Corey Baumer: First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what sets Zachys apart from other wine retailers?
Andrew McMurray: The best way to describe it is that you get the complete package. We’re an experience-oriented wine store. So that translates across a lot of different areas of the business. We have very experienced, highly trained sales staff in the store itself, so you’re not coming in and dealing with a cashier. Inside the store we put in the Enomatic tasting center, which is a very expensive tasting system that we’ve had flown in from Italy. You can taste wine every day that we’re open. We do a lot of events, whether it be in the store or out of the store, again, to create that experience-oriented connection with wine and spirits so that people get to taste to the level that we get to taste or at least tasting and getting to meet producers from all around the world. The final piece of the whole experience for us is the whole customer service component. There’s very little that we won’t do. From our local customers, delivering product to their houses, like this past July 4th weekend, to our clients in and around the tristate and all over the country. “No” doesn’t exist in our vocabulary.
CB: Could you explain the tasting center a little more?
AM: The tasting system is built in Italy so we had it flown in. It’s about a fifty thousand dollar machine that we had set up in the store. We rotate sixteen new selections into it every week. What better way to figure out if you like a wine or to learn than to come to that tasting center and essentially try before you buy?
CB: What is your favorite part about working at Zachys?
AM: Two parts. One is sourcing the wine [laughs]. Traveling, whether it’s around the country or around the world. It opens a lot of doors to meet a ton of cool people and to taste a lot of great wine and have a lot of incredible experiences. And then interacting with customers. What we sell, it’s different, it’s not a hard sale and it’s not like you’re selling something that people don’t want. People come into the store, they call you on the phone, and they’re already engaged. Usually, they want to share their experience about the last time they tried this wine or that spirit with friends over dinner. Essentially, it’s just connecting with them and sharing experiences. I really enjoy the sales component of it.
CB: What is your favorite wine?
AM: My affinity always turn towards Italian wines. Love the category, have built the category here in the twenty plus years I’ve been here. Within Italy, my favorite category would be Barolo.
CB: What was Zachys’ experience in the SoWe Festival last year and what can we expect to be different this year?
AM: Can I use the adjective “overwhelmed?” [Laughs]. I’m sure you’ve heard this from everyone, but no one really knew what to expect going in,and obviously we were blown away at the volume of people and how well the experience actually came off. I’m sure you guys thought and had the vision, but with all the restaurateurs and that many people there it was incredible. Again, we didn’t know what to expect going into it, so this year it gives us a chance to be more prepared and essentially roll out some cooler stuff. It’s going to give us the opportunity to take it from what is maybe a standard outdoor wine event to something cool and truly memorable and different.
CB: Does Zachys specialize in any specific kind of wine?
AM: We’ve got over 7,000 selections, so it’s hard to say. We specialize in everything. I can say that our largest category, is European wines. We’re a very Eurocentric store. We sell an awful lot of Italian and French wines. Those are the two biggest categories by far. Most stores you go to in the U.S., California wines are the top category, but we’re a bit different.
CB: What’s a fun fact about wine that most people don’t know?
AM: That a lot of red wines taste better when they’re slightly chilled.
CB: And, finally, let’s wrap up with what wines you’re bringing to SoWe this year.
AM: It’s going to be a huge array. We’ve got over thirty suppliers involved already and, for us, we want it to be a global experience. The wines are going to range all the way from South Africa, over to New Zealand, up through Washington state and all of California. Pretty much every walk of life that you can think of all throughout Europe.