About Us

About Us

Who We Are

Meet our Wine Guys and Gals!

The thing about Grapevine Cottage that I’m proudest of is something I really can't take credit for ... the wine knowledge of our incredible staff. Since we first opened, this store has attracted wine lovers like a magnet. Over the years our staff has grown to about 20, all wine lovers with a wide range of wine-related experience and expertise.

Doug and Linda Pendleton

I’m Doug Pendleton, a/k/a The Wine Guy, a self-proclaimed title. Actually, I’m just a guy who has enjoyed wine most of his adult life. And having to make a career change at 50 gave me the rare opportunity to choose to work with something I enjoyed. That’s when I decided to open the kind of wine shop I always wanted to shop in.

Doug and Linda

What did you do in the real world? In my previous life from 1979 through 1998, I co-owned Great Western Boot Company, a multi-state chain of retail western wear stores (and horses don't like me and the feeling is mutual). Before that, from 1972 through 1984, I owned a chain of mall-based imprinted sportswear stores... The Shirt Shack. That was fun...in 1978 I had five stores, 40 employees, and at age 30, I was the oldest staff member. But trust me, this is a lot more fun than any of the rest... and no, there will never be a second store. I've been there, done that, and I still have some of the tee shirts in the attic! (Webmaster’s note: Never say never!)

When and how did your love of wine begin? It began with a trip to Sonoma in 1974, but the real epiphany occurred in 1981 over a bottle of 1977 Sterling Reserve Cabernet someone ordered at a business dinner. I came home from the trip and scoured the town until I could put together a full case. Of course then I had to have somewhere to keep it... then you just can't have just one case...you get the drift....

How would you classify your tastes in wine... old world or new world? I have been accused of liking everything, and for the most part I do. Part of the fun here is that Linda and I get to try such a wide variety of wines. Having to review wines means we never get in a rut of going back to the same style or brand every time. The truth is, I try to appreciate both old and new world styles, but my first love will always be California reds.

All of us have our favorites...what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? New World wines are what I know best. I really only began to focus on old world wines ten years ago, so I am way behind many of my customers. I have loved drinking and learning more about Italian and Spanish wines. However, experiencing Bordeaux and Burgundy is almost a lifelong undertaking, and at today’s prices I don’t think I’m going to catch up.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? A blue cheese topped filet grilled medium rare with a bottle of Cabernet is still number one, but Osso Bucco with a bottle Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre is a close second.

What was your most memorable bottle? The six liter bottle of 1982 Kenwood Artist Series that my friend Danny Lipco brought from California for Linda's and my wedding...she'll fill in the details.

Your favorite restaurant? That would be at home... the menu changes every night and we love the wine list. Oakley's does a great job and we love Joseph Decuis in Roanoke, Indiana but it's kind of a road trip. Actually, we eat more lunches out than dinners and there's nothing like a burger in the courtyard at Cobblestone Grill.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Seeing Linda (the world's best wife who was actually supportive of this investment) behind the wheel of our 2002 Aston Martin Vantage DB 7 - V12 (the real guilty pleasure) ... hey, this investment can't do any worse than my IRA....

Funniest moment working here? There have been so many of them...the classics are tasting wine with the winemaker and he asks you to be honest. It happened once with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc... the wine smelled like cat pee from two feet away but the winemaker really, really, really wanted to know what we thought. We told him...he has not been back....

The most recent was when the lady who had just selected a $300 mixed case of some of the biggest Cabernets and Shiraz in the store turned to Tom Landshof and asked which one would go best with Tilapia. At least he was honest when he told her she should "go buy some steaks."

Best and worst things about working here? The best would be actually getting to know my customers. I spent most of my 40 years in retail behind the scenes, which is why my office now is behind the counter. The worst, fighting to keep from gaining weight around all this great food and wine.

Linda Pendleton

Linda's real career is leasing and managing medical office buildings. Developing new buildings and the general "care taking" of much of Community Health Network's real estate needs. It keeps her way too busy to spend much time in the store anymore. But, she spent every Saturday with me for the first 3 years we opened. Although she's not here often, she is still my secret weapon behind the scenes.

All those "What We Thought" reviews in the newsletter have a lot more to do with her nose and palate than mine. Five years ago we held a ten bottle blind tasting that we invited people to test their palates by identifying the wines grape varietal and matching it to its magazine review. 150 people tasted and tried the wines, and only two people got all ten right... both were women, and one was Linda.

What is your current job in the real world? My real job is as a Vice President over Real Estate and Retail Services with VEI, the for-profit division of Community Health Network.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? From the very first moment Doug thought about the idea.

When and how did your love of wine begin? I'm not sure if this made me love it immediately, but my introduction was in about 1983, when my mentor at my first job in commercial real estate, George Charbonneau, gave me a bottle of Chablis and Bordeaux as a gift. Unfortunately, I do remember thinking that the Bordeaux would be better chilled!

How would you classify your tastes in wine... old world or new world? Well, I'm still more partial to New World, but my tastes are New World with a throwback to Old World. I don't think I would have known what a Rhône was 15 years ago, and now it is my "go to" Red...but that is also because the French ones have changed their style to be a bit more "New World." I love the crisp, unoaked Hendry Chardonnay (yes, I really do like white wine), but realistically, it isn't as true of an "Old World" style white as I think it is.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? I really do think my favorite food is pizza...usually something involving a very thin crust, and interesting ingredients like artichoke hearts, black olives and maybe goat cheese...pair that with super Tuscan like the Monte Antico Sangiovese Cabernet-Merlot blend and I'm in heaven.

What was your most memorable bottle? A 6 liter of 1982 Kenwood Sonoma Valley Artists Series Cabernet that we served at our wedding reception — it was the very generous gift of our friend, Danny Lipco (who brought it with him from Bakersfield, CA — I think he even had to buy it a seat). He sent us a label in advance, and we matted it and used the matting as our guest register. The matted print and the empty bottle still sit in the kitchen as a reminder of an unforgettable day (where we sat up the camera on timer for our photo). And we still have a couple of bottles left that we plan to open on a few more wedding anniversaries.

Your favorite restaurant? Home, preferably on the deck! And we really don't go to eat out that much...except on vacation, so I'd have to say Grandma Dot's and Trader's on Sanibel.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? A couple of good French subtitled movies and a very lazy Sunday afternoon with rain (or just pull the blinds and pretend it is raining outside).

Funniest moment working here? This is more of an amazing moment...a number of years back, Doug had a Zionsville customer approach him because her brother was making wine in Oregon and she hoped he would try it. We’d had several “homemade” wines brought by before, so we were a little dubious, especially when her brother finally did come in on a Saturday morning carrying his wines in a cardboard box.

So the first amazing thing is that we had the time to taste wine on a Saturday morning (probably wouldn’t happen today, would it?) and still wait on customers, but the more amazing thing was that every single wine we tasted seemed better than the one before. Doug, our co-worker at the time, Jim Mathias, and I kept tasting, and then looking at each other saying “this is amazing...who is this guy and how do we get his wines distributed in Indiana"? Well, in case you haven’t figured it out, the wines were Sineann and the winemaker was Peter Rosback, and the rest is pretty much history for us!

Best and worst things about working here? I can't really claim to work here much anymore, but it is still the interaction with the greatest customers around — as well as the very competent and enthusiastic staff.

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Tom Landshof

Tom Landshof, our self proclaimed "Wine Geezer" has been with us since almost the beginning....

Tom Landshof

How old are you? The Wine Geezer is 77 and proud of it.

What was your last job in the real world ?
I was President and CEO when I retired from Hitox Corporation which has since changed its name to Tor Minerals Inc. We were a public company that manufactured titanium dioxide, barium sulfate, and aluminum tri-hydrate pigments.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? You got to enjoy my company beginning in May 2001.

