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Local Spotlight: Chambers Street Wines

Inside one of the city's leading wine shops, specializing in natural, French and Italian varietals.

“Over 90 percent of everything we sell is organic — they are really our first choice.”

It's Friday night at Chambers Street Wines and the juice is flowing. Curious oenophiles are gathered around Jamie Wolff (one of the owners), tasting a red wine from Sicily that's just landed in his Tribeca shop. Wolff, who says he has always had a soft spot for Sicilian vino, is busy guiding them through the wine's notes and aromas. Like nearly all of the 1,600-plus bottles of wine stocked in this diminutive shop, lined with maps of vino regions around the globe, this wine is organic. "Over 90 percent of everything we sell is organic — they are really our first choice," says Wolff.

"When we opened in 2001, it was quite different, and those kinds of wines were in shorter supply and they weren't represented in any concentration in New York, so that gave us a niche," says Wolff, who runs the store with his partner, David Lillie. These days, with the boom of all things organic and sustainably made, Wolff and Lillie have a widespread array of options to pick from and an increasingly larger customer base looking for these wines. "Demand for organic wines has evolved in tandem with people's interest in organic food and people generally paying more attention to how things are produced and raised. I think—completely unscientifically—organic wines are healthier," explains Wolff.

Chambers Street Wines' customers don't just come to Wolff and Lillie because they have cleaner, healthier wines—it's because they are maestros at selecting some of the very best examples of organic wines from around the globe. The options on the shelves run the gamut, from Strohmeier NV Steiermark Schilcher Frizzante from Austria's West Styria to Champagne Marie-Courtin from Champagne's southernmost viticulture region, Aube. Wolff and Lillie are most strong in French and Italian wines, particularly from the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and Piedmont. They also have an unusual specialty in selling older vintages of mature wine, especially Bordeaux and Barolo/Barbaresco.

“Demand for organic wines has evolved in tandem with people's interest in organic food and people generally paying more attention to how things are produced and raised.”

"You don't really find any brand names here," says Wolff. Mindful of that, he and Lillie have made the customer service element of their business a very important one. Their team makes sure to ask what customers are looking for and make the wine feel approachable. "Very often, we start by asking what's for dinner or how they are drinking the wine. What's the meal? That really helps us make a better selection for the customer," says Wolff. Ultimately, the goal is to select the bottle or bottles that will bring the most pleasure to their customers. The perfect bottle can make a difference, big or small, in someone's night, and the team at Chambers Street Wine is keenly aware of that. "We don't have an agenda, so we can really do a good job of matching people's tastes."

  • kristin tice-studeman words
  • jason schmidt photography & video

CHAMBERS STREET WINE

148 Chambers Street, New York, 1000

(212) 227-1434; chambersstwines.com

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