Working on Our Theise-is

We have a wine shop. It’s not a big wine shop. The floors are uneven, the racks are mismatched; there’s wainscoting in some places, 1970’s paneling in others. There are cracks in the linoleum, cracks in the concrete. Doorknobs have been known to fall off. But in the end it gets back to this: we have a wine shop! We’re new enough at this to still be in awe of our situation and our good fortune. We are damned lucky that we can stamp “dream achieved” on this portion of our lives. Because we’ve been in the biz for a while, and because we’ve been known to be a tad passionate about this stuff, we’re making it our mission to fill our store with the best, not the most. Our space is limited, we’re not a warehouse, so we have to be crazy selective about what ends up on our shelves. This is where it gets fun. We made another trip to NY this week, this time to taste through a Terry Theise line-up of grower Champagnes at Tribeca Grill. If you’re not familiar with the Terry Theise portfolio, then your world is about to be rocked (pun intended, there’s lots of mineral action!). Elegant, focused, evocative of vineyard & vintage – less about the grape, more about the place. When we tasted through these Champagnes, we were tasting true fruits of labor, not a brand manager’s plan for his next house in Belize. This is just one difference between growers and behemoth Houses & negociants. Another difference is 3 million cases produced per year versus a couple thousand cases produced. Which would you rather drink? Our money is with the grower. Speaking of money, most of these Champagnes sell for less than the big brands, so you win there, too!

So with this in mind, we will add our footsteps to the paths first trod by the likes of Theise, Rosenthal, Dressner, Lynch (to name just a few) and we’ll bring to you the truest expressions of wine available to us. This isn’t just a job for us, it’s a journey; grab a glass, come with us!

Should you care to read more by & about Terry Theise & his portfolio, check out his catalogs, available on the Michael Skurnik website. To whet your appetite, here’s the Theise Manifesto:

Beauty is more important than impact. // Harmony is more important than intensity. // The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts. // Distinctiveness is more important than conventional prettiness. // Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil and artisanality. // Lots of wines, many of them good wines, let you taste the noise. But only the best let you taste the silence.

Damn, that’s good.

Click here to read the entire Oct. 12th, 2012 newsletter. 

A Sense of Place

In the past few weeks we’ve tasted many wines that emphasize the importance of place, but perhaps none so much as the wines from the Canary Islands. If the Little Prince shifted his attention from the rose to the vine, you might get something akin to the vineyards of Lanzarote, the easternmost part of the Canaries. Here, the black volcanic soil is fashioned into bowls surrounded by stones, in the center of which is planted a sole vine. The man who brings these wines to the U.S. is José Pastor, who’s kind of like the Neil Armstrong of the wine world. He explores regions that may be the least likely to produce wines that will find their way to your table, but when they do, they’re worth every sip. We can’t wait to get some of these wines into our shop. In the meantime, come in today and tomorrow to sample the fruits of our recent NY wine excursion. While these wines may not come from as exotic or far-flung locales as the Canary Islands, they are all made with respect for the land & the vine, by people who understand that the best wines (not to be confused with the most expensive) are reflections of the land upon which the grapes are grown. This simple truth, which is rightfully celebrated in food, is often overlooked in wine. We aim to change that oversight–at least in our little corner of the universe.

Click here to read the entire Oct. 5th, 2012 newsletter.

Prepare the Crops, Work the Soil, Cultivate the Land- an Ode to Betaspring & The Athenaeum

Here we go again, tooting the Providence horn. But really, is there any other place as cool as this little town? Doubters-be-damned, we’re steeping in a pot of talent, intellect, creativity & innovation. (Or perhaps we should say fermenting in a vat, given this forum). Whatever the metaphor, the reality is the same: this city is full of people and organizations making things happen, whether that’s mentoring entrepreneurs, enriching our cultural and educational landscape, or providing & engaging us with thoughtful ideas & conversations. In essence, we share the philosophies of two local organizations whose events we support. Betaspring describes itself as “a mentorship-driven startup accelerator program for technology and design entrepreneurs who are ready to build a product, launch a company, and change the world”. Who can argue with that sentiment? A live-wire of energy snapped through last nights’ open-house, making it obvious why these guys are getting accolades & imitators all over the world–not to mention a high-five from the White House. The Providence Athenaeum, whose Friday Salons start up again this evening, is an independent library housed in an outrageously gorgeous building on Benefit St., which is summed up perfectly on their website: “The stately stone of the granite exterior opens to the warmth of wood as you enter the Athenaeum. Starting at your feet and towering overhead, books envelop you in winding canyons, deep ravines, and hidden culs-de-sac of bound paper, centuries of stories, voices, and ideas waiting to be rediscovered…” Doesn’t that sound way prettier than Wikipedia?

It’s not a leap to see similarities in our philosophy and that of Betaspring & The Athenaeum. We seek out small, dedicated, authentic producers who are passionate about what they’re doing & who gain their cutting edge cred by keeping at least one foot firmly planted in the past. When many wines these days are made by teams of marketers, we head for the importers who find the farmer who, to paraphrase betaspring, will plant a vine, make a wine, change the world. It’s not a crazy idea.

We are happy we get the opportunity to be involved with Betaspring & The Providence Athenaeum. They continue to sow the seeds & cultivate the land; we as a city continue to reap the rewards. Thanks guys!