When and how did your love of wine begin? I was brought up in a household that enjoyed wine. My father would always let us children have a taste. Suzanne, my current wife, and I (Note: They just celebrated 57 years of marriage) have always enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner. We started out drinking Mateus, then Lancers when we could afford it, and some Rieslings and progressed from there. We got a little more serious about it in 1968 when we lived in Baltimore. I took a correspondence course from UC Davis in oenology. For an extra buck they sent you a certificate of completion. Since then I’ve been able to claim to be a certified oenologist from UC Davis, as long as no questions are asked.

How would you classify your tastes in wine… Old World or New World? I suppose that if I was forced to answer this question, I would say Old World. I like wines with character and nuance. Wines that reflect the varietals they are made from and not tricked up by the winemaker. I prefer not to be hit over the head with gobs of fruit and alcohol. A little subtlety is sexy.

All of us have our favorites…what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I would classify myself as a generalist. I like and drink both whites and reds. In whites, my cellar has Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viogner, Muscadet and Riesling, as well as a few oddballs. I probably drink and have more Cabernet or Bordeaux in my racks, but have a good selection of various Italian wines as well as Rhônes, Zinfandels, Shirazes and Pinot Noirs.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? A thick juicy grilled steak with a bottle of Cabernet of Bordeaux. Pasta with red sauce and a Sangiovese or Amarone. Linguini with white clam sauce and a bottle of Muscadet or crisp Viognier.

What is your current favorite bottle? Two: The Catena Malbec and the Altamura Cabernet.

What was your most memorable bottle? Probably the 1982 Petrus we drank to celebrate the birth of my last granddaughter, who is now 21 years old.

Your favorite restaurant? My current favorite in Indiana is The Meridian. They have a varied menu and do a good job. In Greenwich, CT, near the home of one of my daughters, it would probably be Rebeccas. Where else could you get roasted saddle of California rabbit with asparagus, hand-cut spaetzle and a morel mushroom sauce?

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Spending an afternoon with a glass of wine and a good book on the porch.

Funniest moment working here? Can't come up with anything other than the mental picture of Doug crawling in the sunroof of his SUV after locking himself out.

Best and worst thing about working here? I really enjoy the interaction with our customers. We also have a great group of people to work with. There is no competition or office politics to cope with. Everyone helps each other out. The worst thing about working at GVC is the temptation to bring home another great wine. We have so many and it is hard not to just leave your paycheck there.

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Carlene Clark

Carlene Clark is the manager of our Fishers store.

How old are you? I remember a quote by Mary Kay Ash: “A woman that would tell her age would tell anything.”


What did or do you do in the real world? Prior to working at the Grapevine Cottage I was in real estate. Before that, I had spent 15 years in the wine trade as a buyer in California; selling for Monarch Beverage; and then on to working a three-state territory for a broker whose portfolio included brands such as Sebastiani and Georges Duboeuf. When away from “The Cottage,” I love to visit with my daughters, play with my grandkids, knit, sew, sail, take walks and play ball with my Dachshund.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? I started working at the old Zionsville store on September 22, 2005.

When and how did your love of wine begin? I’ve been in wine sales for about 19 years and it took a trip to France in 2002 to really appreciate the distinction between good wine and fine wine.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, Old World or New World? New world with big extracted fruit is my preference and I prefer wines that are less than subtle. However, I do like most Spanish and Portuguese wines. Since France has taken the “moo” out of some of their wines, I’ve come around a little to liking some French — Burgundies, Cru Beaujolais and Rhône blends. But I’m a sixth-generation Californian, with my heritage dating back to the early 1800s when Spanish was the language, so my heart and soul have been in “The New World” a long time.

What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Since Georges Duboeuf sponsored my trip to France, I know a lot about Beaujolais. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a market here in Indiana for Cru Beaujolais but if you want to discuss it, come to the Fishers store for a chat. I also love Champagne, sparkling wines and Cavas so I’m able to help meet a taste profile in that section of the store.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? I had the honor and privilege of a personal tour of the vineyards, the Cherryblock cottage and lunch with Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo and her husband, Richard.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? If the weather is really hot, I like to pair a cold Chardonnay with the boat but if it’s cold outside, I like a fire with my Zinfandel. Food isn’t necessary.

What was your most memorable bottle? A 1982 Pouilly Fuisse that I had while visiting France in 2002. This 20 year Chardonnay tasted as fresh and lively as it probably tasted the day they bottled it.

What is your current favorite bottle? I love Mollydooker The Boxer because it’s a huge Shiraz that’s smooth as silk, jammy and down right yummy.

Your favorite restaurant? Hands down, my favorite restaurant (if you can call a shack a restaurant) of all time is La Super Rica in Santa Barbara, California. This ain’t no Taco Bell! In fact, you wait in line to place your order then wait in line to get a table...in that order. The menu, which never changes, is handwritten on a chalkboard and placed in the window. Tortillas are made by hand and you can see a woman behind the order-taker rolling masa into balls, smashing them with the tortilla press then tossing them onto the grill. I always order the #6 (pasilias and onions), guacamole and extra tortillas. The food is beyond fabulous and always worth the wait. Wine isn't sold there, but a cold beer always tastes good with Mexican food.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Reading a book. I never have the time to just sit and read unless I'm on vacation and it's raining.

Funniest moment working here? It’s funny now, but at the time it was anything but. We moved our quiet little store from a fairly quiet neighbor, Goodwill, to our new location where our new next door neighbor is a neat restaurant called Moe’s Southwest Grill. We were excited about starting in our new location and having so many lunch options, that is until I came in to open the store at 9 a.m. All of a sudden I hear this squeak and boom as the bottles are shaking off the racks and falling to the floor. I would put the bottles back up and arrange them so they didn’t rattle but to no avail, the hour long pounding, shaking and rattling continued. It turned out that they chop 50 pounds of tomatoes every day at Moe’s for their recipes and fresh salsas just on the other side of our joint wall. After speaking with the area manager, they purchased a new chopper that is completely silent. Thank you, Moe’s!

Best and worst thing about working here? The best thing is that I’m now seven miles from home and work with some of the most knowledgeable wine people in a nice building in a busy area of The Nickel Plate District in Fishers. One of the worst things is behind me now, which was moving the store. The other worst thing is giving Doug back half of my paycheck on payday.

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Adele Huffman

Looking for good Chardonnay? Adele Huffman is the one to ask. She has pretty strong opinions about the wines she likes (or doesn’t), and she’s not afraid to share them!

Adele Huffman

What have you done in the real world? I owned and operated a travel agency, and after 40 years in the business I retired in 2014.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Wow! 10yrs. Can you believe it?

When and how did your love of wine begin? Definitely in college, and of course it was Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill.

How would you classify your taste in wines, Old World or New World? California lovin’...New World!

What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Chardonnay, of course! I tend to gravitate toward wines from California. And trust me, when I tell you I have tried all of them, I probably have. However, I love trying other white varietals, and yes, I do love red wine as well. I am sure I have sold you a bottle or two.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Seafood with a buttery Chardonnay or Viognier. I still love a great steak with Norton Privada.

What is your current favorite bottle? Whatever I am sharing with my co-workers. It changes all the time. I remember Doug telling me one time, "You will find another wine to love", when the vintage rolled over and a wine was gone. I was sure he was wrong, but he wasn't.

What was your most memorable bottle? Do I have to pick one? I think I would have to go back to the 2012 Gary Farrell. Remember me telling everyone is was "orgasmic"? We sold a lot of that wine.

Your favorite restaurant? The Fat Hen on Johns Island, S.C., Spiaggia Cafe in Chicago and I will always love Ruth's Chris.

Funniest moment working here? I am in the Witness Protection Program....

Best and worst things about working here? My co-workers, they are the best! Our customers are like friends that come in and see us and happen to buy wine. Over the years, I have learned a lot of names, faces and other information ... scary, huh? Oops, times up, I need to head of to a “Safety Meeting” (wink, wink). Wish I had emojis....

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Paul Johnson

Interested in French wine? Talk to Paul Johnson — you can even ask him in French!

Paul Johnson

How old are you? 64.

What do you do in the real world? Most of my working life before Grapevine Cottage revolved around food service management, along with a couple years at Trader Joe’s.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Since October 2004.

