The Village’s Wine Choice

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A visit to the Village Wine Merchant in Sea Cliff is more of a learning experience than merely a shopping outing. The staff aims to help customers find exactly what they are looking for, and is happy to educate and eager to develop a relationship with customers to better serve them. The wine store on Sea Cliff Avenue just celebrated its one year anniversary, considered a significant landmark in Sea Cliff.

“It’s a tradition in Sea Cliff to not hold a ribbon cutting until a business has hit the one year mark,” said Mayor Bruce Kennedy. “Otherwise, we’d be holding them all the time…too many don’t make it. If you can make it a year, you can make it 30 years.”

Michael Amendola joined the staff as the director of sales and marketing in March, when he says owner Frank Scavone was looking to move the store in a different direction. He has a “long history with wine” as a former wine buyer and brings his level of expertise to the store’s customers, whether they are in for a Tuesday night tasting or just looking for the perfect bottle to bring to a dinner party.

“I want to offer types of wines and a level of knowledge in a really unpretentious way, and to provide experience and expertise in wine that has not really happened on Long Island yet,” says Amendola. “We have a lot of wines here that you don’t see in other stores.”

The Village Wine Merchant offers a variety of organic wines and prides itself on only bringing high quality wines to its customers. They do this, says Amendola, by having a very hands-on approach and by developing personal relationships with the wine makers.

“I taste every wine,” says Amendola. “I know some of the wine makers, and a lot of the wines I have personal experience with. I have a lot of experience in the industry and I want to share that passion.”

Every Tuesday night the stores holds educational wine tastings, with a new theme each week. It provides a way for customers to taste the wines and be exposed to new varieties. Amendola describes the store as a specialty store and compares the shop to the “Italian store that has the one cheese nobody else has.”

“A lot of wine stores and restaurants play it safe with their choices, and want their products to be recognizable,” says Amendola.  “We’re the opposite: we know we have really great wines and have total confidence in them.  We want to get them into peoples’ hands so they can have their own experiences with them.”

He adds that, since he is a consumer too, he is big on value and that if a person is going to spend more on a bottle of wine, it should be worth it.

“We want people to have a beautiful, special experience with the high end wine, and solid experiences with the every day wine,” he says.

In addition to the Tuesday night tastings, the Village Wine Merchant also holds events on Friday evenings, inviting a distributor, importer or wine maker to come in and discuss their products. This provides customers an opportunity to ask questions directly from the source; and taste new wines, of course.

“I want to provide an opportunity for people who are interested to teach themselves about wine; here they can taste a lot of great of wines from all over the world that are high quality and small production.”

Amendola is at the store five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, available to answer questions and help educate customers.

“Part of running a store like this is getting to know your customers,” says Amendola. “Some I see a lot, but we are getting new people all the time. When I develop relationships with customers, I can help them find wines I know they’re going to like. I encourage customers to try something different, expose yourself to something you haven’t tried before.”

Amendola has a lot of technical knowledge about wines, including additives and reactions; he says he can serve wine to people who normally get headaches, and they don’t react.

That kind of knowledge and the level of service they offer to their customers is what he says sets them apart from other wine shops. And his knowledge is not strictly about wine; it extends to the selection of whiskey, scotch, rum and the other liquors they offer.

“If you’re not happy with the wine stores you have been shopping at, come in and give us a chance.”

The Village Wine Merchant is at 252A Sea Cliff Ave., Sea Cliff. Visit www.villagewinemerchant.com for more info.

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