Who We Are
Our knowledgeable staff has a variety of backgrounds, and have been brought together by one common bond: their love of and enthusiasm for fine wine. They all appreciate the importance of exemplary customer service, and do their best to make your shopping experience with us pleasant and successful.
What We Do
Regardless of what Gallo would like us to believe, wine is not an exact science. The same wine varietals vary wildly between regions, wine-making styles, and vintages. The variability that makes wines difficult to select is the very characteristic that gives the wine its charm. Why else would there be an entire magazine industry devoted to reviewing and rating of wines?
My theory is that about 1/3 of all the wine produced is just plain bad, another 1/3 is mediocre, and about 1/3 is pretty good to exceptional. My goal is to only choose from the top 1/3 when I select wines for my store. Every wine on this list has been reviewed by a top wine publication, tasted by the Wine Guy, and judged to be very good to an excellent example of its type. Click Here to see a video about why we select our wines this way.
Where We Are
Our original location is on the brick Main Street in downtown Zionsville, Indiana, a small, historic village located in the far northwestern corner of the Indianapolis metropolitan area.
The Wine Guy at The Grapevine Cottage - Zionsville
From the east: from Meridian Street (SR 31), take 116th Street west to Michigan Road (SR 421), where it becomes SR 334. Continue west for about 1 mile to the first stop light, Main Street. Turn right (North) on Main Street about four blocks to 61 South Main Street. We are in the yellow house with the big porch.
From the west: from I-465, take the Michigan Road (SR 421) exit north to 116th Street (SR 334). Turn west (left) and continue for about 1 mile to the first stop light, Main Street. Turn right (North) on Main Street about four blocks to 61 South Main Street. We are in the yellow house with the big porch.
Doug and Linda Pendleton - Owners
I’m Doug Pendleton, a/k/a The Wine Guy, a self-proclaimed title. Actually, I’m just a guy who has enjoyed wine most of his adult life. And having to make a career change at 50 gave me the rare opportunity to choose to work with something I enjoyed. That’s when I decided to open the kind of wine shop I always wanted to shop in.
You can Click Here to see a video about the origin of the store in 1999.
What did you do in the real world? In my previous life from 1979 through 1998, I co-owned Great Western Boot Company, a multi-state chain of retail western wear stores (and horses don't like me and the feeling is mutual). Before that, from 1972 through 1984, I owned a chain of mall-based imprinted sportswear stores... The Shirt Shack. That was fun...in 1978 I had five stores, 40 employees, and at age 30, I was the oldest staff member. But trust me, this is a lot more fun than any of the rest... and no, there will never be a second store. I've been there, done that, and I still have some of the tee shirts in the attic! (Webmaster’s note: Never say never!)
When and how did your love of wine begin? It began with a trip to Sonoma in 1974, but the real epiphany occurred in 1981 over a bottle of 1977 Sterling Reserve Cabernet someone ordered at a business dinner. I came home from the trip and scoured the town until I could put together a full case. Of course then I had to have somewhere to keep it... then you just can't have just one case...you get the drift....
How would you classify your tastes in wine... old world or new world? I have been accused of liking everything, and for the most part I do. Part of the fun here is that Linda and I get to try such a wide variety of wines. Having to review wines means we never get in a rut of going back to the same style or brand every time. The truth is, I try to appreciate both old and new world styles, but my first love will always be California reds.
All of us have our favorites...what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? New World wines are what I know best. I really only began to focus on old world wines fifteen years ago, so I am way behind many of my customers. Linda and I have discoverd that we love Rhône reds, they are the most amazingly versitle food wines. Anymore when I go to pick a wine for dinner it seems that half the time I come back with some blend of Rhône grapes like Syrah, Grenache or Carignan. I have loved drinking and learning more about Italian and Spanish wines. However, experiencing Bordeaux and Burgundy is almost a lifelong undertaking, and at today’s prices I don’t think I’m going to catch up.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? A blue cheese topped filet grilled medium rare with a bottle of Cabernet is still number one, but Osso Bucco with a bottle of Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre is a close second.
What was your most memorable bottle? The six liter bottle of 1982 Kenwood Artist Series that my friend Danny Lipco brought from California for Linda's and my wedding...she'll fill in the details.
