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Posts Tagged ‘retail’

Baseball, retail, and square bottles of whisky.

July 24, 2020 Leave a comment

Howdy Free Rangers,

Okay, so this is weird. It seems the wrong people are becoming a bit afraid of me. Let me first say this: If you are reading this e-mail and have enough empathy in your heart to have ever wondered what it’s like to be on our side of the sales counter, you are not one of the people whose story makes it into these chronicles, about customers that drive us mad. Meanwhile, that same whiskey bro I bitched about last time apparently came back while I was out and started pointing to bottles behind the counter and offering Derek “cash prices” (tax free) below retail. Since it’s illegal to not charge sales tax, he was really asking for a double discount. This guy has yet to put a penny into our business, and is only interested in our very rarest items, so not sure why he thinks anybody would want to give him a deal and incentivize his return.

Conversely, we have endless patience for, and take great enjoyment in, honest questions about wine and spirits, no matter how simple or complex. I can talk about the differences between Bourbon and Rye, or the subtle similarities shared by Pinot Noir and Syrah, all day. That’s kind of how I ended up here. And while I know a fair amount about these things, I certainly don’t know everything about anything. Part of what’s so cool about the world of wine & spirits is that any true student of the game is always learning. Though I suppose one could say that about any worthwhile discipline, and/or student. Whatever you’re into, if you genuinely believe there’s nothing more for you to learn there, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Reps, colleagues, and customers bring things to my attention all the time that result in questions and research on my end, which really is part of the fun. At some point, I reallocated all of the brain space that used to contain sports stats and trivia; so while I no longer remember who played 3rd base for the Pittsburg Pirates in 1960, I can tell you with relative confidence that unless you have a profoundly rare acute allergy- which completely prevents you from ever eating deli meat or dried apricots- it wasn’t the miniscule amount of sulfites in the wine that caused your headache last Friday. But seriously, please don’t stand in front of the fridge when you enter the shop. Those same bottles are priced on the wall (low to high), where the lights are on, five more feet into the building. Also, you’re blocking the front door, which isn’t cool to us, other patrons, or to the tenets of basic social distancing. Please help us out here.

Re: sports stats, baseball was my first love, and I do still remember that Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record on April 8th, 1974. He also once graciously let me interview him for a high school term paper on Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball. April 8th, was also the birthday of Mets’ great, Gary Carter, who wore #8 on his jersey, while his knees slowly disintegrated behind home plate. Gary was also super nice to an awkward adolescent me, and autographed just about everything I owned, during a few consecutive spring breaks of leaning over the rail at pre-season ballgames in West Palm Beach. It is for these reasons that even though I haven’t followed team sports for many years, I do still celebrate Baseball Day every April 8th. Please feel free to bring your own peanuts and Crackerjacks. Hopefully by next spring we’ll be hosting in-store tastings, and we can pour the perfect pairing for that.

This week’s Open Hours remain (though we’ve been staying open later than posted fairly frequently).

Mon – Thurs:             1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                      1 – 8pm
Sunday:                       1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

[NOTE: THIS SALE IS OVER, to receive e-mails directly from Free Range Wine & Spirits (while the sales are active), please enter your e-mail address at the bottom of the front page on our site: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com]

Congratulations on making it to the sale portion or our show! Unfortunately, I’m not tech savvy enough to generate a coupon code without Derek here, so we’re going with an old fashioned must-re:-this-e-mail style offer right now! I suppose it’s also radio call-in style, because the next 6 people to reply with intent to purchase, shall receive 1 bottle of Nikka From the Barrel Japanese Whisky @ $99 (usually $139), first e-mailed, first served!

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sigmund Fraud (sp?, we know)…

July 8, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Hello Free Rangers,

It’s humid, it’s stormy, our AC bills are through the roof, and we seem to be spending two thirds of our workday pulling people out of the refrigerator. Yup, it’s summer (in and out of the bottle). This was a fun one: A well-dressed woman comes in with a large stroller, and a walking, talking, fully coordinated child (too old for a stroller?). She parks the stroller blocking the front door, takes things out of the refrigerator that she then asks us to put back, allows her kid to pick up bottles, and hang on the fridge door. When I gently suggest (the third time) that she view the Champagne on the wall, where the lights are on and prices are listed, she immediately pulls another bottle from the fridge and asks how much it is, to which I reply, “the price is right over here, where I’ve asked you to look three times.” She shoots me an icy glare and growls, “Am I doing something that’s bothering you?” Yeah, it’s been that kind of a week.

Endless thanks to our friendly neighborhood regulars who let us vent, and have already heard this one; and to all of our four-legged friends, who lower my blood pressure, daily, with their furry sincerity. You’re always welcome to swing through for dog treats on a walk, whether or not you need a bottle for the road. Aside from the usual seasonal downturn in sales and uptick in obliviousness, we’re seeing a significant rise in attempted fraud, and almost exclusively for one product: Clase Azul Reposado Tequila. In fact, out of everyone (that isn’t already in our system) who has tried to purchase Clase Azul this year, only one person had a credit card with a chip and a valid ID with the same name that was on the card.

