We Are Upstate NY With Windmill Wine + Spirits Manager John Gilpin
Upon entering the antique doors of Windmill Wine & Spirits, you immediately feel the warmth and intrigue of stepping into a beautifully curated historic space and speakeasy-inspired boutique wine shop. Inside+Out Upstate NY catches up with manager and buyer, John Gilpin, to talk about what makes this shop a local favorite.
INSIDE+OUT: You showcase some really great small-batch spirits and unique wines in the shop. How do you decide what wines and spirits to offer?
John Gilpin: Thanks. It’s one of the most interesting parts of the job, where we get to research and taste new products to decide if the fit is right. A big part is finding importers you can trust and coming up with creative ways to fill popular categories. It’s a constant balancing act between stocking products that customers are familiar with and love to return to and having a good selection of new, more obscure items that can often become favorites.
Do you have a specific region for wine that you focus on or are you global?
We focus on wines from all over the world, but of course, always have a good selection of domestic products from both New York at large and closer to home in the Hudson Valley.
Tell us about your wine club and what makes it special. How do folks find out about this?
The Wine Club acts as a curation subscription for customers who want to explore new wines they might not pick off the shelves themselves. Together we determine an area they would like to explore, and each month they then receive two or three personalized wines and emails to learn a bit about their selection. Every member is unique, and as such some work with me to try new things, while others like to stick to what they know. Each member also gets exclusive discounts whenever they visit the shop. There is information up on our Website, but anyone can call or see us in person if they’d like to find out more.
You offer Beverage Consultation services, who are the ultimate clients for this offering and what is involved?
This can range from large-scale events like weddings, bachelor/bachelorette parties, luncheons, funerals, reunions, etc… all the way down to small gatherings like local events, family gatherings, dinners, and more. Most of the large-scale work is initiated through caterers and catering companies, but any client who is looking for advice or services of any kind can simply call the shop and work with me directly. We cover a lot of details here, including menu curation, product quantity and storage planning, pairing and service advice, buy-back options, etc.
What is one question you’re constantly asked or what’s the biggest misconception about your work?
Because of the nature of our storefront— a gorgeous historical building with a built-in bar, pulley fan system, tin ceiling, and much much more, all original to the 19th century—there is a misconception that we exclusively stock expensive, traditional wine. We try hard to keep things approachable not only in terms of price but style as well…and as such keep an affordable mix of both natural and traditional options of high quality. This isn’t to say we don’t carry expensive examples of these things too, but it’s a vast mix of products ranging in all price points, regions, and styles.
What impact does your business have on your community?
Hopefully, it allows the community to experience new and interesting wines—and to act as a pitstop for existing favorites—at approachable price points and in a friendly, low-stress environment. Wine is something that should be fun to get into and shared by everyone with ease.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Really all of them. Each acts as a beacon that attracts more foot traffic and adds its own unique character to town, but just as importantly every open shop increases the standard of living for our own employees… who among other things eat, read, shop, do laundry, relax and live in town.
How do you grow and market your business? Do you leverage social media and how is that working for you?
We do use social media, as I’m sure most small businesses have learned to do over the past decade. It’s really invaluable in terms of promoting events, getting quick information out there like hour changes/last-minute updates, and of course, showcasing the essence of the shop through new and unique products.
What, in your opinion, makes the Hudson Valley a unique place to live + work?
In my opinion, it’s one of the most unique landscapes in all of the United States, so you can’t beat living in it. Great to hike, bike, ski, swim and even just drive around in. It’s a tourist destination for a reason. If you’ve ever driven coast to coast, getting back here feels like visiting a national park. There’s also incredible food and lots of genuine people responsible for it and to enjoy it all with. The small-town community is awesome for selling wine, and while each river town feels distinct in its own right there’s seemingly a wine scene in each that’s only been growing, so the work fits in great.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
Maybe it’s just because we’re mistaken for one so often, but I’ve always wished for a natural wine bar in town that really honed in on an interesting, affordable, revolving menu with just a little bit of food to pair. Even if this had to run seasonally, it’s something neighboring towns have that we don’t.
What is your drink of choice? Do you have a favorite wine or cocktail?
Anything and everything French and sparkling. Though summer is almost over, I’m still reaching for a good crémant or easy pet nat on the weekends.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
Currently we’re gearing up for fall and winter, which is an exciting time of year in terms of wine and cider curation. The shop will have plenty of fresh inventory to reflect the shift in seasons. On top of this, we’re partnering with our sister restaurant— the Millstream in Woodstock—to host some prix fixe wine pairing dinners this fall. Working with the Chef to set these pairings is a fun way to get creative and collaborate, and to share the stories of some of our favorite wines with the community.
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