Your favorite restaurant? That would be at home... the menu changes every night and we love the wine list. Oakley's does a great job and we really enjoyed the new HC Tavern and Kitchen in Fishers District. Actually, we eat more lunches out than dinners and there's nothing like a burger in the courtyard at Cobblestone Grill or small plates at Louvino in downtown Fishers.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? Seeing Linda (the world's best wife who was actually supportive of this investment) with our black 2005 Aston Martin DB-9 coupe, you don't really buy them you adopt them ... hey, this investment can't do any worse than my IRA....
Funniest moment working here? There have been so many of them...the classics are tasting wine with the winemaker and he asks you to be honest. It happened once with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc... the wine smelled like cat pee from two feet away but the winemaker really, really, really wanted to know what we thought. We told him...he has not been back....
The most recent was when the lady who had just selected a $300 mixed case of some of the biggest Cabernets and Shiraz in the store turned to Tom Landshof and asked which one would go best with Tilapia. At least he was honest when he told her she should "go buy some steaks."
Best and worst things about working here? The best would be actually getting to know my customers. I spent most of my 40 years in retail behind the scenes, which is why my office now is behind the counter. The worst, fighting to keep from gaining weight around all this great food and wine.
Linda's real career is leasing and managing medical office buildings. Developing new buildings and the general "care taking" of much of Community Health Network's real estate needs. It keeps her way too busy to spend much time in the store anymore. But, she spent every Saturday with me for the first 3 years we opened. Although she's not here often, she is still my secret weapon behind the scenes.
Linda Pendleton: All those "What We Thought" reviews in the newsletter have a lot more to do with Linda's nose and palate than mine. Fifteen years ago we held a ten bottle blind tasting that we invited people to test their palates by identifying the wines grape varietal and matching it to its magazine review. 150 people tasted and tried the wines, and only two people got all ten right... both were women, and one was Linda.
What is your current job in the real world? My real job is as a Vice President over Real Estate and Retail Services with VEI, the for-profit division of Community Health Network.
How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? From the very first moment Doug thought about the idea.
When and how did your love of wine begin? I'm not sure if this made me love it immediately, but my introduction was in about 1983, when my mentor at my first job in commercial real estate, George Charbonneau, gave me a bottle of Chablis and Bordeaux as a gift. Unfortunately, I do remember thinking that the Bordeaux would be better chilled!
How would you classify your tastes in wine... old world or new world? Well, I'm still more partial to New World, but my tastes are New World with a throwback to Old World. I don't think I would have known what a Rhône was 15 years ago, and now it is my "go to" Red...but that is also because the French ones have changed their style to be a bit more "New World." I love the crisp, unoaked Hendry Chardonnay (yes, I really do like white wine), but realistically, it isn't as true of an "Old World" style white as I think it is.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? I really do think my favorite food is pizza...usually something involving a very thin crust, and interesting ingredients like artichoke hearts, black olives and maybe goat cheese...pair that with super Tuscan like the Monte Antico Sangiovese Cabernet-Merlot blend and I'm in heaven.
What was your most memorable bottle? A 6 liter of 1982 Kenwood Sonoma Valley Artists Series Cabernet that we served at our wedding reception — it was the very generous gift of our friend, Danny Lipco (who brought it with him from Bakersfield, CA — I think he even had to buy it a seat). He sent us a label in advance, and we matted it and used the matting as our guest register. The matted print and the empty bottle still sit in the kitchen as a reminder of an unforgettable day (where we sat up the camera on timer for our photo). And we still have a couple of bottles left that we plan to open on a few more wedding anniversaries.
Your favorite restaurant? Home, preferably on the deck! And we really don't go to eat out that much...except on vacation, so I'd have to say Grandma Dot's and Trader's on Sanibel.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? A couple of good French subtitled movies and a very lazy Sunday afternoon with rain (or just pull the blinds and pretend it is raining outside).
Funniest moment working here? This is more of an amazing moment...a number of years back, Doug had a Zionsville customer approach him because her brother was making wine in Oregon and she hoped he would try it. We’d had several “homemade” wines brought by before, so we were a little dubious, especially when her brother finally did come in on a Saturday morning carrying his wines in a cardboard box.
So the first amazing thing is that we had the time to taste wine on a Saturday morning (probably wouldn’t happen today, would it?) and still wait on customers, but the more amazing thing was that every single wine we tasted seemed better than the one before. Doug, our co-worker at the time, Jim Mathias, and I kept tasting, and then looking at each other saying “this is amazing...who is this guy and how do we get his wines distributed in Indiana"? Well, in case you haven’t figured it out, the wines were Sineann and the winemaker was Peter Rosback, and the rest is pretty much history for us!
