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Winkler & Samuels Finds Success at 500 Seneca

Melissa Winkler and Dan Grosenbaugh

Wine purveyor Winkler & Samuels has been opened for just about a year and a half. Proprietors Melissa “Winkler” and “Samuel” Savarino share a passion for wine that evolved into their joint venture located at 500 Seneca Street just off the I-90. Their innovative space is thriving on the first floor and basement of the former paper factory, and their product line has grown from 400 wines to over 1,500. Their focus is on small, natural wine producers from around the world, whose wines are organically or biodynamically grown and are terroir driven.

I know, I know, put the brakes on, right? Just what does all that mean? Let’s begin with organic. The government regulates the use of the term “organic” to be applied to wines made from certified organically grown grapes that are free from synthetic pesticides or additives, including added sulfites. Biodynamic wines take organic farming up a notch by incorporating ideas about a vineyard as an entire ecosystem, considering unconventional variables such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. A biodynamic wine means that the wine was made using biodynamically grown grapes, following a less strict list of winemaking rules and standards. Terroir is a term derived from French winemakers that describes how fruit from their vines is a unique reflection of the climate, soil, terrain, and tradition of their specific vineyard. Terroir describes the way the vineyard’s natural environment leaves its mark on wine, what makes it unique, and gives it its sense of space. Organic and biodynamic wines are considered low-intervention wines, and low-intervention wines that are terroir driven are a specialty at Winkler & Samuels.

On the main floor of their space is where you will find their retail supply of wine. While all this talk of organic-this and terroir-that might have one thinking that the selection might be out of one’s grasp; to the contrary, most of their stock is below $20 a bottle.

I asked Winkler, a certified sommelier, and her husband, Dan Grosenbaugh, what their favorites were at the moment. As true oenophiles, they admitted that that was a difficult question to answer, but they did offer these picks:

Very reasonable boxed red:

Le Temps Infiniti, 2016, a Malbec from the South of France, 3 liter box the equivalent of 4 bottles – $29.99/box

And by “box” I mean a beautifully labeled cylinder shaped vessel that anyone would be proud to serve or bring to a party! A favorite of Winkler & Samuels clientele. Great for mulling spices.

Reasonable red:

Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirees, a Cabernet Franc and Malbec blend from France – $17.99/bottle

A delicious drinking wine, supple and spicy, with hints of soft black cherry, blackberry, and pomegranate.

Fancy red:

Oddero Barolo, 2013, a Nebbiolo from Italy – $49.95/bottle

Beautifully delicate and very pleasant with aromas of truffles, licorice, and dried flowers.

Reasonable white:

E Bianco!, a Muscat and Arneis blend from northwestern Italy, 1 liter (1 bottle + 1 glass) – $21.99/bottle

This bottle not only has an extra glass of wine, but also has a soda pop-top! I definitely had to give this wine a try, and as I write this I must say that I am delighted with my purchase. No judgement please, but I can’t tell you how much fun it was to pop that top off. If I only had one of those old pop stoppers in my kitchen drawer my world would be complete, but much to my surprise that top popped right back on. Bonus! This wine is a bit effervescent, but not too much, and the taste is slightly dry but very fresh, crisp, and floral.

Fancy white:

Martha Stoumen Honeymoon, 2017, a Colombard and Roussanne blend from California – $49.95/bottle

Winkler says that Martha Stoumen is one of her very favorite winemakers. Winkler describes her vineyard as a, “one woman show,” that only produces about 100 cases per year of some of the best wines she has ever had. This rare white blend is no exception.

Walking into their retail space might be overwhelming at first look, but Winkler and Grosenbaugh are on hand to offer advice and put you at ease in no time. They have tasted over 95% of their finely curated inventory, carefully chosen over time, and are uniquely able to answer many of the questions most others are not.

If further exploration into the world of wine is to your liking, Winkler & Samuels offers wine education classes in their wine cellar tasting room located on the lower level. Classes cost $35/person and offer six wine samplings along with a cheese pairing for each wine. Classes feature wines of a specific region or variety. All information about their classes, as well as their class schedule can be found on their website.

Speaking of the wine cellar, over 1,000 lockers are available for public use to store wines in ideal conditions of 55 degrees Fahrenheit with 60-70% humidity. Wine lockers are not only meant for serious connoisseurs, but for budding enthusiasts, as well as everyone in between. Wine lockers are available through their Wine Cellar Membership. The cost is $25/month and includes storage for up to 24 bottles of wine; private sommelier services; free home delivery; and 20% off of wine purchases, education classes, and private events. Access to lockers is available during business hours. More information can be found on their website.

Offering an array of natural, low-intervention wines from around world at affordable prices has been a key to Winkler & Samuels’ success. To consistently accomplish this, research and travel is required. This month Winkler and Grosenbaugh will be off to the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa, with the intention to return with 20 or more Spanish wines to add to their growing supply. If this piques your curiosity, check out their education class on February 6th, featuring six wines from the Canary Islands. (Winkler and Samuels will be closed January 13-23 for their trip to the Canary Islands.)

Looking to the Spring of 2019, Winkler & Samuels will be hosting the Court of Master Sommelier (CMS) introductory course and certification class in their tasting and education room. The course will be taught by Master Sommelier Christopher Bates, with whom Winkler studied, and will provide a thorough review of the world of wines and spirits at the highest professional standards. Bates has spent over 15 years in all aspects of the hospitality industry, lending him a well-rounded perspective of all facets. Bates and his wife own F.L.X. Winery and Element Winery in the Finger Lakes. This exciting opportunity is open to anyone who is interested. More information and registration is available at CMS’s website as it becomes available.

Satisfy the wine enthusiast within you. Winkler & Samuels is conveniently located off the I-90, next door to Dobutsu Restaurant, and parking is a breeze. Plus, 500 Seneca is a wonderful building to visit if you haven’t done so already. The building has been magnificently restored and unsurprisingly has a waiting list for occupancy. Winkler states that their location is the icing on the cake. She loves the community within the building, and has formed lots of supportive relationships with other tenants. The dog-friendly building has prompted the possibility of a furry friend in their future, so don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a pup when you visit – and always remember, adopt, don’t shop!

Winkler & Samuels | 500 Seneca Street | Suite 115 | Buffalo, New York 14204 | Facebook

Written by Holly Metz Doyle

Holly Metz Doyle

A Buffalo native, Holly spent quite a bit of time traveling the globe, but after living on the West coast for a bit was called back to her roots in Western New York.

View All Articles by Holly Metz Doyle
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