Clase Azul is a fraud magnet to a completely unprecedented degree. Most fraudsters want to pay with Apple Pay and show you a picture of an ID on their phone. Because of this, our policy on this product is that if a new customer even mentions Clase Azul, they must present a credit card with a working chip, a valid NY State drivers license in perfect condition, and a third form of ID with the same name. But we’d really prefer to sell what Clase Azul remains to our local friends at a discount, and then stop carrying it entirely. Scroll to the bottom for the details, and a link to the coupon code on our website.

Status quo on our weekly open hours, which look like this (though on nicer days, when folks tend to come in later, we have been staying open later than posted):

Mon – Thurs:              1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                      1 – 8pm
Sunday:                       1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

The website is running well, and there’s some cool new (and old) stuff that’s just been added: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

Here’s your sale of the week; we’ve got 10 bottles left and will not be ordering more:
sale:                        retail:
Clase Azul Reposado Tequila .750             $119                        $135

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

When I Find Myself in Times of Trouble…

March 23, 2020 Leave a comment

At some point during the recent chaos, the email blasts from my little wine shop ended up containing the kind of stuff I used to post here. So, I’m going to start re-posting them, with links and extra pics, the likes of which I would have added, had they been in a post like this, originally. So, here’s what went out on 3/14/2020, updated, but unchanged:

Howdy Friends and Neighbors,

Toward the end of his life, Hunter S. Thompson lamented that it never got weird enough for him. Well, it’s pretty weird out there these days. I’m sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that we’ve suspended in-store tastings until further notice. That being said, I’ve always promised that you would never get an e-mail from us that didn’t include FREE booze, so any time you’re in the shop, pick a category, and you’re welcome to a FREE taste from any one of the bottles we currently have open: whiskey, gin, vodka, amaro

We’re very lucky here at Free Range, and the vast majority of our customers we see fairly regularly, and 99% of you all are wonderful to talk to and it is my genuine pleasure to be trusted with your booze needs. It was this very neighborhood that led me to put every dollar I had into this business 7 years ago, and after that first rocky, scary year, we’ve done quite well, and we continue to do so, right into these turbulent, uncertain days. As previously mentioned, Thursday was absolute chaos in here and there were only two of us working. Luckily, Derek is one of coolest, mellowest, most understanding human beings I know, and with the help of you all (minus 2), we made it through the highest volume day, per shop hand, we’ve ever experienced. Yesterday was even higher traffic, but there were 3 of us, and most everybody who came in was grateful and reasonable, and we can’t thank you enough.

I’m not sure what’s going on today, but we’re seeing a level of uneasiness and entitlement that is completely unprecedented. Again, we all know that we’re in uncharted territory here (locally, nationally, and globally), and most of us are still handling it fairly well. There are 2 favors that we’ve always asked all of our customers:

1) Please don’t let anybody under 21 years old handle bottles of alcohol.

2) Please remember that it takes an hour or less to chill a bottle of wine and only take from the fridge what you plan to open right away.

All of a sudden the latter simple request seems a bridge too far for a small few. We are all on edge, on both sides of the counter, and we’re doing our best to maintain our usual high level of product and service (while desperately trying to keep the shelves stocked), and we really need your help to meet the needs of everyone who comes through the door.

Please keep as cool-headed as possible, and take care of each other.

Most sincerely,
Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Long Live(d) Chapoutier!

May 19, 2011 2 comments

Checking in with some old friends.

I have a lot of vices, but wine is my very favorite. I know we aren’t supposed to look at the fact that wine, for all of its other fine qualities, contains alcohol, which is poison, but it does. So, it’s a vice; a beautiful, enriching, encompassing, fulfilling vice. And when one drinks from an older bottle whose contents have made it successfully here to the future, I believe one gains from the wisdom of its years.

There’s a game I like to play with my favorite vice I call: Is This Bottle Still Good? As one might gather from the name, it simply involves opening bottles of wine that are old enough that the odds of true enjoyable drinkability is right around 50%. Usually at home, or occasionally at a BYO or no corkage fee situation, I’ll pull out a handful of such bottles and keep opening them until there is enough living wine to satiate the palates at hand. Last night was the most successful round in recent memory and while it hasn’t yet occurred that I’ve written a post here based on the performance of a single wine, that’s what’s happening right now. The remarkable wine in question was a Chapoutier Chateauneuf du Pape La Bernardine 1983 (not to be confused with Le Bernardin), but we’ll get to the tasting notes soon enough.

Older bottles that I have with which to play Is This Bottle Still Good? are generally ones that were inexpensive enough as to suggest that they are likely past their prime, if drinkable at all. This night’s game began with an old Burgundy that I had acquired for almost nothing which has since been sitting out on the kitchen counter awaiting it’s day. The 1985 Maniere-Noirot Nuits St Georges Les Damodes initially gave the impression that it had little left to offer and would disintegrate within minutes. While unquestionably light, it seemed to develop subtle secondary flavors and a pleasurable back-palate dryness lasting the duration of it’s consumption. Only the last sip that lingered in the glass a bit too long began to show decline. The experience was nice, not thrilling, but nice.