Best and worst things about working here? I can't really claim to work here much anymore, but it is still the interaction with the greatest customers around — as well as the very competent and enthusiastic staff.
Mat McGraw - Owner
Meet the future Wine Guy! Mat McGraw is a very talented young man with wine knowledge way beyond his age and a strength of work ethic I have rarely encountered. He has been with us for ten years now and I have to confess that I have and will continue to shift a lot of responsibility onto shoulders as his ownership interest grows.
How old are you? Over thirty. Over the hill, as they say.
How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Over ten years.
What did you or do you do in the real world? I have worked at my family’s restaurant, McGraw’s Steak, Chop & Fish House, since we opened in 1999. As a teenager, I did all of the less glorified positions such as kitchen prep, busing tables, and washing dishes. Eventually, I became responsible for all the food purchasing and menu development, as well as cooking on the line. After or somewhere close to turning 21, I took over the alcohol purchasing and menu development including the wine list. (Note: McGraw’s wine list won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence this year.)
When and how did your love of wine begin? Initially, when I took over the wine list at the restaurant, I really liked small-batch bourbons and craft beer. I had the misconception that marriage and a mortgage came before appreciation of wine. When preparing for my first wine dinner at the restaurant, I spent night after night reading, drinking, and cooking but mostly yelling out four-letter words. Pairing the wine with properly prepared food in a progressive sequence for 30 to 40 people in a timely manner is very, very stressful and exhausting. However, when successfully executed, the resulting feeling cannot be matched. I think it was that experience that ignited my interest in wine.
How would you classify your tastes in wine, Old World or New World? Both. Patricia likes New World, so I probably drink more of whatever she decides to pull a cork on without asking.
All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? In terms of varietal preference, I am and always have been a big fan of Syrah.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Although absurdly simple, a ribeye, preferably bone-in, and a glass of [insert most red varietals here].
What is your current favorite bottle? Any of the Charles Smith’s many single vineyard Syrahs under his K Vintners label.
What was your most memorable bottle? A tie between Orin Swift’s The Prisoner 2005 and Owen Roe’s Ex Umbris Syrah 2009. (Because that’s what I said three or four years ago and I think that was the last time I could narrow it down to just two wines).
Your favorite guilty pleasure? I don’t know. I guess if I actually felt guilty, I probably would not want to tell all the people who read this.
Best and worst thing about working here? Best: The people. Our customers, our sales reps and all of the other Grapevine Cottage employees make it a great place to work.
Stacy Nelson - Food and Accessories Buyer
Stacy is responsible for the purchasing and display of all our meats, cheeses, gourmet foods and wine accessories. And she drinks wine, too!
How old are you, you don't have to answer? My name is Stacy Nelson, I am proud to say I am 50 years young, and I am the food and accessories buyer for Grapevine Cottage.
What did or do you do in the real world? Prior to this job, I spent most of my career as a school counselor. I have also been a certified fitness instructor for a long time as well, and I teach classes in Zionsville.
When did your love of wine begin? Wine has been an interest of mine for quite some time. In fact, my first experience with the Grapevine Cottage was ten years ago, when my husband and I were eager to learn about and try new wines.
When I was in my 20s, and my family was young, I became very interested in healthy eating, gardening, cooking, fitness and wine. My palate started with Beringer White Zinfandel. It wasn’t long until my husband and I started branching out. We wanted to learn more about wine and food pairings, so we bought some books.
You can learn a lot from books, but I really feel the best way is through experience. So, we made our first trip to Napa Valley. At Domaine Carneros, the first thing I learned the hard way was that when you have a flight of wine, it is okay to dump after you taste a wine. That’s why they have those silver buckets on the counter. Needless to say, once my buzz wore off (which was probably from only one glass of wine), we were good to go! My daughter currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area, and we love to visit her — but who am I kidding, we love all of the wineries in Napa too!
Old or New World? Most of my knowledge is with new world wines, but once I started at the Grapevine Cottage, and after a couple of trips to Europe, my tastes have grown. I have to say, I really love old world, French, Italian, and Spanish wines, which are now the wines I am eagerly learning about.
Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? I have been to several wineries in Napa, each unique and beautiful. My favorite to this point, however, was a winery in Tuscany that we visited when doing a tour in Italy. Of course, the Italian countryside is just gorgeous, but the winery tour was fascinating. They took us underground, where they ferment and store the wine. There were racks full of dusty wine bottles and old terracotta containers filled with wine. If I close my eyes right now, that earthy and fruity smell rushes back. That is a great memory that makes me smile as I write this.
Favorite food and wine pairing? A nice Cabernet and filet.
What is your current favorite bottle? It is hard to choose just one, but Marietta Roman Zinfandel is my current favorite.
Most memorable bottle? This Spring, my husband and I traveled to Italy again to celebrate 30 years of marriage (yes, 30 years!) and we enjoyed a 2001 Barolo Riserva Gran Bussia while overlooking the Bay of Naples. It was heaven!
Your favorite restaurant? Indy has such an amazing food scene, but I do love Ryan Nelson’s Late Harvest Kitchen.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? Five Guys. OMG, they have the BEST fries!!
Funniest moment working here? Probably trying to pronounce all the French, Spanish and Italian terms. I really butcher them at times, but I am not afraid to laugh at myself and Adele is not afraid to correct me. I keep learning and I am getting better.
I LOVE working here! The people are fun, and I am learning so much about wine. I love helping customers find wine and answering questions. My knowledge grows each day that I work here. I don’t know everything there is to know about wine, but I do know that wine meant to be enjoyed with good friends and good food. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, and you should drink what you like. Everyone has a unique palate, so don’t waste your time drinking stuff you do not enjoy. The worst thing about working here is that I think I end up spending my whole paycheck at GVC. It’s a tough job … but someone has to do it! CHEERS!
Jamie Leahy - Wine Consultant, Wine Club Manager
You will find Jamie at our Zionsville store where, in addition to sales, she is responsible for managing the wine club. Like big reds? Jamie is the one to talk to!
What did you do in the real world? Out of college in the early ’80s I worked in credit for a major oil company and then a tech company. Next I spent several years as a claims adjuster and after having children, worked myriad jobs until I was fortunate to land here at the Grapevine Cottage.
When and how did your love of wine begin? I guess you could say that alcohol is in my blood! My father owned a bar/restaurant where we also lived the first couple years of my life. My dad enjoyed wine and I learned some basics from him and by tasting the ”house” wines he always had on hand. As a high school senior I worked in a local pharmacy; at Christmas the staff was treated to dinner at an Italian restaurant where the wine flowed freely. As I now embarrassingly recall, while enjoying my fair share, I repeatedly asked one of the pharmacists “What is this wine called? It’s SO GOOD”!! It was Lambrusco. The journey continues….
How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I am a solid new world wine fan who also enjoys and appreciates old world wines. There are so many fantastic wines from France, Spain & Italy-I am enjoying discovering as many of them as possible.
All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Being a fan of big red wines, I would say that I’m most familiar with Cabs, Syrahs, Zins, and red blends. Since joining the Grapevine Cottage I have made an effort to try whites of all varietals and can say that I am a fan of many of them as well.
What is your current favorite bottle? Current favorites are Philip (an Italian Cabernet with a fun label) and the Carchelo Spanish red blend.
Your favorite restaurant? In the Indy area I love all of Martha Hoover’s restaurants —Napolese, Petite Chou and Public Greens. The creative menus and fresh, authentic foods are simply the best.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? Wine and chocolate, wine and HGTV, wine and a book, wine and a nap … and so on.
Funniest moment working here? There are too many to recount — and if I did, I’d have to name names.
Best and worst things about working here? The best thing about working at GVC is the terrific people — the customers and my co-workers are lovely, good people. On the downside, we are surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine just begging to be taken home. We should have name tags that read “Will Work for Wine.”
Jim Bandy - Wine Consultant
You might call Jim Bandy a student of wine! I think he may have the most well-rounded palate of any of us. Ask him about Argentina or his many trips to Napa....
How old are you? 47.
What is your current job in the real world? Corporate sales for Western Union Global Business Payments.
How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? I joined the team a few months before moving to the new building. So I think I’m in my fifth year. Time really does fly when you're drinking... I mean selling wine.
When and how did your love of wine begin? Advertising was where my career began, and when I began drinking wine. (Ah...a slice of pizza and cold Rosé from a box — lunch of champions!) Almost 20 years ago, I took a challenge from a wine retailer who offered tastings in my Southern California neighborhood. I started off saying “I really don't care for red.” He replied “Give me six months and see if that holds true.” After trying new things every week or so, he was right. I think that laid the base for my continued exploration of different wines and styles of wine. Even at home now, we regularly try new things and find new “friends.” That's one thing I enjoy talking about with our customers: seeing where their taste preferences are, and finding out if they’re interested in trying something different.
