing additives into an otherwise finished wine. There are many many wines that aren’t 100% natural, but are doing things mostly right, aren’t raping the Earth with chemicals, and are producing accessible, pleasurable wines.

There will always be purists, and I will always feel sorry for them and their dainty palates. If you ONLY drink Burgundy, or Italian wine, or natural wine, you’re just missing out on piles of pleasure by drawing hard lines where they might not need to be. It’s just as vexing as those who only drink un-oaked Chardonnay and insist that any wood is poison to that venerable varietal, when convincingly enjoyable wines exists on either side of that arbitrary fence. And the very best examples often display some creaminess, but without buttering over the fruit, and maintaining vibrant acidity. I would call it balance, but that term too has had a big steamy pile of dogma dumped on it by those seeking to define (and control) a categorized commodity.

Most wine consumers I encounter- the vast majority of customers at our fair shop- just want to drink something that tastes good and doesn’t have chemical crap dumped into it. Luckily for them, we feel that way too, and have lots of love for everything ignored by Bosker’s ill-conceived two treatises of wine. Beyond that noise, don’t ever believe anyone who tells you there’s only one way to make or enjoy great wine. And if you really want to drink a bunch of syrupy chemical crap, just go have a Coke and a smile, but don’t bother writing an article about how good you think it is.

Return of the Flash Sale Sites (part 3)

July 28, 2015 2 comments

It has been forever and a day since we began (and abruptly discontinued) our coverage of the wave of flash sale wine sites that have come into the national marketplace. In that time, there have been some interesting new players to the game, and a bunch of half-assed pretenders as well. But this is America, and any business concept that gains any media traction at all- even if few players are actually profiting- finds a slew of posers and thieves peddling close facsimiles of the most visible early-to-market examples. But the realities of the intersection of wine buying (and collecting) and the flash sale model caught up quickly, and it is no longer a growing landscape. Besides those with massive personal cellars or substantial off-site professional storage, most early flash sale wine enthusiasts learned to curb their impulse buying out of spatial necessity, and the race to replace them with new users is a costly one.Cinderella Wine 7-2015

At this point the growth of flash sale sites has been replaced by email lists which build slower but yield a more consistent audience. But in fairness, the email based offer was the original version of the medium, led by the much lauded Garagiste, with whom I have a long time bone to pick, but that’s a story for another time.

Of the flash sale sites I used to frequent before I had my own retail operation (and access to wholesale pricing) some have undergone unnecessary redesigns, largely for the worse, like the otherwise excellent WineAccess from which I still occasionally purchase west coast wines- for personal consumption- not available in the NY market. My only frustration there involves the ownership of WineAccess and one of our wholesale distributors- here in New York- being the same, but few else will suffer under this conflict of interests, so I’ll spare you my bitching. Before I go a bit more in depth on a couple of standouts in the market, here is a list flash sale sites with which I’ve  had multiple positive experiences (and no significantly negative ones):

WineAccess.com – I don’t entirely understand the recent redesign, or why after many years of successful digital service, the site seems to be in beta, but I have been purchasing excellent west coast wine at lowest available prices for many years. So, I have to give them credit where it is due. While I’ve rarely, if ever, purchased European wine through them, WineAccess continues to source some of the finest, best priced, old vine wines CA has ever had to offer. Over the years, they’ve introduced me to a few of my favorites, and one can get a fairly good free education on the history of American viticulutre, and the nature of the industry, from vineyard to consumer. It’s worth getting on their e-mail list, just for the regular info on CA’s oldest vines. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

Vitis.com – Vitis is the flash sale extension arm of a brick and mortar shop in New York (not The City). They’ve got a couple of fancy MWs making their selections and offer reviews, technical specs, aging potential, cheese pairings, and a suggested recipe for each and every bottle; with a slightly weighted specialty in the Italian direction. It’s a visually attractive site with solid info and little clutter. Every deal I’ve bothered to corroborate has been the best available price in the country. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

WTSO.com – WinesTillSoldOut is the original version of the Vitis model and they move more units, but their content is far less compelling, and visually, it’s as boxy and unappealing as an ’86 Volvo. While they seem have to long since settled into a groove, where long time users have noticed that they seem to run many of the same labels vintage after vintage, their marathon sales can yield some decent scores, if you have all day to continuously refresh and pull the trigger at just the right moment, avoiding the Whammies. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

CinderellawWine.com – CinerellaWine is an extension of WineLibrary in NJ, and whatever you buy from Cinderella gets dumped directly into a shopping cart of said long time margin squeezing retailer. Both operations were grown by the infuriatingly ra-ra Jets fan that is Gary Vaynerchuk, but he’s since run off to be some kind of a motivational speaker and half-assed author that really gets the juices flowing of state school communications majors in fly-over regions across the county. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

Look for the next installment(s), when we’ll go to the mat for the two most interesting players in the flash sale wine market today. Until then, keep on keepin’ on

WineAccess Three offer 12-14