What It’s Like to Be a Wine Buyer at a Grocery Store

Posted on: May 24th, 2017 by

QFC Broadway Market Seattle

I spent years working as a wine steward at the Broadway Market QFC in Seattle. It was a wonderful experience. I walked to work. Customers became my friends. As far as the wine selection, there were must-haves as part of the corporate set. But I got to buy weird, cool shit, too. I loved visiting my neighborhood pals and seeing fridges full of inexpensive, tasty Vinho Verde, rosé, sparkling wine, 1L bottles of Grüner Veltliner, and more.

At this store in Capitol Hill, it was never a dull moment, to say the least. Both good and bad. But I always had a great time. I also learned a lot about the wine business by working with sales reps, distributors, importers. And being in charge of beer buying was also an education. The suds selection at our store was extremely geeky and eclectic. I hand-wrote shelf talkers and put my name on them so customers would know what I was jazzed about when I was gone.

My time in retail wine was invaluable in developing my wine perspective and ethos. I was in the trenches of the wine business. Did I have opinions about the right way to cut cardboard cases and build displays? YES, EXTREMELY STRONG ONES. (Ask me.) My box knife skills were, well, razor-sharp.

How about a story from my tenure at this bustling neighborhood (chain) grocery store? One of my favorites is the “Last Drop” essay for the July issue of Wine Enthusiast. (It’s a personal story on the last page of the magazine.) For your internet reading pleasure, this tale is available online. It’s about a mop bucket, a legendary bottle of wine, and much more. Enjoy:

Bordeaux in the Back Room

Here’s a bonus story for you. It didn’t happen at the store, but related. I was walking downtown from Capitol Hill via Pine Street and had just crossed I-5 a few blocks back, near the old Von’s. (It was a place where a giant drink specials wheel would be regularly spun.)

Outside, the sidewalk tables were jammed. As I pass by, I hear a guy yell, “HEY QFC WINE GUY!” I turn around and approach the table. A man proceeds to enthusiastically say he was introduced to the Hofer Grüner, an Austrian wine packaged in a squat green 1L bottle sealed with a bottle cap, by me at Broadway Market. He then told me he served it at his wedding reception. I meet his wife, congratulated them both, and walk towards Pike Place Market sunset. (End scene.)

Photo by Dan via flickr.


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