How would you classify your tastes in wine... Old World or New World? I like to equate wine styles to music: I think of old world style wines as being much like a string quartet — good background for food, usually balanced, and well-grounded (my new substitute phrase for Terroir). New world wines, though, are the Jazz and Rock bands: spotlight grabbing, toe-tapping, and not always willing to share the stage with food. String quartets have a special place in my heart but I more frequently listen to Jazz and Rock.
All of us have our favorites...what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? New world reds and Champagne/Sparkling are my strongest suits.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? This is quite difficult as my favorites change often. Right now, it’s braised short ribs with Napa Cabernet, or peppered rare Ahi Tuna with Schramsberg’s Mirabelle.
What is your current favorite bottle? The d’Arenberg Hermit Crab 2009 fits the bill when you’re looking for something between a buttery-oaky Chard and Champagne. Good with food or on its own, this is a versatile white that is also a great bargain! And the Walter Clore Reserve 2006 is a metrosexual blend — a versatile red that never seems out of place, either at the table or just swirling around in my glass. Not over the top, it’s stylish, balanced, and very enjoyable.
What was your most memorable bottle? 1996 Dom Perignon.
Your favorite restaurant? I travel a great deal, and therefore dine out frequently. When I’m at home, though, my favorites are Oakley’s Bistro, The Meridian, and Capital Grille.
Funniest moment working here? It was too funny when...um...I almost forgot: What happens in the back room stays in the back room.
Best and worst things about working here? The worst thing about working here is wanting to load up my car every night with new things to try but recognizing I have to be sober some time. Some of my favorite times at GVC are when I’m helping customers pair wine with their menus. It merges my love of food with all the different wine varietals and expressions we carry at GVC.
Dan Bohn - Wine Consultant
Dan knows his way around wine and the store as well as anyone here, depend on him for great pairing advice….
How old are you? Almost 59.
What have you done in the real world? I crunched numbers and asked questions in several corporate finance, market research, and bank marketing information roles. My best job, though, was stay at home dad from 1998, when we began three years in England for my wife's work, until 2011 when I started at GVC.
How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? I’ve been at the Zionsville store since October 2011.
When and how did your love of wine begin? I got serious about wine in the 1990s. It began with discovering how food and wine can complement each other during many great meals at Something Different. I increased my interest by learning about European wine while living overseas. Becoming a GVC customer after returning to Indy in 2001 gave me a great source for continuing to explore the wine world.
How would you classify your tastes in wine, Old World or New World? I find enjoyment in most types of wine. It’s fun seeing how a given wine variety changes based on where the grapes are grown and the style preferences of geographic regions and individual wine makers.
All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I have at least decent knowledge about most varietals after five years working at GVC. My strongest areas are Syrahs/Shirazes, the Mediterranean room, French whites, and our great selection of Rosés for summer drinking.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? I’ll mention two pairings. A Super Tuscan with something Italian made by my wife Beth. Grilled burgers with a full bodied Rhône red.
What is your current favorite bottle? The Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rose is my warm weather favorite. Delicate red fruit balanced with a nice amount of crisp minerality. It’s something a bit unusual from the Loire Valley that compares very favorably with its cousins from Provence.
What was your most memorable bottle? Still some Châteauneuf-du-Pape I tasted in 1999. I can’t recall the winery or vintage. But the flavor, depth, and complexity made a big impression. It showed me what’s possible with great wine.
Your favorite restaurant? I most consistently enjoy Pizzology and Napolese. A good salad, pizza hot from the oven, and a couple glasses of wine. All at a great price. There’s nothing better than that for me.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? It’s currently caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn with a glass of oaky Chardonnay. A great combination!
Funniest moment working here? Here’s a story I haven't told much. My first week working at GVC, I learned the hard way that a few winemakers pack cases in a top-heavy way. I put such a case on the conveyor to the basement, watched it tip onto the belt, then somersault all the way to the bottom. All twelve bottles somehow survived the tumble. It’s funnier now than it was then, but I learned a lesson about putting cases on the conveyor belt.
Best and worst things about working here? They’ve stayed the same since I started working at GVC. Best: the great customers and co-workers. Worst: So many wines and so little time!
