Like so many students, Ed Finch began his wine journey at the grocer’s shelves. His palate soon progressed in sophistication with the help of a special wine merchant he discovered while practicing law in in New York City. While searching for the best shop in NYC with knowledgeable friends, he found a small storefront run by the man who would become his decades-long wine mentor, Bernie Fradin. Bernie served, among others, Buckingham Palace and was widely acclaimed for his palate and knowledge.
Returning home to practice law, and later to establish FHL Capital, Ed found a growing wine community. He had the good fortune to join several tasting groups which furthered his wine education and passion. As Ed says, nothing so humbles one as blind tastings with knowledgeable experts. “Sharing wine with friends and family is one of life’s great blessings.”
The passion for wine led to a passion, shared by his lovely wife Mary, for travel. Together they have visited vineyards all over Europe, South America, and California.
Saddened by the loss of the Western Wine Stores, Ed seeks to fill a void and expand the opportunities for Birmingham residents to purchase and enjoy great wine at Finch Fine Wines. Through the shop, both novice and connoisseur will be able to find the widest selection of wines available today in our area and learn why Thomas Jefferson said, “Good wine is a necessity of life for me.”
Vice President/General Manager
For Mary McInnis, wine is part of all of the big events in her life: graduations, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays. As someone who loves to cook, selecting a good wine to go with the occasion and the food makes an event special.
“To me, wine is about family, friendship and community,” Mary said.
For Finch Fine Wines, her goal is help people enjoy wines that will bring their family and friends together. She is responsible for managing the marketing to engage the community and to involve friends, new and old. It will be a relational approach.
“I want to make sure the customer is served in a way they expect and deserve,” said Mary.
In an illustrious career that seated her, at age 27, next to President Bill Clinton at a dinner two days after the Monica Lewinsky story broke, to herding children through vacation Bible school, Mary brings a wide array of skills. It was while working in development at HealthSouth during its expansion days that she met with Clinton and the Governor of Puerto Rico over dinner about starting a rehab facility on the island.
When her children were four- and seven-years-old, she volunteered one summer at Cathedral Church of the Advent. That resulted in five years of managing the children’s program. Those years gave her time with her little ones who are now 17 and 20.
Next, she worked for a small, family-owned contracting company as their manager. The contractor mainly worked on residential homes with a large repeat business.
Literally two days after she retired from the contracting company, she got a call from Ed Finch. He wanted her myriad of skills, from finance to operations to customer service at Finch Fine Wines.
As Mary works to establish Finch Fine Wines’ relationships and brand, she plans to continue some of her favorite pursuits – traveling, cooking and being outdoors. One goal is to enjoy “the sweet months left with my daughter at home before she leaves for college.”
For Mary, it is all about family, food and the wine that ties them together.
Love brought Wendy Watts into the wine business. She was dating a man who was working part time in a wine shop. Hanging out at the wine shop seemed a natural fit, and soon, she was the one working full time in the shop. Although the initial relationship didn’t last, her true love affair with wines has lingered for 40-plus years. Joining a tasting group in 1978, she remains the longest running member of the group. Another member is Ed Finch, founder of Finch Fine Wines.
Wendy has worked in a number of wine shops, most recently at the former Western Supermarket Rocky Ridge and, years before, at Western Mountain Brook. Her wine savvy became legendary to customers who could come, be greeted by name, and have a selection of wines presented that represented their preferences.
A true wine aficionado, Wendy enjoys the history of a wine – where the grapes came from, who was the maker, what their story reveals. For her, each wine has a pedigree, a legacy, a character behind it in grapes or personality. She also realizes that few people want a history lesson, just a wine they enjoy.
Communication is her secret. Learning what you like. Fruity? Tart? Sweet? Full bodied? She focuses on educating you about wines that you might enjoy, that meet your budget and bring out the best in your food – all in a no-judgment zone. Come in with a menu, and Wendy can help you pair it with wines your guests will savor. Sometimes, the pairing rules don’t have to apply.
“Most of the time it’s more important to see what someone’s taste is, even when pairing with food. When you are making something special, see where the flavors take you. Then, look at which flavors or richness of a particular wine would best complement the food. But most importantly, you have to like the wine, as it’s wiser to pick a wine you like than to make a perfect pairing,” said Wendy.
She hopes to expand your palate, which expands your pleasure. At the end of the night “it’s about just enjoying a glass of wine.”
Todd Russell returns to his roots as assistant manager of Finch Fine Wines. Wendy Watts gave him his first job in the wine business 20 years ago when she was running the Western wine shop in Mountain Brook. From there, he became a wine distributor with International Wines, Inc. He sold wines to distinguished customers such as Hot and Hot Fish Club, Daniel George Restaurant, and to Wendy at the Western.
“I am jumping back into a past life that is exciting for me,” said Todd.
He began his career in the restaurant business as the first grill cook for Arman’s, right out of culinary school. In 1994, he moved to Atlanta to start a restaurant. He then spent the next two decades operating and opening restaurants, even Bacca, his own in Crestline Village. For a time, he was the lone man in the Southern Living test kitchen.
Now, he is enjoying helping Ed Finch and Wendy Watts start a new concept at Finch Fine Wines. “I originally connected with them through the International Wine and Food Society, which is basically a local wine club. Ed was one of the more serious wine collectors in all of Birmingham, even back then, and Wendy is probably the most experienced taster in the city,” Todd observed.
“When Ed approached me about helping open a wine store, I was very surprised because I know the nature of the business. It wasn’t until he explained the online nature of the store – that’s what really piqued my interest,” he added. “I was seeing a revolutionary way to buy wine in Birmingham. Much like Amazon changed the nature of retail in the country, I feel like we have the opportunity to do that for wine buyers in Alabama.”
Todd loves everything that goes along with being an entrepreneur, and he is passionate about the new ways Finch Fine Wines can serve customers with a large web-based inventory. His responsibilities include running the business side, putting orders together and meeting the deliveries – to make sure customers get what they order.
A fan of high-altitude cabernets, such as the ones coming from Argentina, Todd also enjoys Italian wines from Tuscany and burgundy and Rhone wines from France. His experiences in both food and wine have taught him a lot about how different wines bring out the best flavors of different foods – and vice versa. And he is delighted to be able to share his insights with others through Finch Fine Wines.
Another passion is golf croquet. Todd is ranked as one of the top 50 players nationally. He and his wife, whom he met when a friend brought her to a game, created their own court for local practice and competition.
Proving, once again, that you often meet the most interesting people over a glass of wine.