Would you like a locker with that wine?
Winkler & Samuels, a new boutique wine store that specializes in family-run wineries and small producers, has uncorked a concept that is uncommon in Buffalo retail. Located in the mixed-use development at 500 Seneca St, it offers climate- and humidity-controlled lockers in the store's cellar where members can keep their wine.
The 950 lockers, each of them individually keyed, are located in a wine cellar beneath the store.
The lockers are aimed at wine lovers who have run out of space in their own cellars or who have downsized from the suburbs to city living, said owner Melissa Winkler, a sommelier with a background in wine retail.
While Winkler & Samuels isn't the only place in town to offer wine lockers, it seems to be the only wine retailer to have them in the Buffalo Niagara market. The concept is common in places such as California near Napa Valley. There are locations in Toronto. And the Finger Lakes got its first wine storage facility in Watkins Glen last year.
The Buffalo Club and the Saturn Club each have wine lockers, but membership is required in order to use them. Mangia, an Italian restaurant in Orchard Park began offering wine lockers a few years ago for $100 per year. All 50 are full.
Each locker in Winkler & Samuels' cellar holds 24 bottles and cost $25 a month. Membership offers other perks, such as personalized sommelier services as well as discounts on purchases, classes and private parties in the atrium and courtyard.
The cellar has a vapor barrier and is heavily insulated. It uses delicate LED lighting and each locker is grated for maximum air flow.
The store, which opened two weeks ago, has already sold 30 lockers.
"They have been really popular," Winkler said. "About half of our wine cellar members are looking to store their wine long term and the other half are new to wine and want to learn more."
The discounts have been a big draw for both kinds of customers.
Winkler & Samuels has a 1,400-square-foot retail floor with "vintage view" racks. At full capacity, it carries 6,000 bottles and showcases 500 different wines.
Despite the upscale feel of the French chateau-style store, more than half of its retail inventory costs less than $15. Though there are some more expensive bottles, including a 2005 Vega Sicilia Unico for $400 and a 1999 Domaine Romanee Conti from a private collection that sells for $2,000.
While some wine stores have a separate room for their higher priced bottles, Winkler organizes her bottles by region, with all price points mixed together.
"I wanted people to be walking through and be like, 'Wow, is that a 1971 Barolo? What's that over there?'" she said. "And I wanted to demystify wine a little bit. Sometimes people get intimidated by wine and I want to make everyone comfortable."
Winkler partnered with 500 Seneca developer Sam Savarino for the project.