When and how did your love of wine begin? As both a student and instructor on Dartmouth’s foreign language programs in France, I lived with local families where wine was served daily. This was not high-end stuff, mind you, probably selling at the time (the early 70s) for around 40 cents a liter. While we generally drank beer when out in the cafes, any evening meal at “home” or in restaurants was accompanied by wine. Back on campus in the US, if wine made an appearance, it was still usually in the form of Yago Sangria, Cold Duck, or Mateus Rosé.

In 1976, I returned to France to teach English under an I.U. exchange program and it occurred to me that I really ought to try to learn more about French wine and cuisine on this trip. My girlfriend (and present wife) had brought along a paperback, Guide du Vin by Raymond Dumay, and in the month of down time I had before classes began, I read and re-read it until I practically had it memorized. Soon I was splurging our meager bankroll on Medocs and Beaujolais that cost over a dollar a bottle! I bought a case of Burgundy at an auction for $28. The hook was set. For two years, our travels took us to places with exotic names like Bordeaux, Gigondas, Beaune and Riquewihr. We look forward to doing it all again soon.

How would you classify your tastes in wine…Old World or New World? I love what's going on in all of the “new” outposts of the wine world and wouldn't argue with the quality and value of the wines being produced, but I'm always drawn back to the elegance and finesse of the better-quality French and Italian wines.

All of us have our favorites…what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Because of my experiences in France, it's easier for me to decipher labels and to recall which varietals and regions go together, so that may pass for expertise when it's really more like being able to remember how to drive home. One type of wine I always find it easy to enjoy is a nice Côtes-du-Rhône from France or the Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre equivalent from elsewhere.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery visit? Several contenders, but the standout is Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in 1977. As a wine novice, I considered it hallowed ground and hardly dared to get out of my car. But as luck would have it, the busload of Japanese tourists was just pulling away and the maitre-de-chai (the actual head-honcho cellar master) said he had some time on his hands. We spent a good hour touring the grounds, the winemaking areas, and the private cellar beneath the chateau, all the while getting an education from one of the top winemakers on the planet. And no, even though we watched as they splashed Lafite all over the floor as they topped up the barriques, not one drop passed our lips. Dommage… but a great memory just the same.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Hard to imagine anything finer than Lasagne alla Bolognese (courtesy of Saveur Magazine) matched with the Allegrini Pallazzo Della Torre....

What is your current favorite bottle? For day-to-day, the Grand Veneur Reserve in a 3 liter box! Most astonishingly delicious bottle this year: Van der Heyden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2002.

What was your most memorable bottle? For Christmas 1977, Donna gave me a bottle of 1973 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. '73 was a pretty lame vintage, but Picasso had been commissioned to do the label art and it was the year Mouton was promoted from Second Growth to First. It was pricey at 53 francs ($10), but I was worth it! We brought the bottle back, dragged it all over the country through heat, cold, and every imaginable abuse, and finally settled it on a rack here in Indy. By 1993 or so, I was convinced it had to be utterly dead, so we decided to open it for Christmas dinner. For an hour we sat and took in tiny sips, completely in awe of the depth and powerful complexity, stunned that it had not only survived, but become transcendent.

Your favorite restaurant? Kona Jack’s/Daddy Jack’s, after many years in their trenches. Out of town: Umberto's in North Myrtle Beach and Piballe in Manhattan.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Armagnac, but it doesn't make me feel guilty.

Funniest moment working here? Seeing the look on driver's faces as they passed by all of the cases of wine that were stacked and sitting on Main Street when we were preparing to move the store.

Best and worst thing about working here? Short answer: the amount of money I save on wine — and the amount of money I spend on wine.

The other best thing is the fact that people are rarely in a bad mood when they walk into our store and we are almost always to make them happier by answering questions, providing knowledge, and anticipating their needs. I consider the act of buying wine an investment in a pleasant experience to come in the near, or even distant, future. It's fun to be part of helping people look forward to that enjoyment.

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Bob Woolson

Looking for a big, California Cabernet? Silver Oak, Caymus, Quintessa … Bob Woolson's the guy who has tried them all!

Bob Woolson

How old are you? 67 years.

What is your last job in the real world? General Manager Central region Kawneer / Alcoa. I was with them for 37 years and retired in November 2003.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? I started in March 2004. (Hmmm, it only took Bob four months to get bored with retirement...)

When and how did your love of wine begin? Started to enjoy wine in the mid 1980s. I picked up a Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet for Thanksgiving and that was the start of our love affair with wine.

How would you classify your tastes in wine… Old World or New World? Without question, new world wines.

All of us have our favorites…what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? California and Washington, Cabernet and Merlot.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? A big new York strip steak with a bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet or Marquis Philips S2 Cabernet.

What was your most memorable bottle? It's a tie between a 1998 Insignia, a perfect bottle of wine — it was like drinking velvet — or the 1997 Merryvale Profile, which had outstanding balance and depth.

Your favorite restaurant? Local Favorite — Ruth's Chris, downtown location. Out of Area — Don's Pomeroy House, Strongsville, Ohio - The perfect meal: Fish Market Salad (Iceberg, Romaine, Spinach, Red Cabbage, Chopped egg, Blue Cheese, Baby Shrimp with Italian Vinaigrette dressing), New Zealand Rack of Lamb Herb rubbed, Cranberry Cornbread Stuffing, Mushrooms, Truffle Oil, Demi Glaze, and for dessert a Grande Eclair.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? When I started at GVC I was strictly a red wine drinker. I hate to admit it but I now enjoy a good bottle of white wine on occasion.

Best and worst thing about working here? Best thing about working at GVC is the ability to interact with the customers who all have a love of wine. Worst thing is that it costs me money to work at GVC because of all the great wines that I take home on a regular basis.

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Mark Finch

Mark Finch is our resident Mac Guru... he's the guy responsible for everything from preparing our cookbook to print to managing all the point-of-sale materials here in the store. Mark is our resident "value expert," and can show you where all the bargains are.

How old are you? Older than I’ve ever been.

Mark Finch

What do you do in the real world? Printing, publishing and public relations. I did public relations and lobbying for the Indiana highway industry for eight years, then owned a printing company for 17 years. I still do some print advertising, publication and Web design, and freelance writing.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Since March of 2002, after a brief stint as production manager of a newspaper in Grand Cayman.

When and how did your love of wine begin? My parents often drank Almaden wines with dinner when I was growing up. Each wine had cartoon illustrations of the types of animals whose meat they were supposed to be paired with, so I learned that early on. Later, when I was a high school senior, my friends and I found that we could go into liquor stores and discuss wines for half an hour or so with the clerks and not get carded when we eventually bought some. I ran through a lot of Black Tower and other crockery-bottle Rieslings then, and still have an empty fish-shaped bottle of Antinori white Tuscany wine for fish, vintage 1967. During my first year of college, a friend would occasionally nab wines from his dad’s cellar, which we would consume during the bicycle rides we went on instead of going to class. We squeezed a lot of fine Bordeaux out of wineskins. My first purchase of a case of “real” wine was Sebastiani Barbera, vintage 1976, which I bought from Louise Kahn. I still have the wooden box.

How would you classify your tastes in wine... Old World or New World? I try to appreciate every wine for what it has to offer. I drink both Old World and New World wines, but find that I am buying a lot more European wines than I used to, particularly Rhônes and Riojas. But if I were banished to a tropical island where only one type of wine was available, I would prefer that it be Bordeaux-style blends from California and Washington.

All of us have our favorites...what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Spanish reds and red Rhônes, and what we loosely call “other whites,” which is to say white wines other than Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Grigios, or Rieslings.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? We eat a lot of lamb, which I like to pair with a Rioja, Rhône, or Malbec. A big Zinfandel or a Washington Syrah with smoked brisket or barbecued ribs is mighty good, too.

What is your current favorite bottle? That varies from day to day, but it’s usually a Rioja Reserva aged in American oak. I can stick my nose in the glass and inhale the aroma for minutes before I get around to actually taking a sip. As the saying goes, vanilla is catnip for humans.

