We Are Upstate NY With Woodstock Wine & Liquor Owner David Pinkard
How does one reimagine Woodstock’s oldest wine and liquor store? Today we’re sitting down with David Pinkard, a classically trained musician and (relatively) new owner of Woodstock Wine & Liquors. David explains how his relationship with customers and his 15 years’ experience with Brooklyn’s “hippest wine & spirits shop” has influenced his selection of wines and spirits for his local clientele. Let’s get to know Dave!
INSIDE+OUT: Where are you from and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
David Pinkard: I’m originally from Austin, TX. I moved to New York City in 1995, then to Brooklyn in 2001. After working in the restaurant industry for a number of years (I met my wife Suzanne when we both worked at Eleven Madison Park), I made the move into retail, working at Slope Cellars in Park Slope Brooklyn for 15 years. Suzanne and I had visited the Woodstock area for years, with long-time friends here, so when we heard through the grapevine that Mary Federoff was looking to sell her wine shop in Woodstock, we began our long pursuit.
You took over Woodstock Wine and Liquor not long ago. What have you changed, if anything, and what makes your shop unique?
I have vastly expanded the spirits offerings in all categories, with an emphasis on local artisan products. The wine focus has shifted more in the direction of organic and natural production, while not losing sight of the old school, venerated classics. Customers can browse our “Cheap & Tasty” section, where they’ll find carefully selected everyday wines for $12.99 and under. But perhaps the most significant development is our new website, which allows for online ordering, and has proved immensely successful.
What is your background and how did you decide to get into the wine and liquor business?
Curiously, I started my professional life as a classically trained musician, composer, and orchestral conductor. When I moved to NYC, I became involved in the theater, composing original music and sound design. To pay the bills I worked in a number of Manhattan’s finest restaurants, which is where I discovered what would become my lifelong passion for wine. In 2006 I’d finally had enough of the restaurant race and took a position with Brooklyn’s hippest wine & spirits shop, Slope Cellars, where I spent the next 15 years, the last eight as the spirits buyer.
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of running a wine and liquor store?
All my favorite moments involve interactions with customers. Like when they return to rave about a bottle of wine or spirit that I’ve recommended, especially if it involved a leap of faith on their part. It’s very rewarding to feel the trust growing with our local customers. It’s also gratifying when customers stumble on that esoteric spirit item that they’ve been looking for everywhere else and finally discover in my store. My least favorite part of the job is simply finding enough room in the shop for everything I’d like to offer!
How do you decide what wines and spirits to offer?
My staff and I taste just about everything that goes on our shelves. I want to offer as comprehensive a selection as possible in our fairly intimate space so I try to represent as many regions, terroirs and varietals as possible. I’m also dedicated to offering well-curated wines and spirits in all price ranges. My customers are often astonished to discover that we offer such amazing products without having to fork over an arm and a leg!
Do you have a specific region for wine that you focus on or are you truly global?
We try to represent as many of the world’s wine-growing regions as possible, including some often overlooked places like Eastern Europe. The New York State region is of particular focus, primarily the Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes.
Tell us about the different events and tastings you have at your shop.
For most of the year we hold free tasting events on Fridays and Saturdays from 3-6 pm. They’re typically hosted by sales reps from our various distributors and importers who always have a wealth of knowledge to share.
Do you offer other services beyond your retail store?
As I mentioned, we offer online ordering, for delivery or in-store pickup, through our website www.woodstockwineandliquor.com
Do you leverage social media and how is that working for you?
I try to maintain as robust a social media presence as possible, but it’s hard to find the time. We tend to get a decent amount of engagement.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
I’m trying to carve out more time for site visits to local wineries and distilleries. As a retailer, it’s important to get out of the store and go stand in the shoes of those who are actually crafting the products we sell. We walk the vineyards, talk about the weather, smell the fermenting mash and roll some barrels around.
What impact does your business have on your community?
I like to think that we contribute to the conviviality of our local community, to the enjoyment of their lives. We believe that sharing great food and drink with others is an essential part of a life well lived, and being entrusted with their wine and spirits needs is an honor we take seriously.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
We rely on all the local businesses to maintain a healthy, dynamic environment. For locals, as well as weekenders and out-of-state tourists. We rise and fall together.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
Woodstock could use a real artisan cheese shop.
What is your drink of choice? Do you have a favorite wine or cocktail?
I’m partial to Northern Rhône Reds and Loire Valley Chenin Blancs. In the spirits world, I’m crazy for Armagnac and Agave Spirits, all in moderation of course!
Which places in Upstate NY do you most frequent?
Minnewaska State Park, Watkins Glen and Glimmerglass
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know?
I was a professional bassoon player in my 20s and 30s.
What would be your dream local Staycation?
A week in a lodge on the side of the mountain with a fireplace and all the books I’ve been meaning to read for the last 10 years. And a well-stocked kitchen.
What is your current state of mind?
Positive, motivated and eager to build the business into a destination for wine and spirits lovers from all over the Catskills.
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