If you’re like me -- finding the extensive, colorfully marked wine section at Brown Jug Warehouse on Old Seward a veritable playground of frolic-worthy fun -- then you’ll love this: There’s a new place to peruse pinots in town. It’s WineStyles , part of a large franchise ballooning in the Lower 48, which features all things wine-inspired as well as a selection of bottles all admirably priced between $10 and $25. (For fancier types, there’s also an “If You Insist” section, with a selection of wines more than $25, too.)
It’s slightly out of the way, situated across from Lowes on Old Seward, in a tiny, nondescript strip mall (11109 Old Seward Hwy, Suite 2). But as you enter, you realize the trip has been worth it. The walls are covered by wine in catacomb-esque nooks and crannies. Wine-themed gifts, trays, napkins, stoppers, glasses and a million more clever little items to tickle the fancies of oenophiles occupy the rest of the store.
I stopped by to talk to Kim Fifer, who owns the Anchorage location with her husband, Doug. The Fifers, born and raised in Alaska, wanted to start their own business and found the WineStyles franchise to their liking after some research. It’s working well. “We’re No. 1 in the nation for sales,” Kim said. The Anchorage branch also has the largest wine club in the franchise with more than 700 members already.
That’s another thing: There's a club. For $34.99 a month you get two bottles of wine (your choice), access to special wines each month that no one else can buy (oooh, mysterious!), 10 percent off all merchandise, a magazine and more. To try to persuade myself to join, I purchased two bottles for a tasting session to see if there was anything more special about WineStyles and their brand.
The store divides its branded wine into a category based on the way the wine tastes (which I love, because it’s easy to pick that way and you feel like you’re a wine-smartie). The types are Bold, Mellow, Bubbly, Crisp, Silky, Nectar, Rich and Fruity . In addition to carrying vintages from various vineyards, WineStyles has its own themed bottles manufactured in Monterey County (Clos LaChance), California. So I bought the white Crisp and the red Mellow and sampled them with a friend.
They were both lovely wines, but the red was arguably the least mellow wine I’ve ever tasted, and the Crisp (supposedly a sauvignon blanc varietal), was very Chardonnay-like. But, meh, they were still really good, and my co-taster and I felt sophisticated with our analysis of dried cherry undertones and lemon zest aromas. But that's easy, as my friend pointed out, because the wines give a great description for you. If you read on the label that it’s supposed to smell like cedar and taste like grapefruit, well then, it will.
So if you are -- or know -- a wino, a gift certificate to this place would be a great idea for any occasion. Or go with my favorite knickknack: a bottle-stopper with the phrase “Wine drinkers make grape lovers.”
Find out more about the franchise and the wine types at www.winestyles.net. In vino, veritas.