Island Time Fine Wine & Spirits Venice 9/19
Bill Herlihy is a most amiable person. He is the on-site presence of a partnership that is now in control of this store. The name Island Time is derived from a restaurant in Sarasota that Bill owned. He has been in the restaurant business for many years and not long ago purchased the former Brindleys with a partner and renamed it Island Time. He allowed Bill Ahearn to run the business but over the past few years it did not meet expectations. Bill Ahearn is gone and Bill Herlihy ,with his current partner, have purchased the real estate and plan to enhance the wine selections substantially.
He has already purchased redwood wine racks that now cover a formerly empty floor. Since last year he has added five hundred new wines and adjusted prices lower on current inventory. Wine sales are up 30% since last year and new customers appear daily. His plan is to have the finest wines at the lowest prices in Venice. In addition there will be a price matching policy in effect. There is a special climate controlled wine room for hard to find wines selling up to $4000 a bottle.
Bill also plans a major outside remodel which will dramatically alter the facade. There will ultimately be a name change which will be disclosed at a later date. Look for a grand opening on or near November 23.
His floor manager is Jeff, a former wholesale salesperson. In addition to customer contact, Bill has already initiated weekend tastings with suppliers and winemakers. The Bacchus Wine Club meets here on the last Tuesday of the month.
There are cheeses and upscale accoutrements available which will be expanded.
Seagrape Wine Co. Sarasota 5/19
If you desire an intimate wine shop (no beer or spirits) with an engaging, informative proprietor, Sea Grape is for you. This minimalistic but enticing store is located on S. Tamiami between Stickney and Bee Ridge, beside the Big&Tall. Thomas Morgan is the proprietor and sole salesperson. His experience and qualifications are impressive. He was born and educated in Florida and worked 10 years for Wine Warehouse as managing partner. He traveled to Nova Scotia for a while because his wife is from there, and later landed a job as representative with Kermit Lynch, a premier importer of French wines. As of last December he opened Sea Grape to abandon the extensive travel, enjoy home life, surf and get back into retail where he could assist the consumer.
His philosophy is to welcome customers as unique individuals and allow them to express their wants and needs about wine. It’s important for Thomas to develop a relationship with his customers, earn their trust and perhaps engender referrals. He is willing to open wines to taste, relax, and discuss them. His goal is to have consumers become more confident in selecting wine by learning about their own preferences and being able to describe what they like.
Each wine is hand picked by reason of his experience or simply tasting or both. Thomas goes beyond the label to the source. He wants to know the farmer and winemaker behind the label. He provides a weekly email newsletter and in store tastings as well. According to Thomas, after five months of being open, the store is sustaining itself and he is looking forward to what the future holds.
ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Venice 3/19
Since moving here five years ago, this has been my go-to store. I have visited all of the other wine stores in the Venice area but find this to be the most compatible to my needs. The difference here is customer service. Other than Island Times, the others are variances of a warehouse type operations. This ABC has a well laid out scheme of wines occupying a majority of the floor space. There are over 100 locations in this company and they vary widely in size and offerings.
I think ABC is fortunate to have Mark Montalbano as the wine manager. He has extensive experience in retail wine sales and was formerly a manager for T.G.I. Fridays. The nice thing about Mark is that he can converse at the expert of neophyte level. Our conversations are always stimulating and he has put me on to a number of new wine discoveries. When you peruse the isles you can see his face on the shelf talkers describing his personal suggestions. Generally they are accurate. Mark has traveled extensively to wine regions and willingly shares this knowlege.
Another benefit of this store is the monthly wine tastings. For a five dollar contribution (you obtain a glass) you can taste twenty wines or more. Mark or his assistant Terri will pour and discuss if it’s not too crowded. These tastings have a loyal following.
Like most stores there are designated discounts and a loyalty program as well.
1741 s. Tamiami Trial, Venice 941 497 3638
Mark is on the left.