Respected sommelier and partner re-open South Egremont Spirit ShoppeMore Info
South Egremont — The well-respected former sommelier for the Red Lion Inn has reopened — and reimagined — the old South Egremont Spirit Shoppe, which had been closed for about five years.
Dan Thomas, a board-certified sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers, U.S. Chapter), who guided the Red Lion’s guests through wine selections for a decade with his trademark hospitality, has teamed up with Tom Morrison, a veteran manager of the Nejaime’s liquor stores in Stockbridge and Lenox. “Between the two of us, we have decades of wine-tasting experience,” Thomas said.
Rather than compete on quantity by selling large amounts of national brands at discount prices, the duo is presenting a highly curated smaller selection of wines and spirits by niche producers at affordable prices.
“I’m stocking wine from producer-driven and -owned vineyards, versus more corporate wine,” Thomas said. “Instead of stocking Veuve Clicquot, which is owned by LMVH, the luxury brand that also sells Louis Vuitton luggage, I’m carrying sparkling wine from a small producer who is passionate about her product and with whom I’ve met — Julie Médeville. Her champagne is excellent. For me, the fun is discovering wines from producer-owners who march to the beat of their own drum.”
Thomas’s excitement about wine is palpable, and he loves sharing it. “Vodka is vodka,” Thomas explains. “It’s the absence of flavor. But wine? There are so many different flavor profiles. When a bottle is really spectacular, you’ll never forget it. A great wine can really enhance great memories of a special occasion with family or friends, and of a special place. I was just in Santorini and I’ll never forgot those wines.” Travel is among the ways that Thomas discovers his favorite small-producer wines. Several of his favorite wines from Santorini now line his shelves.
Morrison is particularly excited about creating a community aspect to the store. The duo plan to create a tasting and seminar room, where local artists will be invited to show their work. As at the Red Lion Inn, they expect to host pop-up tastings on their front porch. They are also looking to host a weekly farm stand. And once the walking bridge across the brook is repaired, they hope to build a bocce court and fire pit for other community-minded events. “Working with the community is going to be a huge part of what we do here,” Morrison said.
The partners have redesigned the inside of the store, which is located in an historical building in downtown South Egremont along Karner Brook, opening most of it up into one big room with lots of natural light. There’s a mixture of unusual antiques — a footbath filled with ice, and an old church altar that serves as the register desk — and modern couches and coffee tables for hanging out. “We want people to sit and relax as they taste wines,” Morrison said. The store will also carry local products such as cheeses, charcuterie and coffee.
Wines are grouped together by category rather than by origin. Rosés are bunched together, as are sparkling wines and wines that are similarly priced, which lends to what feels like a simplified shopping experience. Unlike many liquor stores, there are not hundreds of bottles to choose from, but rather Thomas’s carefully curated selections, which he expects to change often. “The wines you see here will most likely not be here in six months,” he said. “I want to keep expanding people’s horizons with new wines.”
After a brief perusal of the shop’s selection, I was already surprised to learn that the “fernet” of Fernet Branca denotes an herbal distilling, and that there are other varieties of fernet that the store carries. It’s clear that there are plenty of other discoveries to make given the duo’s passion for uniqueness and affordability. Many of the wines are in the $10–$20 range, although they can also exceed $350.
Said Morrison, “We’re passionate about wines of integrity that over-deliver at great prices.”