Fine Wines Take Time
If food is love, then wine is happiness.
For centuries, friends and families have clinked glasses together to deliver wishes for good fortune and good cheer. Finch Fine Wines, built on a long and loving friendship, shares the warmth of a glass shared over a good meal or a great conversation. Wines can take you places around the world where grapes grow out of the verdant soil, sunlight and rain are captured in a bottle – and then transformed into special moments to be savored.
Years ago, a wine shop owner in a small storefront on the unfashionable side of Park Avenue, met a young lawyer from Alabama. Ed Finch had graduated from the University of Virginia and left for Wall Street with a diploma and a student’s list of cheap wines. Making friends with other young lawyers who had experience in wine, Ed and the friends set about finding the best wine shop in Manhattan. They found it in an unusual place.
Bernie Fradin, an old-fashioned wine merchant, did not judge young Ed for either his Southern accent or his ignorance about viticulture. Instead, the same man who sold wine to Buckingham Palace, gave equal attention to an aspiring wine lover.
“He must have thought this poor boy needed some help,”
Ed said. “Seriously, Bernie was one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever known.”
One day, Bernie fell from his ladder while stocking shelves just as Ed happened to be coming into the store and Ed caught him as he fell. Thus, a long rewarding friendship began that lasted for decades. All who knew him admired the proprietor who sold love in wine bottles.
After Ed had moved back to Birmingham, another friend stepped up when Bernie didn’t show up for work one morning. After discovering that Bernie was confronting serious health challenges, this doctor friend dispatched a helicopter to rush him to the hospital and a persuaded a specialist, who had been on vacation, to fly in by private jet to treat him. All thanks to shared moments of clinking glasses.
Ed often wondered how Bernie sold so many cases of wine from such a small shop. On a return visit to New York after establishing himself in Birmingham, Ed asked to see Bernie’s cellar. “Go on down,” said Bernie, as he admitted Ed to the inner sanctum – a wine cellar that extended not just under the small store, but under an entire city block! While marveling at the huge selection, Ed stumbled across an 1898 sherry, which Bernie sold to him at, basically, a gift price.
Sharing Bernie’s Legacy
When Birmingham’s most popular wine store at Western Mountain Brook closed, Ed felt there was something missing from the market. He thought back to the lessons learned in the tiny Manhattan storefront and decided to open Finch Fine Wines – a small shop like Bernie’s with a huge inventory. However, instead of a big cellar on site, the store would use its website to showcase a massive selection.
As Western wound down, Ed spent time researching the most popular wines in the market because those customer favorites would represent the bulk of the inventory in his new retail store. He also recruited Wendy Watts, a cornerstone of the Western Rocky Ridge wine business, to manage the new venture. Wendy and Ed have belonged to a tasting group for about thirty years, and he says he has yet to stump her on a wine question. “She can listen to anyone and suggest a wine they will like and how it will pair with their menu,” Ed notes.
As one customer explained,
“I can pick up any bottle from the shelf, and Wendy can talk to me about it for 10 minutes.”
Just as Bernie was able to do for his customers, Wendy can help people find the right wine for their own tastes, budget and preferences.
Beyond the selections in store, including a variety of already chilled wines and champagnes, customers can peruse more than 3,000 other choices available in Finch Fine Wines’ online cellar. A touch screen computer and two iPads enable customers to order other wines while in the store, with most orders being ready for pickup the next business day.
Ed knows people are looking not just for good prices, good value and great service, but also convenience, he designed Finch Fine Wines to make picking up online orders easy. Once a shopper comes into the store and registers as a customer, the Finch staff can load their orders directly into their vehicle. “They don’t have to come inside or take their children out of car seats,” Ed noted.
“We understand how pressed for time people are these days,” Ed said, “and we’re here to make wine buying as easy and convenient for them as possible.”
Tasting and education programs at Finch Fine Wines will be offered in honor of Bernie Fradin, as the staff tries to create the kind of friendships and helpfulness that distinguished Bernie’s establishment. But for his mentoring of Ed Finch and so many others in his tiny wine mecca on Wall Street, this exciting new Birmingham enterprise might never have unfolded.
Chalk it all up to the clinking of glasses – among friends old and new.