What was your most memorable bottle? Two bottles here: One was an older Ridge Lytton Springs being used as a prop that my wife, Katz, rescued from backstage when we were doing lights and sound for a production of Lend Me A Tenor. The scene called for the two tenors to open a bottle of wine then toast each other, so not much had been poured out. That Lytton Springs was amazing, and became one of my favorite wines that night. Equally memorable was a split of a 1963 Meursault that her grandfather gave us — improperly stored upright on the top shelf of kitchen cabinet for 35 or so years, amber-colored with little floaties in it, and stunningly — and unexpectedly — delicious with rich flavors of vanilla and caramel.

Your favorite restaurant? Lobster Landing in Clinton, Connecticut. Their lobster rolls are simply buttery chunks of fresh lobster served on toasted and buttered buns. And you can take your own beverages to sip at their oceanside picnic tables, which is a nice option.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? These days, I prefer that my pleasures be of the “not guilty” variety. I’m pretty sure that all my unindicted co-conspirators feel the same way.

Funniest moment working here? It’s hard to say, and I probably shouldn’t anyway. We do laugh a lot, though.

Best and worst thing about working here? The best thing is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made, on both sides of the counter. The worst thing is doing inventory — there’s a lot of stuff here to count!

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Tom Skokut

Since we now have two Toms, Tom Skokut has become known around the store as Dr. Tom, (Ph.D. not M.D.), and while he may be slightly underemployed selling wine, we are all very glad to have him.

Tom Skokut

How old are you? I am 66.

What did you do in the real world? I was a Research Scientist at Dow AgroSciences. My wife and I both retired from DAS three and a half years ago. I had a research career in plant biology for over 30 years (not all at Dow). I worked in plant tissue culture, plant molecular biology and plant genetic engineering. I have worked with corn, wheat, soybeans and canola, but never grapevines.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Eight years.

When and how did your love of wine begin? My parents lived on a small farm in Paso Robles for 20 years after they retired. At my many visits, we would go tasting at the different wineries. By the time they left in 2007, there were more than 30 wineries in a 10-mile radius from where they lived. Twenty years ago, Paso Robles had very few wineries. I had the privilege of watching the area grow into a well-respected wine region. My favorite winery in Paso is Tobin James, which you could easily walk to from my parents’ house. Walking back home was the hard part.

How would you classify your taste in wines, Old World or New World? I am pretty much a New World guy through and through. My tastes in wine have definitely changed since I began working here. I love Pinots, especially the light cherry/fruity ones you get from Napa, Sonoma, and the California central coast. You can still get a very good one for less than $20 at the store. My second love is New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. I love the crisp grapefruit taste anytime of the year but especially in the heat of summer. There are even a couple (just a couple) of Sonoma Sauv Blancs that I really like.

All of us have our favorites ... what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Come to me for suggestions on value Pinots and Sauv Blancs. I love distinguishing the differences in Pinots between different locations (for example California vs. Oregon) and matching the right wine with the customers’ tastes. I try to taste most of the Sauv Blancs in the store and am happy to steer the customers to what best suits them.

I also would like to think that I know a little about the wines from the Paso Robles and Santa Barbara area. I am always happy to direct people to the good ones (my opinion of course).

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? In my opinion, Pinot goes well with salmon, pizza, pasta, steak and hamburgers. I love Pinots. Sauv Blancs are great with appetizers and we love them with a variety of seafood, salads, spicy Asian and some chicken dishes.

What is your current favorite bottle? Current favorite bottles are Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc, the Tessellae Carignan and the Pundit Syrah. See, I am able to go out of my box from time to time!

What was your most memorable bottle? Tobin James Fat Boy. It’s an out-of-this-world Zinfandel and is perfect with Christmas dinner. I belong to the Tobin James wine club and when they send a Fat Boy, I save it for a special occasion.

Your favorite restaurant? My wife and I go out to lunch a lot. We love to have lunch at The Friendly Tavern, Patrick’s, Stone Creek, the Parthenon, Yen Ching and Mitchell’s Fish Market. Our favorite is Pizzology — their lunch special is the greatest!

Funniest moment working here? I think I have at least a dozen funny moments every time I work in the store. The staff is so much fun to work with, we are always laughing and I especially love the sense of humor that our customers have. There was a very funny moment that involved me, Mat, Mark and a couple of sausages but I’m afraid I can’t go into detail.

Best and worst things about working here? No bad things. The best thing is seeing my friends from Dow when they come to the store, making new friends (we have the best customers) and meeting our customers’ dogs. It is also very cool to be in the midst of more than 1,000 different wines.

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Stacy Nelson

Stacy is responsible for the purchasing and display of all our meats, cheeses, gourmet foods and wine accessories. And she drinks wine, too!

Stacy Nelson

How old are you, you don't have to answer? My name is Stacy Nelson, I am proud to say I am 49 years young, and I am the food and accessories buyer for Grapevine Cottage.

What did or do you do in the real world? Prior to this job, I spent most of my career as a school counselor. I have also been a certified fitness instructor for a long time as well, and I teach classes in Zionsville.

When did your love of wine begin? Wine has been an interest of mine for quite some time. In fact, my first experience with the Grapevine Cottage was ten years ago, when my husband and I were eager to learn about and try new wines.

When I was in my 20s, and my family was young, I became very interested in healthy eating, gardening, cooking, fitness and wine. My palate started with Beringer White Zinfandel. It wasn’t long until my husband and I started branching out. We wanted to learn more about wine and food pairings, so we bought some books.

You can learn a lot from books, but I really feel the best way is through experience. So, we made our first trip to Napa Valley. At Domaine Carneros, the first thing I learned the hard way was that when you have a flight of wine, it is okay to dump after you taste a wine. That’s why they have those silver buckets on the counter. Needless to say, once my buzz wore off (which was probably from only one glass of wine), we were good to go! My daughter currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area, and we love to visit her — but who am I kidding, we love all of the wineries in Napa too!

Old or New World? Most of my knowledge is with new world wines, but once I started at the Grapevine Cottage, and after a couple of trips to Europe, my tastes have grown. I have to say, I really love old world, French, Italian, and Spanish wines, which are now the wines I am eagerly learning about.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? I have been to several wineries in Napa, each unique and beautiful. My favorite to this point, however, was a winery in Tuscany that we visited when doing a tour in Italy. Of course, the Italian countryside is just gorgeous, but the winery tour was fascinating. They took us underground, where they ferment and store the wine. There were racks full of dusty wine bottles and old terracotta containers filled with wine. If I close my eyes right now, that earthy and fruity smell rushes back. That is a great memory that makes me smile as I write this.

Favorite food and wine pairing? A nice Cabernet and filet.

What is your current favorite bottle? It is hard to choose just one, but Marietta Roman Zinfandel is my current favorite.

Most memorable bottle? This Spring, my husband and I traveled to Italy again to celebrate 30 years of marriage (yes, 30 years!) and we enjoyed a 2001 Barolo Riserva Gran Bussia while overlooking the Bay of Naples. It was heaven!

Your favorite restaurant? Indy has such an amazing food scene, but I do love Ryan Nelson’s Late Harvest Kitchen.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Five Guys. OMG, they have the BEST fries!!

Funniest moment working here? Probably trying to pronounce all the French, Spanish and Italian terms. I really butcher them at times, but I am not afraid to laugh at myself and Adele is not afraid to correct me. I keep learning and I am getting better.

Best and worst things about working here? I LOVE working here! The people are fun, and I am learning so much about wine. I love helping customers find wine and answering questions. My knowledge grows each day that I work here. I don’t know everything there is to know about wine, but I do know that wine meant to be enjoyed with good friends and good food. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, and you should drink what you like. Everyone has a unique palate, so don’t waste your time drinking stuff you do not enjoy. The worst thing about working here is that I think I end up spending my whole paycheck at GVC. It’s a tough job … but someone has to do it! CHEERS!

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Jim Bandy

You might call Jim Bandy a student of wine! I think he may have the most well-rounded palate of any of us. Ask him about Argentina or his many trips to Napa....