Mark Finch - Wine Consultant, Beer Buyer
Mark Finch is our resident Mac Guru... he's the guy responsible for everything from preparing our cookbook to print to managing all the point-of-sale materials here in the store. He can also point you toward a good Belgian beer or French cider....
How old are you? Older than I’ve ever been.
What do you do in the real world? Printing, publishing and public relations. I did public relations and lobbying for the Indiana highway industry for eight years, then owned a printing company for 17 years. I still do some print advertising, publication and Web design, and freelance writing.
How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Since March of 2002, after a brief stint as production manager of a newspaper in Grand Cayman.
When and how did your love of wine begin? My parents often drank Almaden wines with dinner when I was growing up. Each wine had cartoon illustrations of the types of animals whose meat they were supposed to be paired with, so I learned that early on. Later, when I was a high school senior, my friends and I found that we could go into liquor stores and discuss wines for half an hour or so with the clerks and not get carded when we eventually bought some. I ran through a lot of Black Tower and other crockery-bottle Rieslings then, and still have an empty fish-shaped bottle of Antinori white Tuscany wine for fish, vintage 1967. During my first year of college, a friend would occasionally nab wines from his dad’s cellar, which we would consume during the bicycle rides we went on instead of going to class. We squeezed a lot of fine Bordeaux out of wineskins. My first purchase of a case of “real” wine was Sebastiani Barbera, vintage 1976, which I bought from Louise Kahn. I still have the wooden box.
How would you classify your tastes in wine... Old World or New World? I try to appreciate every wine for what it has to offer. I drink both Old World and New World wines, but find that I am buying a lot more European wines than I used to, particularly Rhônes and Riojas. But if I were banished to a tropical island where only one type of wine was available, I would prefer that it be Bordeaux-style blends from California and Washington.
All of us have our favorites...what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Spanish reds and red Rhônes, and what we loosely call “other whites,” which is to say white wines other than Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Grigios, or Rieslings.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? We eat a lot of lamb, which I like to pair with a Rioja, Rhône, or Malbec. A big Zinfandel or a Washington Syrah with smoked brisket or barbecued ribs is mighty good, too.
What is your current favorite bottle? That varies from day to day, but it’s usually a Rioja Reserva aged in American oak. I can stick my nose in the glass and inhale the aroma for minutes before I get around to actually taking a sip. As the saying goes, vanilla is catnip for humans.
What was your most memorable bottle? Two bottles here: One was an older Ridge Lytton Springs being used as a prop that my wife, Katz, rescued from backstage when we were doing lights and sound for a production of Lend Me A Tenor. The scene called for the two tenors to open a bottle of wine then toast each other, so not much had been poured out. That Lytton Springs was amazing, and became one of my favorite wines that night. Equally memorable was a split of a 1963 Meursault that her grandfather gave us — improperly stored upright on the top shelf of kitchen cabinet for 35 or so years, amber-colored with little floaties in it, and stunningly — and unexpectedly — delicious with rich flavors of vanilla and caramel.
Your favorite restaurant? Lobster Landing in Clinton, Connecticut. Their lobster rolls are simply buttery chunks of fresh lobster served on toasted and buttered buns. And you can take your own beverages to sip at their oceanside picnic tables, which is a nice option.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? These days, I prefer that my pleasures be of the “not guilty” variety. I’m pretty sure that all my unindicted co-conspirators feel the same way.
Funniest moment working here? It’s hard to say, and I probably shouldn’t anyway. We do laugh a lot though.
Best and worst thing about working here? The best thing is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made, on both sides of the counter. The worst thing is doing inventory — there’s a lot of stuff here to count!
Mark Gapinski, CSW - Wine Educator
Mark has well-rounded wine tastes, and is an accomplished cook. Need a suggestion for a wine and food pairing? Ask Mark....
How old are you? Let me put it this way, I’ve stopped buying young vintage Port.
What did you do in the real world? Many years ago, after completing my Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, I began my career with Eli Lilly and Company. I held a number of positions in research and development at Lilly and retired after 26 years.
When and how did your love of wine begin? In the mid to late 1970s German Rieslings drew my attention away from Mateus Rose and Riunite on ice and the like. Those Rieslings were relatively inexpensive and delicious to drink. The 1976 vintage was the first time I realized that vintage year truly mattered. German wines were superb that year.
