A laid back and friendly atmosphere with a great selection of wine spells success for this boutique wine shop
By JUDY ROYAL
Chrissy Bonney says owning a wine shop is a lot like being an interior designer.
She should know. She’s done both.
“It’s dealing with people and knowing what your customer wants,” she said. “A lot of times people don’t know what they want, both in wine and design. They give you adjectives, but you have to do a lot of pulling and figuring it out. So that’s the same, dealing with people. It’s all very similar.”
Bonney’s history with Wilmington Wine goes back to before the building tucked away at 605 Castle Street was ever an oenophile’s paradise. As an interior designer, she worked out of a former real estate office in the space before friend Mike Dolan, the original owner of Wilmington Wine, opened the shop in 2009.
“I was familiar with the area and people, and I knew him, so I ended up working for him a good bit,” Bonney said.
Two years later, in 2011, Dolan offered to sell her the shop when he left the area. Since then, Bonney’s been working to give a personal touch to the 400-square-foot space while making it both cozy and functional.
“It was an easy transition,” she said. “We knew all the same people. I had been in here working, and in that time I’ve learned a tremendous more about wine. A lot of it is just being around it. You immerse yourself in it and you learn.
“All our wine reps come around every week, and you get to try things, and you learn a tremendous amount from them,” Bonney added. “And the best way to learn wine is to drink it.”
True to this theory, on a recent Monday night when the shop was closed to the public, Bonney and some wine-loving friends were getting together for a “study group” to taste some new varieties. This sense of camaraderie is what keeps customers coming back to Wilmington Wine, Bonney said.
“Lots of people who come in end up being regulars, and you really start to learn their tastes,” she said. “It’s just very laid back. It’s kind of a cross between a bottle shop, but then you can also have a drink here. Everybody ends up getting to know other people, and it’s a very friendly atmosphere.”
Bonney’s dog, named Bent (as in Broadbent, a brand of wine), is among the regulars.
“He’s gotten to be a fixture,” Bonney said. “I’ll go out walking downtown and people will be like, ‘Oh, that’s the wine shop dog.’ He sits on the sidewalk and checks everybody out. He’s got all our wine reps trained. They all bring him treats.”
Other well-behaved four-legged customers are also welcome in Wilmington Wine.
One of the most popular times to be at the shop is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday evenings, when they have their weekly tasting of five varieties.
“It’s a good way to try things out,” Bonney said. “I pick them out with a lot of my customers’ tastes in mind. I try to kind of hit all the different taste profiles so you usually can find something you like.”
The shop also recently started a beer tasting from 3 to 5 p.m. every Saturday.
“I think it was a good thing to offer,” Bonney said. “Couples will come in and one will want a beer and the other will want wine. It just goes hand in hand, especially with the whole craft beer industry getting so diverse now. It’s almost like tasting wine. They all have subtle flavors, and you’re smelling and sipping.”
Other new endeavors include an online store that offers free local delivery, pickup or shipping of wine, as well as a planned September launch of a multi-leveled Wine of the Month Club. Members will be invited to special tastings, receive discounts on feature selections and be privy to exclusive sales.
More than two years into her time as owner, Bonney is embracing being a part of the Castle Street neighborhood. She said the incorporation of businesses other than arts and antiques has helped the area become more diverse and experience a revival.
“I would say my favorite part about owning the shop is being a part of shaping this community,” Bonney said. “I love sharing my passion for wine with other wine enthusiasts, from novices to connoisseurs, and being a part of this close-knit neighborhood. I think this area in particular is ready to blossom and get even bigger.”