Jim Bandy

How old are you? 47.

What is your current job in the real world? Corporate sales for Western Union Global Business Payments.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? I joined the team a few months before moving to the new building. So I think I’m in my fifth year. Time really does fly when you're drinking... I mean selling wine.

When and how did your love of wine begin? Advertising was where my career began, and when I began drinking wine. (Ah...a slice of pizza and cold Rosé from a box — lunch of champions!) Almost 20 years ago, I took a challenge from a wine retailer who offered tastings in my Southern California neighborhood. I started off saying “I really don't care for red.” He replied “Give me six months and see if that holds true.” After trying new things every week or so, he was right. I think that laid the base for my continued exploration of different wines and styles of wine. Even at home now, we regularly try new things and find new “friends.” That's one thing I enjoy talking about with our customers: seeing where their taste preferences are, and finding out if they’re interested in trying something different.

How would you classify your tastes in wine... Old World or New World? I like to equate wine styles to music: I think of old world style wines as being much like a string quartet — good background for food, usually balanced, and well-grounded (my new substitute phrase for Terroir). New world wines, though, are the Jazz and Rock bands: spotlight grabbing, toe-tapping, and not always willing to share the stage with food. String quartets have a special place in my heart but I more frequently listen to Jazz and Rock.

All of us have our favorites...what varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? New world reds and Champagne/Sparkling are my strongest suits.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? This is quite difficult as my favorites change often. Right now, it’s braised short ribs with Napa Cabernet, or peppered rare Ahi Tuna with Schramsberg’s Mirabelle.

What is your current favorite bottle? The d’Arenberg Hermit Crab 2009 fits the bill when you’re looking for something between a buttery-oaky Chard and Champagne. Good with food or on its own, this is a versatile white that is also a great bargain! And the Walter Clore Reserve 2006 is a metrosexual blend — a versatile red that never seems out of place, either at the table or just swirling around in my glass. Not over the top, it’s stylish, balanced, and very enjoyable.

What was your most memorable bottle? 1996 Dom Perignon.

Your favorite restaurant? I travel a great deal, and therefore dine out frequently. When I’m at home, though, my favorites are Oakley’s Bistro, The Meridian, and Capital Grille.

Funniest moment working here? It was too funny when...um...I almost forgot: What happens in the back room stays in the back room.

Best and worst things about working here? The worst thing about working here is wanting to load up my car every night with new things to try but recognizing I have to be sober some time. Some of my favorite times at GVC are when I’m helping customers pair wine with their menus. It merges my love of food with all the different wine varietals and expressions we carry at GVC.

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Mike Lynam

Mike Lynam is the guy to ask about Rieslings and Rhônes at the Fishers store....

Mike Lynam

How old are you? If I were a Zinfandel, my label would say “Old Vine”.

What did you or do you in the real world? Until I retired in 2010, I was responsible for the North American marketing strategy, communications and external affairs for a family-owned German building materials company. I was also part of the international marketing team, which afforded me a wonderful opportunity to travel all over the world. The Knauf family bought an old factory in Shelbyville in 1978, and I started with them at the beginning of 1979. It was an exciting growth opportunity — my first office was a trailer in the parking lot, but by the time I retired we had grown to four U.S. factories and sales of about $600 million in North America and $1.7 billion worldwide.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? I started in October, 2011.

When and how did your love of wine begin? I followed the same well-traveled path of Lancers, Mateus, MD 20/20, Boone’s Farm and Cold Duck (was that wine?) that many have stumbled along before me. But my real love of wine began about 25 years ago when I fell head over heels for a beautiful lady from just north of San Francisco. She’s now my wife; and needless to say, you don’t get a gal from just south of Napa to marry you if you don’t also love wine. So, I guess I could say that I found two of my life’s greatest passions at the same time.

How would you classify your tastes in wine … old world or new world? This question brings up one of the problems associated with working in a wine store for five years. When I first started, I would have said new world. Today, my tastes have expanded, and I like it all! That said, I still appreciate a good Cab from California or Washington, but I really love Rhônes — especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Several trips to the south of France since I began working at GVC have given me a real appreciation for that part of the world and its wines. And I also have a fondness for German wines fostered by my business travels there. Thankfully, we have such a wide selection at Grapevine Cottage that it’s easy for me to find a new favorite every day.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I’m more a red person, particularly the Rhône GSM blends and the wines from Spain. I also focus on Rosés. And because of my work history, I’m fairly knowledgeable about German wines. So I guess you could say I’ve got the “three R’s” covered…Rhônes, Rieslings and Rosés!

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery visit? I love to visit wineries and have been fortunate to have visited quite a few of them, so a “favorite” is tough to choose. It seems like wherever my wife and I visit we are rewarded with great friendships and special memories. But pressed to pick one, I especially cherish the wonderful, leisurely afternoons spent at Chateau La Baume with owners Sandrine and Jean-François and their family during each of our trips to France.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? The one that brings friends and family together…whether simple fare or haute cuisine…paired with a wine that encourages conversation and celebration.

What is your current favorite bottle? Of the newest wines on our shelves, it’s the Domaine Roche Côtes du Roussillon Chimères 2014. But Col Solare is always at the top of my list.

What was your most memorable bottle? ne that I never knew the name of. My wife accompanied me on a business trip to Berlin several years ago; and after the meetings were done, we had two days of free time before we had to come back home. We were staying in a hotel by a small park along the Spree Canal, so we planned a picnic for the last day. As luck would have it, it was raining. It was more just a drizzle, so we decided not to let it ruin our plans. We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel, bought some cheese, bread, salami and a bottle of some inexpensive red wine from a little market on the corner, and found a good spot under a tree right on the bank of the Spree. We spread out our hotel bath towel for a blanket and poured the wine into plastic cups. Pretty soon it started raining harder — quite a bit harder, actually. Undaunted, we huddled a little closer together under the umbrella, drinking our wine, toasting and waving to the boats passing by. Everyone on the boats waved and toasted us back, but I know they had to think we were nuts. Germany isn’t known for its red wines, and what we had probably wasn’t German, but it’s one bottle I’ll never forget!

Your favorite restaurant? There are so many fine locally-owned restaurants in Indy that I hate to include a chain; but I like Fleming’s because of their wines by the glass and flight selections; Some Guys for their wood-oven pizza; and home for my wife’s cooking and the reasonable corkage fee.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Occasionally (ok, frequently) I have to plead guilty to exceeding my wine budget.

Funniest moment working here? Funny things happen every day … but the funniest still has to be the first Christmas season I worked in our Fishers store. All I should say is that it had to do with a young lady selecting wine to give to coworkers at her office Christmas party.

Best and worst thing about working here? The best thing is that I still feel like a kid in a candy store. It’s also the worst thing (see guilty pleasure above). But I learn something (actually many somethings) new every day from the people I work with and from our customers. And it just doesn’t get much better than that.

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Steve Brammell

Steve Brammell has been with us in Fishers since the beginning. Hot questions about wine? The more obscure it is, the more he will know about it!

Steve Brammell

How old are you? I am 66.

What did you or do you in the real world? My degree is in psychology, but I’ve worked in a variety of professions over the years. My favorite job was freelancing as a writer for magazines, followed closely by my time as a sommelier/wine manager in the restaurant industry.

When and how did your love of wine begin? I’m sure my hedonistic disposition as a child set me up to be a wine lover, given the right circumstances, but first I had to run away and join the circus, so to speak. Indiana during my formative years was very different from what it is now. After college I trekked across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa where I was exposed to a mind-bending variety of things to eat and drink. I was never the same after that trip. During the 1980s I was fortunate enough to travel extensively again and my appreciation for wine grew as I visited wineries around the world and sampled a wide assortment of wines (and food) with knowledgeable people. I started getting really serious about cooking and gardening so, attending wine education classes and tastings fit right in with everything else I was doing at that time. But it wasn’t until I began a career in the restaurant business where I had to sell wine to picky customers on a nightly basis that I understood how important wine was to me and began to treat it as something more than a hobby.

