Today, Jeff and I went to check out the very newly opened 100 Wines, at 1109 Olympic Way SE, at the base of the ArriVa condominium tower. It was quiet at the time, and we had a great chance to chat with David Walker, wine guru and co-owner. He was informative, friendly, and personable. I think he has the potential to reach a large audience because he can educate, and promote his products in a way that lacks pretense. This is his goal, and he tells you up front. He wants wine to be accessible, and for clients to find great values in their purchases.
True to its namesake, 100 Wines, has 100 different bottles of red and white wine to choose from. They are clearly organized, each marked with a large number and with an easily understood description. Beneath each display bottle is a very clearly numbered bin which corresponds to the display bottle. Choosing a wine has never been easier; essentially, David has taken the guesswork out of buying wine. Let's face it, 99.9% of us have no clue what we are purchasing, and while it's fun to take a stab in the dark, why not give a professional a chance?
I appreciate that the products will rotate very frequently, as he only brings in relatively small amounts of each bottle. When they run out of a particular wine, a new one takes its place. Since there are only 100 wines, this also means a few less decisions for the buyer. Sometimes, I just don't want to wade through 6000 bottles, just to find one.
I also don't care to debate about which particular Amarone is a good value at the moment; firstly, because I don't really know incomparison to someone like David. For example, today there was a Brunello at $60, and another at $100....not 5 bottles at the $60 price and 10 at the $100 price. Essentially, I need to know my price point, and then he has already chosen the best value currently available. He already has chosen the "buy" of the moment, and David aims to find wines of great value, including several magnums, perfect for dinner parties etc. I think many Calgarians will frequently stop in to check out the wall of 20 wines, for under $20. Can't be beat.
Truth be told, there is more in store than 100 wines, but also a section of "bubbly", a "food pairing" section and a few others. There is also a selection of spirits and beer, for those who need a little bit of something other than wine.
The space is very open in concept, but also has a "locker" room (ie. cellar) where the plan is to host tastings, and they are planning to host classes and other events in the space. I think this space itself will be a hit, and many downtowner's will be stopping by after work for a quick taste, and then leave with numerous bottles of quality vino. They also stock a few other spirits, for those who need a little bit of something else.
One thing I have not seen before, that I really like: since David has spent all this time and energy selecting each wine, you can find his reasoning for each wine choice not only on the sign next to the bottle, but also on your receipt at check out. For the House White Wine (2006), he wrote, "Charles Smith's blend of Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer with a healthy dose of irreverence. Look for his other wacky labels to come." This is great for keeping in a wine journal, or even with your bottles, so you can later remember a few key points about the wine when trying to pair it with ease. Admit it, we all like to think we know these things, but let's face it he knows what he's doing... and the rest of us really don't.
We also learned that Hotel Arts, plans to open an Italian inspired restaurant "Olives" across the way. Olives also plans to have a deli for take-away as well, which is brilliant considering the built in clientele of the ArriVa condo upstairs. Around the corner, in the opposite direction, is soon to be "Zia's Enoteca", and no one is quite sure how this will transpire, but I am certainly curious.
Check out 100 Wines for yourself: http://davidwalkerwines.com