Southwest Orlando Article...Read It Here
The Best Wines at the Lowest Prices
by Karen V. Contino
Growing up in Colombia, Andres Montoya learned to love wine from an early age. For him, wine was a fascinating object of study that involved history, maps and chemistry experiments. Sampling wines from around the globe, Montoya learned to hone the palate that would lead him to establish The Wine Barn.
More than just a wine market and Internet site, The Wine Barn is known as a nearby wine destination where visitors can taste, learn and speak wine.
“I love wine for its history, its incredible ability to spark a conversation, and the fact that it makes me smile almost as much as my wife does,” Montoya said. “I have been loving wine for a very long time; just loving food and wine. I decided to do what I have loved all my life and make a career out of it. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Staff members at The Wine Barn in Orlando offer samples of the latest products and educate clients on the numerous wines the wholesale store offers.
Montoya, who has been married to his wife, Paula, for three years, first entered the wine business part time in 2003, when he launched a Web site offering a variety of the best wines at the lowest prices. He enjoyed it so much that, in 2006, he left his career in database marketing and banking to establish his store. The Wine Barn held its grand opening in 2008, and it remains the only wholesale wine market open to the public in Orlando. The store also features the year-round temperature control needed for the conservation of fine wines.
Montoya is committed to ensuring that all his wines are aggressively priced, generally between 20 and 60 percent off most retail prices and markups. He and his highly trained staff choose certain wines that impress them most and buy each in large quantities to take advantage of volume pricing. This process allows them to pass the savings along to customers.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Montoya said.
“If we get a good deal on a wine, we want to make sure you get your good deal, too,” said Gary Tupper, The Wine Barn’s sales manager.
Tupper is the former wine director for Luma on Park in Winter Park and previously served as the sommelier and service captain at Norman’s at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.
“We have that long-term thinking model all the time,” he said. “We consistently offer the best price, no matter what. That’s it.”
According to Montoya, The Wine Barn is the only wine store in Florida that tastes every wine before ordering it for its shelves.
“Essentially, what I do with the store is I only offer wines we have personally tasted and singly picked out to be the best in that category,” he said. “No other wine store in Florida personally tastes every individual wine before bringing it in.”
In addition, The Wine Barn takes a great deal of pride in its staff members’ ability to identify the best wines possible. Their constant studying, discerning taste-testing and willingness to travel abroad contribute to the store’s excellent selection.
“We offer smaller production wines that show character and quality and are always made by the best winemakers,” Montoya said. “And this does not necessarily come at a price. We have many great $5, $6, $7 bottles of wine that drink like a $20 or $30 bottle. When someone comes in and tastes them, they see that they are incredibly good for the money. If it’s not great, we don’t sell it.”
In fact, The Wine Barn’s staff works diligently to stay current with the wine market and ensure that the best value is always available.
“We are blind tasting 100 wines a week,” Tupper said.
Blind tasting allows for complete impartial judgment of a wine, as the bottle’s label and shape are not viewed prior to tasting.
“Any wine in any shop, we can tell you all about it,” Tupper said. “A wine is supposed to speak of its place. A Château Margaux can only taste like a Château Margaux. If you go less than a mile away [from the estate where it is made], it will taste totally different, because it will speak of that place. And, despite our individual palates, we always agree on every wine that comes in based on its varietal and terroir correctness. Every wine we select is the best representative of that region.”
And because every staff member is a highly trained sommelier, also known as a wine steward or wine professional, no matter who greets customers, they will receive the best knowledge possible, as well as the best wine.
The Wine Barn also offers a free membership program that provides residents with exclusive pre-order and special purchasing opportunities, as well as notifications of new discounts and events.
Once Montoya receives a purchase confirmation on a special lot of wine or a direct winery buy, members are notified of the new product and given the opportunity to purchase the wine before it reaches the store. When the bottles arrive at the warehouse, they are immediately shipped to the members. These wines rarely, if ever, make it to the store’s online inventory, as they are most often purchased in their entirety during the pre-order.
However, The Wine Barn’s Web site does boast an impressive inventory of wine and wine-related products, as well as current fire sale wines that are discounted an additional 50 to 70 percent. Purchases can be made directly through the secure site, and orders are immediately shipped in insulated packaging.
Montaya stressed that all the wines he stocks are shipped to the U.S. in refrigerated containers, and The Wine Barn does not sell any wine that has not been properly cared for during transport or warehousing.
In addition to the extensive catalog of wine and products, the interactive Web site also provides information on the warehouse, videos, helpful links, wine-related forums, an events calendar and more.
For those who like to sample before they buy, The Wine Barn offers daily tastings and a variety of wine-filled events throughout the year. In the fall, the store celebrated its one-year anniversary with an outdoor tasting attended by almost 500 people. The Wine Barn offered 110 of its best wines, most of which retail for $30 to $40 a bottle, and some for more than $100.
“Developing relationships is the best thing about what I do,” Tupper said. “It is very rewarding to help people and turn them on to different wines. When someone first comes in, I talk to them and figure out what they like. To me, it is very easy to do. And I like seeing the same people on a consistent basis. It is like creating an extended family. I like knowing our customers by name and making that personal connection. That is really the best thing about it.”
The Wine Barn is located at 1711 33rd St. in Orlando. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon-5 p.m. For more information, call 407-704-8816 or visit www.thewinebarn.net on the Web.