How would you classify your tastes in wine … old world or new world? I like them both, and I think the lines between the worlds have been blurring for some time now. That said, I am constantly reminded how wonderfully many Old World wines pair with food. I can’t truly evaluate a wine that’s just come into the store until I’ve taken a bottle home and consumed it with dinner.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? That’s a hard question to answer. One thing about this job is that I am constantly learning. I like trying new varietals and wines from obscure places and those from up and coming wine makers. I find the wines from Italy particularly intriguing and challenging, simply because they have hundreds (thousands if you count clones) of different grapes they grow to make wine. I’ve also learned that a good, colorful story about a wine, winery, or vintner is a fun way to introduce a wine to someone. I think because I worked in restaurants I’m good with customers who don’t know very much about wine and feel intimidated. I also enjoy questions that involve pairing wine with food.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery visit? I have a bunch of them. There’s the winery in Provence where we drove down a dirt lane through a walnut grove where the ground was covered with pink autumn crocus blooming. There’s Rutherford Hill Winery on my first visit to Napa in the late 80s where we had a picnic on one of their tables overlooking the valley. There’s Flora Springs, on the same trip, where we discovered you had to schedule a private tour but a Gallo daughter and her boyfriend said we could come with them, and later that day Mike Grgich swatting at fruit flies as he poured wine for us in his tasting room. There’s a little winery in the village of Spay on the Rhine where the tasting room on a Sunday afternoon was filled with locals eating and drinking and we are the only foreigners. And there’s Brys Estate on the Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan overlooking the East Bay where I tasted dry Gewürztraminer made by a young South African winemaker that was a good as anything from Alsace. I’ll stop.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Wow, another hard question. Here’s an odd one but it’s great and my wife and I have this regularly — brats and California Cabernet. I’ve also discovered that Merlot pairs nicely with my miso butter chicken, and would you believe that Chilean Carménère goes great with lamb curry? Whites? Give me dry Australian Riesling with spicy Thai or other Asian dishes and a Rhone-style white when in doubt. Rosés are amazingly versatile with food.

What is your current favorite bottle? I have so many. It just depends.

What was your most memorable bottle? A bottle I had in a little village at the foot of the Pyrenees in Spain when I was 24. It didn’t have a label and I didn’t know anything about wine anyway but it was so delicious with the food I was eating while waiting for a train. I imagined I was in a Hemingway short story. There was also a big jug of cloudy homemade retsina a Greek fisherman on Skyros fetched from his cottage and poured for us on the beach while we ate roe from sea urchin he’d just gathered. I also vividly remember the first Zinfandel I ever tasted having dinner at a friend’s on a visit to San Francisco in 1984. And my first French rosé over lunch in Marseille. Many more, as well. Life is punctuated with memorable bottles of wine.

Your favorite restaurant? Of late, Tinker Street and Pioneer here in Indy. I love Topolobampo in Chicago, among many others there.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Chocolate, and nerdy science fiction movies.

Funniest moment working here? Oh, lots of little weird, absurd moments shared with my co-workers every day.

Best and worst things about working here? Best thing is getting paid for being a wine geek and talking with so many great customers about wine. Worst thing — my commute. I live on the other side of the city.

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Dan Bohn

Dan knows his way around wine and the store as well as anyone here, depend on him for great pairing advice….

Dan Bohn

How old are you? Almost 59.

What have you done in the real world? I crunched numbers and asked questions in several corporate finance, market research, and bank marketing information roles. My best job, though, was stay at home dad from 1998, when we began three years in England for my wife's work, until 2011 when I started at GVC.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? I’ve been at the Zionsville store since October 2011.

When and how did your love of wine begin? I got serious about wine in the 1990s. It began with discovering how food and wine can complement each other during many great meals at Something Different. I increased my interest by learning about European wine while living overseas. Becoming a GVC customer after returning to Indy in 2001 gave me a great source for continuing to explore the wine world.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, Old World or New World? I find enjoyment in most types of wine. It’s fun seeing how a given wine variety changes based on where the grapes are grown and the style preferences of geographic regions and individual wine makers.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I have at least decent knowledge about most varietals after five years working at GVC. My strongest areas are Syrahs/Shirazes, the Mediterranean room, French whites, and our great selection of Rosés for summer drinking.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? I’ll mention two pairings. A Super Tuscan with something Italian made by my wife Beth. Grilled burgers with a full bodied Rhône red.

What is your current favorite bottle? The Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rose is my warm weather favorite. Delicate red fruit balanced with a nice amount of crisp minerality. It’s something a bit unusual from the Loire Valley that compares very favorably with its cousins from Provence.

What was your most memorable bottle? Still some Châteauneuf-du-Pape I tasted in 1999. I can’t recall the winery or vintage. But the flavor, depth, and complexity made a big impression. It showed me what’s possible with great wine.

Your favorite restaurant? I most consistently enjoy Pizzology and Napolese. A good salad, pizza hot from the oven, and a couple glasses of wine. All at a great price. There’s nothing better than that for me.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? It’s currently caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn with a glass of oaky Chardonnay. A great combination!

Funniest moment working here? Here’s a story I haven't told much. My first week working at GVC, I learned the hard way that a few winemakers pack cases in a top-heavy way. I put such a case on the conveyor to the basement, watched it tip onto the belt, then somersault all the way to the bottom. All twelve bottles somehow survived the tumble. It’s funnier now than it was then, but I learned a lesson about putting cases on the conveyor belt.

Best and worst things about working here? They’ve stayed the same since I started working at GVC. Best: the great customers and co-workers. Worst: So many wines and so little time!

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Mat McGraw

Meet the future Wine Guy! Mat McGraw is a very talented young man with wine knowledge way beyond his age and a strength of work ethic I have rarely encountered. He has been with us for seven years now and I have to confess that I have and will continue to shift a lot of responsibility onto his shoulders.

Mat McGraw

How old are you? Thirty. Over the hill, as they say.

How long have you been with The Grapevine Cottage? Almost seven years.

What did you or do you do in the real world? I have worked at my family’s restaurant, McGraw’s Steak, Chop & Fish House, since we opened in 1999. As a teenager, I did all of the less glorified positions such as kitchen prep, busing tables, and washing dishes. Eventually, I became responsible for all the food purchasing and menu development, as well as cooking on the line. After or somewhere close to turning 21, I took over the alcohol purchasing and menu development including the wine list. (Note: McGraw’s wine list won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence this year.)

When and how did your love of wine begin? Initially, when I took over the wine list at the restaurant, I really liked small-batch bourbons and craft beer. I had the misconception that marriage and a mortgage came before appreciation of wine. When preparing for my first wine dinner at the restaurant, I spent night after night reading, drinking, and cooking but mostly yelling out four-letter words. Pairing the wine with properly prepared food in a progressive sequence for 30 to 40 people in a timely manner is very, very stressful and exhausting. However, when successfully executed, the resulting feeling cannot be matched. I think it was that experience that ignited my interest in wine.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, Old World or New World? Both. Patricia likes New World, so I probably drink more of whatever she decides to pull a cork on without asking.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? In terms of varietal preference, I am and always have been a big fan of Syrah.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Although absurdly simple, a ribeye, preferably bone-in, and a glass of [insert most red varietals here].

What is your current favorite bottle? Any of the Charles Smith’s many single vineyard Syrahs under his K Vintners label.

What was your most memorable bottle? A tie between Orin Swift’s The Prisoner 2005 and Owen Roe’s Ex Umbris Syrah 2009. (Because that’s what I said three or four years ago and I think that was the last time I could narrow it down to just two wines).

Your favorite guilty pleasure? I don’t know. I guess if I actually felt guilty, I probably would not want to tell all the people who read this.

Best and worst thing about working here? Best: The people. Our customers, our sales reps and all of the other Grapevine Cottage employees make it a great place to work.

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Lee Stephen

Lee’s palate is very versatile and he enjoys and knows a wide variety of varietals and wine styles. Come in and talk with Lee about his favorites.

How old are you, you don't have to answer? I’m old enough to be retired and young enough to enjoy doing many things.

