I live down the street from Heights Chateau, and this Brooklyn Heights wine shop was one of my first retail customers. Matthew LaSorsa, the shop’s owner, supports local wines, highlights “HC Hearts NY State Wines” on his website, and promotes them via wine dinners with local restaurants. I did a tasting there last night in the heart of the Christmas shopping season. The staff was in a controlled high-speed juggling mode, wrapping gift baskets and presents, helping customers find wines and spirits, and answering telephone calls. In the midst of this, they set up a table for me in the center aisle to introduce my wines to their customers.
I thought that I knew everyone in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, but there were many new faces. The first gentleman was from Istanbul, and he reminded me that wine comes from the fertile crescent, with many references in the bible. I was afraid he might spit out my wine when he heard it came from Long Island, but he chewed it around his mouth, nodded, and bought a bottle of Bouké Red. A very handsome, slim, young Japanese man with long hair, a leather jacket and a French accent came by my table. I thought he might be tri-lingual because of his accent, but he did not speak French. He was curious to know what local wines taste like, and bought both Bouké White and Perlant. A man with a furry hat stopped by, and recognized the labels from wineLIFE in Staten Island. How nice! A well-dressed woman in a khaki jacket, pink scarf and high brown leather boots asked me to hold her bottle of Oban single malt whisky while she looked around the store. She loved the labels and the wine, felt proud that we could produce such good wine in New York, and bought bottles of both Bouké Red and White.
Not everything ran like clockwork. I made a mistake with a customer, a young woman who was eating alone that night because her husband was away. We were discussing take-out food and wine pairings, and what we both liked in the neighborhood. While we were talking, she got so hungry that she excused herself, left the wine shop, and went to the Chip Shop to buy shepherd’s pie. My other tasting mistake was showing the wines to people who were sucking cough drops, not unusual in this cold season. I knew the wines would taste bitter to them after cough drops, but I couldn’t turn them away. Note to self: don’t forget to bring crackers next time.
In some other wine shops where I’ve done tastings, customers have entered with their headphones on, either conversing with someone or listening to music, anything to shut off any potential contact with salespeople. I did not encounter this at Heights Chateau. The tone is civilized.