Gracefully aged.

The second bottle, Dominique Laurent Nuits St Georges #1 1995, was the only true casualty of the evening. The neck level was lower than it should have been and the cork was soft. Upon pouring, the color looked good, but that telltale waft of powdered cork spoke the truth that the wine in this bottle was doomed the moment it was sealed. We left it out, as on occasion, the cork can blow off and leave a drinkable palate behind, but this one was adversely affected and there was no bringing it back. Corked.

And then there was the inspiration for this post. The bottle of ’83 Chapoutier Chateauneuf du Pape La Bernardine is beautiful on it’s own as a physical artifact. The label, though well intact, shows it’s age with slight yellowing, and this long since altered label design has a look that is much older than it is, though my 25 year old brother Alex pointed out that the wine was older than he is. The Bassin’s price tag, shows the $8.99 that was paid for this bottle in 1984 or ’85 (not by me) and has become one with the green glass more so even than the labels. While amused by this on many levels, I would be remiss in my duties as the most honest wine writer on the CyberWeb if I didn’t take a moment to discuss Bassin’s (aka MacArthur Beverages) which has been a major player in wine retail in DC since 1957, as the website proudly proclaims.

Bassin’s is the original home of the bait and switch. I have had so many problems with them over the years that a full list would require a separate post. But should you be enticed by their selection and prices, which are both significant, know that you may very well have to personally keep after them to not only complete your order, but to deliver exactly what you’ve paid for. The most egregious infraction came a few years back when two dear friends of mine were married and they had registered with Bassin’s. Rather than select from their registry list I scoured the web site, made my selections and ordered a mixed case of some of our favorite things. Many months later, when visiting that couple at their home in DC, they thanked me for the gift case and suggested we start the evening with one of the remaining bottles. To my horror, less than half of that case were wines that I had chosen and of the ones that were, most were the wrong vintage (but not more recent). There is a huge difference in Napa Cab between 2000 and 2001, the later being significantly better across the board, but the ’01 Miner Family Cab I had ordered showed up ’00. The same couple upon hearing this, said that they too had similar problems with Bassin’s in the past. I do occasionally still order from Bassin’s when they have the best price on the wine I am seeking (most recently some ’95 La Tour Haut Brion), but I always double check price and availability and follow-up. I suggest you do the same, if you must buy from them at all.

Unhesitating Beauty.

But back to Maison Chapoutier and their important work. It should be noted here that the current proprietor and winemaker Michel Chapoutier took over in 1990 and immediately began making some of the region’s finest wine, putting them high in the running for finest worldwide. Before that time, Chapoutier wines showed flashes of brilliance, but were more rustic and much less consistent vintage to vintage. The last time this Old Bottles game had been so successful was upon opening a pair of Chapoutier from ’79 (Hermitage La Sizerannae and Cote Rotie). Those wines were quite beautiful though at the time of consumption were wearing the weight and color of medium bodied Burgundies, ten years younger. This ’83 La Bernardine upon opening showed a dark red, nearly opaque, color that had no intention of relenting and a deep nose of bloody raw steak. From the first waft, it was 10 times the wine that was a still pretty, but lithe and fleeting ’83 Hermitage La Sizeranne from the same parcel, opened last week. The ’83 La Bernardine was simply huge for it’s age and showed significantly weightier than two recently opened vintages of the same wine from the 90s. As it continued to breath, more and more flavors and scents became apparent and at no point did the wine show any signs of drying out. As the slaughterhouse smells integrated, sweetness began to emerge in the form of vanilla and light red fruit, and eventually something floral that evolved too rapidly to pin down. Punctuated by fine spice, lead by white pepper, the subtleties could not even be weighed down by the massive evolving palate of tobacco, bramble, dry earth, and chocolate. Savoring as much as possible with a substance so brilliant, it was still gone before it met the back end of it’s plateau. And we were left to “drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.” With apologies to Fitzgerald for brutally misappropriating his words, a wine so stunningly impactful leaves one in a literary melancholy that conjures such notions, this one anyway.

Having just finished one of the finest substances to pass my lips in recent memory and while waxing lyrical about the greatness of the clan Chapoutier, I noticed the last glass inhabiting a bottle of ’95 Chapoutier Banyuls, which had been opened and vacuum sealed weeks before, resting on the counter amongst the liquor. A small number of winemakers quietly produce tiny amounts of fortified sweet wine called Banyuls in four communes of the Cote Vermeille. What remained in said bottle was well worthy of palate consideration and seemed to be showing better than when it was first opened. The nose was all smoky bacon and leather and the chocolatey palate was held together by a deep soft caramel sweetness that was an unqualified delight to sip while reminiscing and somewhat lamenting the last of ’83 La Bernardine.

Without VacuVin this finale would not have been possible.