By Janee Law
For Cork Tree Fine Wines & Liquors in Northport Village, running a successful wine shop is based on good quality, customer service and an immense knowledge of the product itself.
“I taste it first and I make sure it’s something I’d be willing to drink before I put it on my shelf,” said owner John Grosso.
Grosso, 58, and his wife Regina, 50, who live in Babylon, opened Cork Tree at 83 Main St. in February 2014. Selling wines, liquors, scotches, whiskeys bourbons and more, Cork Tree started in the village because, Grosso said, he wanted to be part of a community and get to know the customers.
“I found through experience that so many of the stores are lacking in their selection [and] their wines are just bought by price and not by quality,” he said. “The storeowners don’t know the product…and they can’t give you any feedback.”
A fundamental aspect of selling wine is to have a full understanding of the product that is being offered to the community, Grosso said.
With 100,000 different types of wines produced, Italy providing 1,200 vinified grape varietals, Grosso said, there’s a world of wine.
“Once I get to know what you like, I recommend things that will appeal to you or maybe stretch you a little bit,” he continued. “So my idea is to bring you along the journey.”
Having collected wine for more than 25 years, Grosso said he could give customers a five-minute dissertation on sulfites in wine and how they affect people. “It was my enthusiasm for the world of wine that drove me to open up a wine store.”
His idea for the 2,300-square-foot shop, was to be able to provide the community with an owner who knew the product, was warming and welcoming, and the store itself was accommodating for all customers.
“I wanted room in my aisles so a woman can come in with a carriage or a stroller or a pet; we’re pet friendly,” he said, adding that he’s had several customers who are in wheelchairs thank them for the spacious store.
With more than 600 different types of wines, bottles sold between $7.50 and $650, Cork Tree receives its products from several regions in the United States and abroad, such as California, Virginia, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal Spain and more.
He has also works directly with East End players Raphael Vineyard and Winery and Paumanok Vineyards.
With the season changing, Grosso said that people’s palettes are shifting from summer to warmer weather drinking, which prompted him to bring in new flavors.
Though Sauvignon blancs, Chardonnay and rosés were popular choices for the summer, the fall brings in “full-bodied red interests,” such as pinot noir, cabernets, zinfandels, Bordeaux and more, he said.
Once Grosso stocks his shelves with bottles of wine for the season, he sends out emails to customers with a list of the latest products.
In addition, Grosso is currently working on building a reserve room for the store, which is a temperature control area for higher-end products.
“For me, life is too short for bad wine,” Grosso said. “There’s so many good wines out there that people should discover and that’s the fun. That’s what I want to do, so let me help you along that journey.”