Lee Stephen

When and how did your love of wine begin? I grew up in upstate New York, the home of Mogen David, Manischewitz and Welch’s. (Many don't know that Mr. Welch was a teetotaler and despised the use of grapes for anything but juice and jelly.) My father had a small vineyard and orchard and dabbled in winemaking. None of it was particularly good, but probably sweet concord grape and strawberry wines were the best way to not turn off a young teen from wine (I never did care for his peach wine). All of my farmer relatives made cider which I really liked.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I like my wines very dry, though I do appreciate a good Port, Sherry or Late Harvest Riesling. I’ve always loved Rhône, especially Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Of late, I've come to appreciate the subtle and nuanced fruit of Bordeaux. In this job, I find myself branching out to Italian wines of the big red variety. I have also found some big but less fruit-forward American wines that fit my palate. I’m also a “seasonal” drinker – meaning that in hot weather I drink dry whites from all over the map. In reds and in whites, I want a full mouthfeel.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Though I learn more every day, I’m not sure I’ll ever reach “expert” status. In the words of musical icon Sting - recent owner of a winery in Italy - “My palate isn’t sophisticated to pick up all of those flavors, but I know what I like”. Currently I’ve been focused on Pinot Gris (France or Oregon mostly), a full yet refreshing wine from the same grape as Pinot Grigio, but with more body. I’m also comfortable with red Rhône and full but smooth-drinking Cabs and Merlots. That said, I’m trying more Chardonnays and learning a lot from listening to my knowledgeable cohorts.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? As odd as this may sound, I have always appreciated the Canadian wineries of the Niagara escarpment just north of Niagara Falls where the geography of the elevation drop and the mist from the Falls provide a natural protection to the vineyards from the elements. Perhaps best known for Ice Wines, they also produce good reds and whites. Unfortunately, most never leave Canada as the grape growing areas of our Northern neighbor are so limited. The fondness of the memories stem from the tours of the estates, wine cellars and the five-star restaurants where complimentary house made Champagne was provided while awaiting seating (maybe because our table wasn’t ready at our reserved time). As a theater buff, it doesn’t hurt the memories that the nearby town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is totally given over to high-quality theatrical performances from April to October.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Roast Lamb and a BIG Zin (though I’ll choke down Champagne and Caviar).

What is your current favorite bottle? I can’t not choose the 2005 Selene Cabernet from Napa. So rich and full and smooth right out of the bottle – no decanting required. Sadly, there is no more. Second is St. Cosme Châteauneuf – of several vintages – though it does need a good 90-minute decant.

What was your most memorable bottle? There are two: A 1974 Jordan Cabernet. Split a case with two friends at a tasting event in 1976 or ’77 when it was released. Got a good price plus a three bottle bonus – so we got five bottles each, which we drank over the next few years. Carroll Kahn even offered to buy it from me. If you knew Carroll, you know that was no small deal. A 1968 Château LaTour provided by and shared with a German psychiatrist mentor of mine in the late ’70s. Though I was repeatedly told (afterwards) that it wasn’t ready to drink, I have to say that it was easily the best wine I had ever tasted at that time.

Your favorite restaurant? I’m a huge fan of Oakley’s Bistro and Chef Steve Oakley. He is truly a culinary artiste – I really appreciate his styling – and an excellent wine list. I once had the honor and pleasure to work a day with Chef Oakley preparing foods all morning prior to the lunch service followed by lunch with him and his assistant chef.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Tartares, fatty patés and terrines. Though I did eat five lobsters at a sitting once a few years ago.

Funniest moment working here? There are many light moments. Probably among the funniest are when old friends of mine come into the store and recognize me from another life and time. Early on I was guilty of approaching coworkers thinking they were customers. That was a bit embarrassing.

Best and worst things about working here? Worst is easy – unloading the wine delivery every day. Not something to look forward to for our aging workforce. Best is tougher – I really enjoy the camaraderie of a staff who share a passion for wine and the opportunities to try so many different wines – varietals and styles. We only have 1,000 wines to be familiar with. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

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Ken Howard

Although he just joined us a this year at the the Fishers store, Ken is no stranger to wine or Grapevine Cottage since he has been a Zionsville customer for many years.

How old are you, you don't have to answer? Retirement age.

What did you do before working wine at the Grapevine Cottage? I am an accountant and CPA by training. I have led the finance and accounting teams for a variety of companies over my career. I recently retired and was looking for something fun to do with my time when I hooked up with the Grapevine Cottage.

Ken Howard

When and how did your love of wine begin? Like many of my generation I started by drinking Lancers, Mateus, Boone’s Farm, and so on. At some point (I am not really sure when) I started drinking more serious wine and realized the real appeal of a good wine with a good meal. The rest is history.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I do enjoy both but my flavor profile seems to be more attuned to old world. Old world wine seems more food-friendly to me. While many of today’s new world wines can be substituted for a cocktail the real enjoyment for me is all about having a nice bottle of wine with a good meal surrounded by good company.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Since my taste profile seems to favor Italian, Spanish and Rhône wines I have more experience and insight into those regions. What is your favorite food and wine pairing? This is tough, there are so many combinations I enjoy. But for my last meal I think I would go with a nice Châteaunuef-du-Pape with grilled lamb chops.

What is your current favorite bottle? There are a couple of bottles that I have recently tried and really enjoyed. One is a Spanish Rioja from Emilio Moro, the other is an Italian Montepulciano from Carpineto. Both are extremely food friendly.

What was your most memorable bottle? I opened a bottle of Two Hands Bella’s Garden for dinner one night that I had in the wine rack for several years. I had no expectations when I opened it but I was floored by the rich smoky flavor and fine tannins. Syrah is not one of my go-to varietals but this one was such a surprise.

Your favorite restaurant? I really don't have one. The food scene in Indianapolis has exploded in recent years and there are so many good independent restaurants that serve unique food that it would be hard to pick just one.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Dark chocolate with any red wine. Yum.

Funniest moment working here? Nothing particular. Spending a day at the store is always fun. The people are great and occasionally we get to sample some really good wines.

Best and worst things about working here? Best thing is working with the staff in helping customers find the best wine for their needs. Worst thing is “so much wine, so little time”.

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Charlene Strebing

Meet Charlene from our Fishers store! Since Charlene joined our team two years ago, her palate has grown by leaps and bounds. Her taste is quite versatile, she enjoys wines from all areas of the store, and is eager to learn more about each one. Charlene will help you select exactly what you’re looking for in a wine.

How old are you? You don’t have to answer. I celebrated a milestone birthday this year!

What do you do in the real world? After graduating from IU, I started my nursing career in the newborn intensive care unit at Riley Hospital and spent about a year there before deciding to work in surgery. I have been a surgical nurse at a local hospital for the past 27 years, and currently am the DaVinci Robotics co-ordinator for our department.

Charlene Strebing

How long have you been with the Grapevine Cottage? I started in December of 2014 after my youngest son went off to college and I became an “empty nester” with some free time to fill.

When and how did your love of wine begin? I remember an anniversary dinner at the Keystone Grill (currently Seasons 52) about 20 years ago which was the first time a food and wine pairing really made an impression on me. After that I started looking for the next great bottle. But, it was a difficult search. Then about 14 years ago good friends of ours who have always loved wine introduced me to Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel and Layer Cake Shiraz. These were both better than most of the wines that I was buying up to that point and introduced me to a different quality of wine.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, Old World or New World? Before starting at Grapevine Cottage I would have definitely said New World. Now that I have been here for a couple of years and have starting experimenting more with wine I would say that I have a definite appreciation for Old World, especially reds from the Rhône, French Rosé, and Spanish Rioja.

What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I am still developing my expertise and that quest for knowledge is why I am here. I feel I have a long way to go to become an expert but my co-workers and customers are helping me gain that knowledge.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? I was on a trip to France with my oldest son and his French class and we were able to tour a very small winery in the Loire Valley that was housed in a limestone cave. The winemaker gave us a tour and hosted a tasting of his wines, afterwards. I bought a bottle of his red wine, not realizing at the time that when in the Loire you should buy the white!

