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New Business: Wine Store Renaissance in Wainscott

Chimene Macnaughton and Joel Kaye
Chimene Macnaughton and Joel Kaye
Walk into Wainscott Main Wine & Spirits, on Montauk Highway, on a Saturday afternoon, and you will notice a prosperous hum and an appropriate sense of good cheer. Less than a year ago, however, when the store was called Wainscott Wine Direct, it was another story.

For nearly twenty years, it had been a natural shopping-for-dinner two-step: buy a piece of impeccably fresh fish at the Wainscott Seafood Shop, then walk a few feet across the stone- and seashell-strewn driveway to Wine Direct and pick up a bottle of white to go with it.

But then a few years ago, something changed. An air of neglect hovered over the wine store. The selection was meager. Prices were high. Shelves were perpetually half empty. “It seemed almost perverse,” said Adam Green, of Sag Harbor, who had just bought a piece of local fluke at the Seafood Shop the other day, “to have this great location and let it go to the birds.”

 Joel Kaye, a Wainscott-based psychotherapist (and amateur oenophile), felt the same way. So, last August, when Wine Direct announced that it wouldn’t be renewing its lease, he jumped at the chance to take over, determined to transform the spot into, as he put it, “ a wine store worthy of the location.”

 It’s a location to which Kaye has long ties. His stepfather Philip Young built the retail complex behind the store—the home of, among other businesses, Main Beach Surf Shop, Levain Bakery, and Aboff’s Paints—23 years ago. Kaye’s psychotherapy office is in the complex, too.  

 By the time Wine Direct finally closed in October, Kaye had lined up a silent partner, overcome the hurdles of getting the go-ahead from the NY State Liquor Licensing Authority, and hired a sommelier, Chimene Macnaughton, to buy the wine and run the store.

Before he started renovating the space, Kaye did his homework by visiting a variety of wine shops—local and in the city—to see what they’d done right that he might be able to use in his own store. His first discovery was a wine shop in Harlem where they’d constructed wood vitrine-style spaces to house each bottle of wine, with plaques underneath that could be swapped out to reflect the current bottle.

Kaye, who worked with contractor Cristhian Benenaula, said, “We drew on a lot of different things we saw and liked, but modified them to reflect a more ‘Hamptons’ sensibility.” The renovation ended up taking a little over two months. The result is a bright airy space filled with antique barnsiding and chalk boards advertising special wines.

The store opened January 14. To introduce the new business to the public, Kaye and Macnaughton created a Wednesday night wine tasting and education series that ran from March through the end of April. Macnaughton put together the line-up of distributors and experts for the series. She also picked most of the wine for sale in the store, the lion’s share of which is in the $16 price range, including a table marked “Weird Wine” for the adventurous.

“Chimene has been key to the whole set-up of our wine selection,” Kaye said. “After working for three years for [East Hampton wine store owner] Jacques Franey, as well as at restaurants such as Della Femina, Fresno and the 1770 House, she really knows wine and the pairing of it with food.”

“I have 20 vintages behind me,” Macnaughton said, jokingly referring to her years in the business.

Today, according to Kaye, the venture is thriving. “We get tons of customers from the fish store,” he said. “Wainscott is a hub, and we’re kind of an entrée into it.”

Eyeing the airy space, with its well-stocked aesthetically arranged tables and shelves of wines from around the world, he added, “My vision for the store is exactly was the way we’re working now.”

If you stop in Wainscott Main Wine & Spirits shop, here are a few of MacNaughton’s suggestions—three each of white, red, and rosé—that she says are delicious and excellent values.

Pinks—They carry all big names:

Whispering Angel, Miraval, Domaine Ott, and Chateau Peyrassol are always good but a few more adventurous bottles might include:

 

Chateau de Brigue, Côtes de Provence (exclusive) 2013, $13.99

Rosé de Vallée La Kiuva Nebbiolo blend, Italy $18

Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona, Tynavos, Greece $17

 

White

Verdejo: Tamaral Bodegas Y Viñedos Rueda (exclusive) 2012, Spain $15


Jacquère: Domaine Les Cantates Savoy Cru Chignin 2012, France $16

Sauvignon Blanc: Airfield Estates Yakima Valley, Washington $18

 

Red

Cabernet Franc:

Domaine de la Petite Mairie Bourgueil Cuvée des Galluches Loire, France 2011, $20

Nebbiolo/Barbera/Dolcetto:

Le Cantine di Indie Vino Rosso del Popolo, Langhe, (exclusive) 2012, Italy $16


Cabernet Sauvignon:

Old World Winery “Two Rock Block” Sonoma Coast, 2006 $28


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