The trio that’s keeping California Avenue wine-friendly.
“A chef, a sommelier and an accountant walk into a wine shop...’’ sounds like the perfect joke setup. It was salvation for a 33-year-old Palo Alto store that might have closed when its founder retired. That trio bought Vin Vino Wine (437 California Ave., 650.324.4903) this spring to keep it going. Chef Guillaume Bienaime of Palo Alto’s Zola restaurant, a customer for years, partnered with sommelier Lisa Robins and accountant Alecia Blazei of Martella Winery in Woodside.
How did this come about?
AB: All of us worked at Howard Bulka’s Marche restaurant in Menlo Park. Guillaume bounced the idea off of Howard, who, in turn, told me about it and mentioned that Lisa was available.
Shop founder Victor Pugliese described this as a wine bar for geeks. Does that tradition live on?
LR: It’s not a wine bar with food. It’s a real wine shop with a tasting bar. We want to encourage more non-nerds to visit, and, slowly, we hope to turn them into nerds.
Does the shop still specialize in French wines?
LR: We carry 500 different wines, 65 percent of which are French. We also have a selection of Italian and California wines.
How are the tastings organized?
LR: Today, we have a tasting of American wines of bottles selling for $44 to $145. To offer a taste of a $145 wine is what makes this place unique. The 2 1⁄2-ounce pours are priced from $3 to $22 each, depending upon the wine.
Did you change the place?
LR: We kept the shelves that Victor built and added more. We painted, put in a new floor and converted a storeroom into a private tasting room.
What’s planned for the holidays?
LR: We already have about 30 Champagnes, but we’ll bring in another 15. We really like bubbles.
Originally published in the October/November issue of Silicon Valley