WASHINGTON -- Dean & Deluca's Georgetown store here has begun selling only California wines, a policy that is spreading from the small specialty chain's Napa Valley store at the behest of owner Leslie Rudd.
Pax Mahle, one of the wine buyers for the California store, located in St. Helena, traveled here to help streamline the selection and remerchandise the wine section. He told SN that the Geogetown store ran a 30% sale off all other wines to help diminish the non-California stock.
The decision was made to specialize in California wines in the hope that Dean & Deluca will become known as "the place to go for California wines." Wine is sold only in the Dean & Deluca stores here, in St. Helena, and in Charlotte, N.C.
The wine department here, currently 15 by 30 feet, will double in size. The store has removed housewares and shipped them to its flagship New York store. "We will focus on the California wines and set ourselves apart from everyone else in town," said Mahle.
The concept has worked very well in the Napa store, Mahle said. "We have built some really strong relationships [with wine producers there] and will use them to make sure that this store in D.C. has the best selection of California wines on the East Coast," he said.
The focus is on premium California wine, Mahle said. "So if we can find a premium wine for $6, a wine that has good quality, we would definitely want to carry it. But we use a quality-to-price ratio, so the cost can be as much as $100 a bottle," he said, adding that most of the selection will be more reasonably priced.
The wine department here is divided by a ramp that connects it to the cafe. The entire left side is now red wines, merchandised by varietal and alphabetized within each varietal. On the right, the same merchandising strategy is used with the whites and blushes, Mahle said.
The stores will also emphasize Cal Rhone -- California wines made with Rhone varietals, and Cal Ital wines, which use Italian grape varieties. "Of course, there are cabernets, merlots, a large selection of Zinfandel," Mahle said, " Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Francs and everything else, from the obscure to the well-known," Mahle said.
Most of the reaction to the switch has been positive. The new concept will also be touted by dean-deluca.com on the Internet, which will focus 100% on California wines.
There are now five Dean & DeLuca units, including one in Kansas City. Wine and housewares are the top sellers in the Napa Valley store, while prepared foods get top billing in the store here, according to Kim Quilles, general manager.