Click here to read the entire Sep. 28th, 2012 newsletter. 

Sometimes You Just Gotta Roll With It…

If you thrive on routine and predictable daily rhythms, this gig ain’t for you. Unless the daily rhythm you seek is similar to that of a jazz-fusion ensemble fronted by Frank Zappa. In other words, it’s chaos and absurdity! Our days are littered with the debris of unfinished tasks that lay forgotten in case stacks, shoved into pockets, or strewn upon the overburdened desk. So the feeling of imminent accomplishment was intense as the list of wines to be brought up from the cellar was finally getting done! Only a mere 6 hours had passed since the first attempt, so this was good! We have a conveyer belt at the store, and it is truly a thing of beauty. It’s a workhorse that can handle almost anything you throw at it–except, an incompetent operator. So there it was, 8pm, and the boxes were rolling up the belt…ahhh…..wait….Nooo!!!!! The shoddily packed box at the end rocked slightly, the top popped open, caught on the ceiling, and bottles rolled down the belt like boulders in an Indiana Jones flick. Kyle, our intrepid employee extraordinaire, had the good sense to press the stop button from the top; he could then be seen laying prone on the belt attempting to stop the last three bottles from meeting the same fate as the other nine. Alas, it was in vain, as they too rolled away and hit the floor in melodramatic cymbal-crashes. There was a slight pause, followed by laughter, as the wine pooled in corners, under cases, around shoes. Mops, brooms and dustpans were deployed, shards of glass were carefully disposed of and the scent of wine hung over Brook St. like a fruity storm cloud. Surveying the scene an hour later, hardly a trace of the incident was left–with the exception of a soggy case here and there. And the feeling of accomplishment? It was intense. But damn, we sure needed a beer!

This email is kind of long (lots of info on Cappellano!) so it’s understood if you can’t get through it, but, sneak peak: we’re tasting an orange wine today–doesn’t happen very often, didn’t want you to miss it! If you have time to kill, feel free to read on for more info.

Click here to read the entire Sep. 21st, 2012 newsletter.

Tasting Wines, Missing Trains & Hey, That’s Pierre Breton!

What a busy & wacky week it’s been at Campus Fine Wines. We hit two tastings in Li’l Rhody (we picked up some amazing spirits & liqueurs) and then set off for NYC at 7am Wednesday for the Jenny & Francois Fall Portfolio Tasting. If you’re not familiar with Jenny & Francois, you will be soon. They specialize in natural wines, which they describe as being made with the least amount of chemicals, additives, and overly technological procedures. You can read what they have to say about natural wines on their website.

We love the wines in this portfolio because they are a thrill to experience; each one has its own character & personality. One is the delicate wallflower just waiting to be asked to dance–and when she hits the floor, boy can she bust a move! Another is your witty, boisterous uncle who’s the life of every party. Another still is the elegant, refined gentleman who loves peace and solitude and may just leave the party when your uncle arrives. In other words, there’s something for everyone; these wines are alive, evolving, exciting and real.

Apparently these wines were a little too exciting, because the day slipped away, the Amtrak came and went, and we found ourselves stranded in NY until the next train left the station. At 3 AM. So taking advantage of the situation, we hoofed on down to The Ten Bells, a cool little place on the lower east side, which is known for its eclectic, organic & natural wine selection. As we sipped our Chablis, we noticed a wine rep we know from the biz (small world!) who just happened to be hanging with Pierre Breton, who along with his wife Catherine, is an international icon in the natural wine movement. What are the chances?!?!? This was definitely a sign of the coming revolution. So we chit-chatted with the icon for a few fleeting moments (darn, no one thought to take a picture!) and then, this being NY, the night being young, and us being young(ish), we did what anyone else in our place would do: we hit a midnight movie so we could sleep in the semi-comfy chairs until our train left. Yeah, we know how to live.

We currently have a small selection of Jenny & Francois wines available in the shop, so be sure to come in to pick some up.

Click here to see the entire Sep. 14th, 2012 newsletter. 

Cultivating Thirst

As summer fades like wet footprints on a dock, fall gallops toward us with a new energy in the air and a hum and a buzz in the streets. The city bustles with activity and overflows with minds eager to seek and share knowledge. It’s a great place to be! We at Campus are happy to be a part of such a city, and to have front-row seats to the yearly transformation/migration/intellectual stimulation that makes Providence so damned awesome. As new owners, we feel especially lucky to be a part of this neighborhood that values cultivating knowledge, cultivating new ideas, cultivating good will. We hope you’ll ride along with us as we build up our shop, increase our wares, and get to know everyone. To us our role in this town is clear: together we’re ready for the harvest; together we’re Cultivating Thirst!

Click here to see the entire Sep. 7th, 2012 newsletter. 

Have You Checked Out Campus Lately?

It’s been a busy summer! We’ve scrubbed, painted, decorated, (removed a wall!) shifted entire continents–metaphorically speaking. We’ve also added over 100 new craft beers and so many wines we’ve lost track. Oh, and we have shiny new wine, beer & spirits related accoutrements–corkatoo, anyone? There are wine tastings every Friday & Saturday, beer on Thursdays, and on September 17th we launch our 1st pop-up-wine-bar at Chez Pascal! (Details below). Like we said, it’s been a busy summer.

Click here to see the entire newsletter from Aug. 31st, 2012.