BY CHRISTY KORROW
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
November 4, 2015
The earliest commercial-scale vineyards in Washington State were planted only 50 years ago. Fast-forward to 2015 and the Washington wine community has grown into an internationally respected and influential industry boasting over 850 wineries. An eclectic selection of 75 to 100 different labels of bottled regional terroir can be found on the shelves of 2nd Street Wine Shop, tucked away on the store’s namesake street in Langley.
Proprietors Mike and Laurel Davis are familiar faces to the local customers who frequent the neighborhood wine shop to taste, explore new wines or pick up quarterly wine club orders. Both were born and raised in Washington and opened their shop in 2008 with a focus on Washington wines. They love the state of Washington and proudly stand behind Washington products.
When Laurel Davis was asked “Why Washington wine?” she said, emphatically, “Washington does a really great job in winemaking. So…why not?”
The couple specializes in introducing their customers to Washington’s boutique, small-scale production wineries, focusing on wines not found on most grocery store shelves. “It’s more fun to go after the smaller producers who may not necessarily get the shelf space in the larger wine and grocery stores,” Davis said. Many wines on the shelves at 2nd Street Wine Shop are “lesser-known wines that you don’t always see, she added. “I’m most interested in harder-to-find wines,” giving the wine lover a purpose and a reason to come to their shop. The Davises are enthusiastic about helping artisan winemakers get their wines out to the world, beyond their own winery or tasting room.
Many of the wines showcased in the shop are not available through distributors. “When I call to order wine,” Davis said, “I’m often talking directly to the winemaker. They are often the ones making the delivery, so Mike and I get to know them.”
Wine drinkers don’t usually consider the DYI nature of small-scale winemaking and the risk and commitment it takes. As a fellow small business owner, Davis said she has tremendous respect for the winemakers’ efforts. “For some, this is their full-time job, but for others, they have a full-time job—and in addition to that, they are winemaking,” she added. “They are making a huge effort to get their products to market—I applaud them.”
A number of the winemakers whose wines are sold in the shop have come there to pour their latest releases and chat with customers. “They share their stories, and this is when you get the real details of who they are and why they make the wines that they make,” said Davis.
Most producers whose wines are selected for the shop are producing 2,000 cases or less per year. (Compare this with an average popular brand in the grocery store where production might be 100,000 cases, and even up to a million per year.) Because of the small quantities, the wines rotate and you’ll often find something new on the shelves, thus getting an opportunity to experience a wide variety of wines.
With so many wines to select from, how do customers choose what to take home, share at that special dinner, or give as a gift? The Davises taste every wine they sell, and the wines that make it onto the shelves are those they, themselves, would drink and be proud to serve to friends. Customers know that “we know the wine, we’ve had the wine, and we can describe it to them,” Davis said, although ultimately, she added, “the best way to know if you like the wine: taste it.”
What you won’t find at this wine establishment is pretentious ‘wine-tasting speak.’ Don’t let this fool you. Davis is a chef, classically trained in French cuisine, and it was during her 13 years as a chef at Chateau St. Michele that she gained extensive experience pairing wines with meals. She confessed that learning to taste alongside the brilliant St. Michele winemakers could be “very intimidating!”
While the shelves of the store are lined with some of the most talked-about wines in the state, both award-winning and high scoring, the couple’s simple approach is refreshing, “Don’t get stuck or over-think your wine choices,” Davis said. When pairing, “drink what you like, eat what you like, stay with the basics. You’ll know if that works. Take that first sip, and ask, do I want to go further with this? If, after the second or third sip, you have that sense of ‘wow, I want to tell people about this; this is a fabulous wine,’ then you’ll know you’re onto something!” What matters most, she stressed, is the social experience of sharing food and drink with people you enjoy.
As for Davis’ recommendations on what to serve with turkey dinner during the holidays: “Rosé goes well with turkey. Chardonnay is a standard, but for variety try a Viognier/Roussanne blend. For red-wine lovers, try something light, a softer red blend, Pinot Noir—keeping in mind most regional Pinots are usually grown in Oregon, so you won’t find them here in our store. Washington does Lemberger well. The spice and acidity of Sangiovese is delicious with turkey. You can even try a good Merlot. The most important thing is to have fun with it!”
2nd Street Wine Shop is open six days a week, closed on Tuesdays and during the entire month of January. Wine tasting is offered during regular business hours. Ask to be put on their mailing list to be notified when a visiting winemaker will be pouring his or her wines at the shop, and get details about the 2nd Street Wine Shop Wine Club, featuring limited vintages, older vintages, selections from winery libraries, or introductions to unique grape varietals.
For more information about 2nd Street Wine Shop, go to http://www.2ndstreetwineshop.com.
Image at top: Small business owners, Mike and Laurel Davis run their own shop, open six days a week. (photo © Chris Korrow)
Christy Korrow lives in Langley and is employed full-time in publishing. She and her husband Chris are co-developers of the Upper Langley Affordable Housing Community, an eco-village of 16 households on 10 acres in the city limits of Langley. Her website is: www.christykorrow.wordpress.com.
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