On Tuesday, I met Fernando, our Chief Operating Officer in Connecticut to visit with a handful of our accounts, including Nicholas Roberts Fine Wines a boutique shop in Darien, CT. Here we met up with Peter Troilo, baby-faced with a beard and statured intent, whose father Nicholas first opened the shop with Peter's brother Robert, in 1990. A freshman in high school at the time, Peter stocked shelves and swept floors while taking in the talk. "It was an interesting way to go through high school," says Peter. "Most of my friends were trying to score six-packs while I'm drinking wine with dinner with my parents and learning about Burgundy." Laughing, Peter recalled bringing stemware to high-school house parties, while his peers were sucking back Bartles & Jaymes.
After touring the U.S. by enrolling in a few of her academic institutions, all of which happened to be near the slopes, Peter returned to finish college at Fairfield, and by 2003, he was making most of the stores' selections. By 2007, he'd edged his father from the day-to-day business of the shop, soon to bring on his close friend with a great palate, Juan Vega, who now handles the floor.
These days, Peter feels lucky that he can be selective with what he buys. "I haven't bought a case of Veuve Clicquot in over four years," he says. Here, the customer helps decide what makes the shelf. After tasting with reps every Wednesday, Peter and Juan then discuss the wines that might work, before releasing their selections to customers through an email, to see what sticks. If their response is positive, he'll order the wine. "There's so much wine out there," he says, "it doesn't make sense to carry the brands that everyone else carries...Other stores are lazy or don't care. It's easy to flip through the [Beverage Journal] catalogue to stock shelves. I'm more focused on esoteric wines, wines that show passion in the bottle. In this sense, our customer base has grown with us. A few years ago, we wouldn't have been able to offer wines from Uruguay."
"I don't think we sell Tannat to anyone else," adds Fernando.
Tannat, the sherries of De Maison Selections, Robert Sinskey, and the other wines of Vinedo de los Vientos are some of the shop's greatest hits. Speaking of Vinedo de los Vientos, Peter says, "It's the sort of wine that California missed out on, in terms of its style. When California veered off on big, bad wines, Uruguay had it right, creating wines with power and softer tannins."
On Friday nights, Nicholas Roberts hosts tastings that are open to the public. The weekend before our visit, 45-50 people had attended the last event. On January 27th, Peter will start hosting once-a-month classes, each session limited to 12 attendees and focused on a specific wine region, beginning with Cornas. "I want to introduce people to it because it's something I'm passionate about," says Peter. This, in addition to their wine club, which has 325 subscribers, has garnered quite a following at the shop.
Looking forward, Peter's eager for the state of Connecticut to adjust to its current laws regarding wine. In addition to eliminating the Blue Laws that prevent sales on Sunday, Peter also favors the sale of wine and spirits in supermarkets, because it'll allow him to maintain a narrow focus. He's eager for an open dialogue that'll allow him to represent smaller wineries on the shelves, just as he wants the option to sell older vintages from a private collection, a practice that the state currently does not allow.
Regardless of whether these changes occur or not, Nicholas Roberts is a intimate space with a personal twist; a sweet reprieve from the box stores that dot the current landscape.
[Where: Nicholas Roberts, 1053 Boston Post Road, Darien, CT 06820]