How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I value elegance and finesse in wines. I also rarely drink wine without something to eat. Taken together, these preferences frequently lead me to old world wines that are inevitably very food friendly. That said, I’m also a huge fan of Oregon wines.
All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? There are very few varietals I dislike. My favorite varietal usually depends on what I’m eating. My “go to” varietals are Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. I also enjoy studying the winemaking process. I want to understand the how choices growers make in the vineyard and winemakers make in the winery affect the final product. I fantasize that I really know my Italians, but then again, I fantasize I can dunk a basketball.
What is your current favorite bottle? The 2011 Tapiz Black Tears Malbec from Argentina I feel is outstanding. For a white, I really like the 2016 Tabali Talinay Sauvignon Blanc.
What was your most memorable bottle? The 1990 Comte de Vogüé Musigny I experienced at a wine tasting in London was an epiphany as to how spectacular red Burgundy can be. Likewise, a 1976 Château d’Yquem (supplied by my generous friends Al and Jan Webber), served with seared foie gras at millennium dinner we had for a group of wine friends, was a testimony to the power of food-wine pairings.
Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? How about a memory of a wine? My wife and I visited France for the first time in 1990. We were traveling through the southern Rhône valley and bought a bottle of wine at a cooperative in Vinsobres. I’m not sure what the varietal was, but probably a Grenache-based blend. It was very inexpensive, perhaps what would have been about 5 euros at the time. Armed with the wine, a small jar of tapenade, a baguette, a couple of wine glasses and a corkscrew, we drove up to the ruins of the Pope John XII Castle in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I was a beautiful day and the Vinsobres was magnificent.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Port and blue cheese. Sauvignon Blanc (especially Sancerre) and goat cheese.
What is your favorite restaurant? Locally, Vida, hands down. Globally, Auberge de l’Ill in Illhaeusern, France, the site of the two best dinners I’ve experienced.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? Where to start? How about a Chicago-style dipped roast beef sandwich with hot peppers at Fat Dan’s in Broad Ripple — messy, yet satisfying, and I do love cheese.
Funniest moment working here? One afternoon a lady came into the Cottage pulling a roller suitcase behind her. I greeted her and asked how I might help. She related that where she currently lives, she did not have access to top quality Spanish wines and could I help her fill the suitcase from the great selection we have. Together we picked out eight or nine bottles of really good stuff. As I set a well-aged Rioja Grand Reserva on the counter. I had to ask. As she couldn’t’ use it as carry on, was she planning on checking this soft-sided roller suitcase full of wine? I had to advise her that I thought the attrition rate would be near 100 percent.
John Payne - Wine Consultant
Retired OB-GYN John Payne prefers wines that deliver....
How old are you? Let’s just say that I’m old enough to know that once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up a little speed.
What did you do in the real world? After practicing obstetrics and gynecology for over 36 years in Indianapolis I’m now pleased to be pursuing my true calling in life … to become a “wine guy”.
When and how did your love of wine begin? After surviving the beer and cheap liquor phase of my youth (post legal age of course), I began to associate with some older physicians who had a keen interest in wine. The key event for me was my first trip to Napa in the early 1980s where I was not only taken by the stunning beauty of the region, but also fascinated by the whole winemaking process. The abundant opportunity for tasting, which was all free of charge at that time, was tremendously enlightening as long as you could tolerate the tannic fuzz on your tongue from the young cabs of that era.
How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I’m primarily a new world guy and enjoy a wide variety of American-made wines. Additionally, I have a particular fondness for Aussie Shiraz and the occasional South American Malbec.
All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I’m going to leave the judgment about wine expertise to others, but I can answer the favorite question easily. With any luck, my last sip of wine on this earth will be a California Zinfandel, preferably a monster Turley. I’m also very fond of Pinot Noir. With the variety of styles from Oregon to California in addition to French Pinots, you can pair this wine with almost anything.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? I try to keep it simple so give me a grilled burger or smoked brisket and a bottle of Zinfandel and I’ll be happy.
What is your current favorite bottle? I really like the 2013 Elyse Zinfandel that we have in the store. The 12% Petite Syrah and 6% Carignan really add complexity while maintaining great balance. The 2015 Austin Hope Cabernet from Paso Robles is also a wonderful bottle. It really explodes with intense dark fruit and aromatics of cedar and vanilla.
Your favorite restaurant? Currently, in Indy that would have to be Vida. I’m also fortunate to live only two minutes from Oakley’s Bistro.
