By François Steichen
Wine Wise – formerly located at 122 East Putnam Avenue – has moved to the two-story, flat-roofed building at 37 West Putnam. The new location opened this past Wednesday, October 25.
When I visited the store on the 26th, Steve, his wife Chihara, and Store Manager Adam Ottly were still finishing their move. But the trio was already welcoming customers, and a sales rep from one of Connecticut’s most venerable distributors came in just as I was finishing my visit.
Steve is a jazz contrabass guitarist by profession; he has had a long career on Broadway and on the New York jazz scene. The Steve Millhouse Trio came out with their debut recording, “The Unwinding,” this past February. Before that, Steve toured the world with the great German Cabaret and Jazz singer, Ute Lemper. HIs work on Broadway includes more than a dozen shows spanning the period from 2007 to 2023.
So is wine just a sidelight to Steve’s musical gigs? It sure doesn’t seem that way, judging by the store’s appearance and contents, or the plans Steve and Chihara have for the store.
Just inside the door, I was met by three long rows of shelves in the process of being racked with Cabernets, Pinots Noirs, and Bordeaux and Spanish wines. The store is L-shaped; on the left dog-leg are Chardonnays, Sancerres and Sauvignons Blancs. Another rack is devoted to sparklers, including the Grower Champagnes that now define the highest quality in Champagne. Yet another area is reserved for natural wines, which Steve and Adam continue to believe are the future for so many customers concerned about ensuring organic integrity in the items they drink.
The wine trade is undergoing intense consolidation. For the Wine Wise team, as for many small stores, this means that more than ever, they must emphasize the holy trinity of customer service, precise and imaginative purchasing, and offering a customer-centered experience.
Steve wants customers to feel that his staff will guide them reliably through the wines on offer, special-order wines for customers, and advise customers on wine pairings. In addition to Steve and Chihara’s experience, Adam, their Manager, was raised in a store his father owned in Katonah, before Adam took it over in the early 2000s. Adam has worked at Wine Wise since August, 2021.
That kind of experience also allows Steve and Adam to focus on purchasing a diverse selection for the store. I saw a well-curated selection of top-end wines from well-known producers, boutique estates, and lesser-known but well-received domaines. In addition, Wine Wise keeps an eye on value, with a good range of whites, reds, rosés and sparkling wines in the $15 to $25 range. Steve and his team taste virtually everything that they put on the shelves.
The counter, at the turn in the L, doubles as a tasting table when stools are brought in from the back of the store. Chihara will use this to revive the famous Sauvignon Blanc tasting classes for customers that she gave pre-pandemic, later expanding her class offerings to other varietals and blends.
Wine Wise is set off from Putnam, giving it four parking spaces. Wine Wise Owners Steven Millhouse and his wife Chihara feel this will be more convenient for customers than their previous location. The store on West Putnam offers slightly more room than the previous location, with new lighting, a renovated interior, and a more updated, modern feel.
In sum, Wine Wise is a welcome (re-)addition to the Greenwich retail wine scene.
François is a resident of Old Greenwich with almost 20 years’ experience in the Wine Industry. To learn how he can help you with wine- & beer-related matters, feel free to check out his webpage or reach out to him at: [email protected]
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