What was your most memorable bottle? While in San Francisco in 1992 I had a bottle of Martinelli Jackass Hill Vineyard Zinfandel with loin of venison in a rich red wine sauce. If you’re not familiar with the story behind the name of this wine you should Google it just for fun.
Your favorite guilty pleasure? I try hard not to feel guilty about any pleasure.
Funniest moment working here? On a quiet weeknight in Zionsville Mat says to me why don’t you work on dusting the shelves in the dessert wine room. Now, being vertically challenged and having to work over a bunch of port stacked on the floor in front of the shelves, I decide to get a step stool, which of course is now sitting on an inclined ramped floor. Ok, maybe I didn’t think this thing through very well. So I’m balancing on the step stool reaching to the top shelf when I look down and realize my belly is bumping against the most expensive wine in the store, nudging it perilously close to the edge. If you haven’t guessed, it was a bottle of Chateau d’ Yquem 2009, $564. No sad ending so you have to laugh about it.
Best and worst things about working here? I don’t really make any money — I just spend a little less on wine.
Tom Skokut - Wine Consultant
Since we now have three Toms, Tom Skokut has become known around the store as Dr. Tom, (Ph.D. not M.D.), and while he may be slightly underemployed selling wine, we are all very glad to have him.
How old are you? I am 66.
What did you do in the real world? I was a Research Scientist at Dow AgroSciences. My wife and I both retired from DAS three and a half years ago. I had a research career in plant biology for over 30 years (not all at Dow). I worked in plant tissue culture, plant molecular biology and plant genetic engineering. I have worked with corn, wheat, soybeans and canola, but never grapevines.
How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Eight years.
When and how did your love of wine begin? My parents lived on a small farm in Paso Robles for 20 years after they retired. At my many visits, we would go tasting at the different wineries. By the time they left in 2007, there were more than 30 wineries in a 10-mile radius from where they lived. Twenty years ago, Paso Robles had very few wineries. I had the privilege of watching the area grow into a well-respected wine region. My favorite winery in Paso is Tobin James, which you could easily walk to from my parents’ house. Walking back home was the hard part.
How would you classify your taste in wines, Old World or New World? I am pretty much a New World guy through and through. My tastes in wine have definitely changed since I began working here. I love Pinots, especially the light cherry/fruity ones you get from Napa, Sonoma, and the California central coast. You can still get a very good one for less than $20 at the store. My second love is New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. I love the crisp grapefruit taste anytime of the year but especially in the heat of summer. There are even a couple (just a couple) of Sonoma Sauv Blancs that I really like.
All of us have our favorites ... what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Come to me for suggestions on value Pinots and Sauv Blancs. I love distinguishing the differences in Pinots between different locations (for example California vs. Oregon) and matching the right wine with the customers’ tastes. I try to taste most of the Sauv Blancs in the store and am happy to steer the customers to what best suits them.
I also would like to think that I know a little about the wines from the Paso Robles and Santa Barbara area. I am always happy to direct people to the good ones (my opinion of course).
What is your favorite food and wine pairing? In my opinion, Pinot goes well with salmon, pizza, pasta, steak and hamburgers. I love Pinots. Sauv Blancs are great with appetizers and we love them with a variety of seafood, salads, spicy Asian and some chicken dishes.
What is your current favorite bottle? Current favorite bottles are Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc, the Tessellae Carignan and the Pundit Syrah. See, I am able to go out of my box from time to time!
What was your most memorable bottle? Tobin James Fat Boy. It’s an out-of-this-world Zinfandel and is perfect with Christmas dinner. I belong to the Tobin James wine club and when they send a Fat Boy, I save it for a special occasion.
Your favorite restaurant? My wife and I go out to lunch a lot. We love to have lunch at The Friendly Tavern, Patrick’s, Stone Creek, the Parthenon, Yen Ching and Mitchell’s Fish Market. Our favorite is Pizzology — their lunch special is the greatest!
Funniest moment working here? I think I have at least a dozen funny moments every time I work in the store. The staff is so much fun to work with, we are always laughing and I especially love the sense of humor that our customers have. There was a very funny moment that involved me, Mat, Mark and a couple of sausages but I’m afraid I can’t go into detail.
Best and worst things about working here? No bad things. The best thing is seeing my friends from Dow when they come to the store, making new friends (we have the best customers) and meeting our customers’ dogs. It is also very cool to be in the midst of more than 1,000 different wines.