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Wood-fired pizza and a Super Tuscan; BBQ and Zinfandel; aged ribeye and a Cabernet blend; and bread, cheese, and olives with ANY varietal.

What was your most memorable bottle? While in France we stopped in the port town of Honfluer and I walked into the local wine merchant’s store and asked for a recommendation. It was a 2005 Chateau Bel-Air Lussac St-Emilion, probably around $20 U.S., and it was great! We shared it with some friends on Valentine’s day and afterword I was wishing I had been selfish and not shared it!

What is your current favorite? I really like the Venge Scout’s Honor and I recently tried the Faustino I and it was quite good also.

Your favorite restaurant? Bonge’s Tavern in Perkinsville for destination dining and tailgating, 10 West in Cicero any night of the week, and a cajun ribeye at Morton’s for that traditional steakhouse experience.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? A glass of wine on the screened-in porch when the weather is not too cold and not too hot, not really a guilty pleasure since it’s a really smart thing to do! Oh, and shopping at T.J.Maxx / HomeGoods.

Funniest moment working here? When I was fairly new to the store I had a customer ask me how many Puttonyos were in a dessert wine, I had no idea what he was asking and after asking him to repeat his question I assumed he was asking the price using a slang word or in a different language. Luckily, my co-workers were able to help me out, but not before much embarrassment!

Best and worst things about working here? Best: co-workers, customers. Worst: Too many wines and too little time!

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Jamie Leahy

You will find Jamie at our Zionsville store where, in addition to sales, she is responsible for managing the wine club. Like big reds? Jamie is the one to talk to!

What did you do in the real world? Out of college in the early ’80s I worked in credit for a major oil company and then a tech company. Next I spent several years as a claims adjuster and after having children, worked myriad jobs until I was fortunate to land here at the Grapevine Cottage.

Jamie Leahy

When and how did your love of wine begin? I guess you could say that alcohol is in my blood! My father owned a bar/restaurant where we also lived the first couple years of my life. My dad enjoyed wine and I learned some basics from him and by tasting the ”house” wines he always had on hand. As a high school senior I worked in a local pharmacy; at Christmas the staff was treated to dinner at an Italian restaurant where the wine flowed freely. As I now embarrassingly recall, while enjoying my fair share, I repeatedly asked one of the pharmacists “What is this wine called? It’s SO GOOD”!! It was Lambrusco. The journey continues….

How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I am a solid new world wine fan who also enjoys and appreciates old world wines. There are so many fantastic wines from France, Spain & Italy-I am enjoying discovering as many of them as possible.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? Being a fan of big red wines, I would say that I’m most familiar with Cabs, Syrahs, Zins, and red blends. Since joining the Grapevine Cottage I have made an effort to try whites of all varietals and can say that I am a fan of many of them as well.

What is your current favorite bottle? Current favorites are Philip (an Italian Cabernet with a fun label) and the Carchelo Spanish red blend.

Your favorite restaurant? In the Indy area I love all of Martha Hoover’s restaurants —Napolese, Petite Chou and Public Greens. The creative menus and fresh, authentic foods are simply the best.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Wine and chocolate, wine and HGTV, wine and a book, wine and a nap … and so on.

Funniest moment working here? There are too many to recount — and if I did, I’d have to name names.

Best and worst things about working here? The best thing about working at GVC is the terrific people — the customers and my co-workers are lovely, good people. On the downside, we are surrounded by thousands of bottles of wine just begging to be taken home. We should have name tags that read “Will Work for Wine.”

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Mark Gapinski

Mark has well-rounded wine tastes, and is an accomplished cook. Need a suggestion for a wine and food pairing? Ask Mark....

How old are you? Let me put it this way, I’ve stopped buying young vintage Port.

What did you do in the real world? Many years ago, after completing my Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, I began my career with Eli Lilly and Company. I held a number of positions in research and development at Lilly and retired after 26 years.

Mark Gapinski

When and how did your love of wine begin? In the mid to late 1970s German Rieslings drew my attention away from Mateus Rose and Riunite on ice and the like. Those Rieslings were relatively inexpensive and delicious to drink. The 1976 vintage was the first time I realized that vintage year truly mattered. German wines were superb that year.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I value elegance and finesse in wines. I also rarely drink wine without something to eat. Taken together, these preferences frequently lead me to old world wines that are inevitably very food friendly. That said, I’m also a huge fan of Oregon wines.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? There are very few varietals I dislike. My favorite varietal usually depends on what I’m eating. My “go to” varietals are Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. I also enjoy studying the winemaking process. I want to understand the how choices growers make in the vineyard and winemakers make in the winery affect the final product. I fantasize that I really know my Italians, but then again, I fantasize I can dunk a basketball.

What is your current favorite bottle? The 2011 Tapiz Black Tears Malbec from Argentina I feel is outstanding. For a white, I really like the 2016 Tabali Talinay Sauvignon Blanc.

What was your most memorable bottle? The 1990 Comte de Vogüé Musigny I experienced at a wine tasting in London was an epiphany as to how spectacular red Burgundy can be. Likewise, a 1976 Château d’Yquem (supplied by my generous friends Al and Jan Webber), served with seared foie gras at millennium dinner we had for a group of wine friends, was a testimony to the power of food-wine pairings.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? How about a memory of a wine? My wife and I visited France for the first time in 1990. We were traveling through the southern Rhône valley and bought a bottle of wine at a cooperative in Vinsobres. I’m not sure what the varietal was, but probably a Grenache-based blend. It was very inexpensive, perhaps what would have been about 5 euros at the time. Armed with the wine, a small jar of tapenade, a baguette, a couple of wine glasses and a corkscrew, we drove up to the ruins of the Pope John XII Castle in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I was a beautiful day and the Vinsobres was magnificent.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? Port and blue cheese. Sauvignon Blanc (especially Sancerre) and goat cheese.

What is your favorite restaurant? Locally, Vida, hands down. Globally, Auberge de l’Ill in Illhaeusern, France, the site of the two best dinners I’ve experienced.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Where to start? How about a Chicago-style dipped roast beef sandwich with hot peppers at Fat Dan’s in Broad Ripple — messy, yet satisfying, and I do love cheese.

Funniest moment working here? One afternoon a lady came into the Cottage pulling a roller suitcase behind her. I greeted her and asked how I might help. She related that where she currently lives, she did not have access to top quality Spanish wines and could I help her fill the suitcase from the great selection we have. Together we picked out eight or nine bottles of really good stuff. As I set a well-aged Rioja Grand Reserva on the counter. I had to ask. As she couldn’t’ use it as carry on, was she planning on checking this soft-sided roller suitcase full of wine? I had to advise her that I thought the attrition rate would be near 100 percent.

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John Payne

Retired OB-GYN John Payne prefers wines that deliver....

How old are you? Let’s just say that I’m old enough to know that once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up a little speed.

What did you do in the real world? After practicing obstetrics and gynecology for over 36 years in Indianapolis I’m now pleased to be pursuing my true calling in life … to become a “wine guy”.

John Payne

When and how did your love of wine begin? After surviving the beer and cheap liquor phase of my youth (post legal age of course), I began to associate with some older physicians who had a keen interest in wine. The key event for me was my first trip to Napa in the early 1980s where I was not only taken by the stunning beauty of the region, but also fascinated by the whole winemaking process. The abundant opportunity for tasting, which was all free of charge at that time, was tremendously enlightening as long as you could tolerate the tannic fuzz on your tongue from the young cabs of that era.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? I’m primarily a new world guy and enjoy a wide variety of American-made wines. Additionally, I have a particular fondness for Aussie Shiraz and the occasional South American Malbec.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I’m going to leave the judgment about wine expertise to others, but I can answer the favorite question easily. With any luck, my last sip of wine on this earth will be a California Zinfandel, preferably a monster Turley. I’m also very fond of Pinot Noir. With the variety of styles from Oregon to California in addition to French Pinots, you can pair this wine with almost anything.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? I try to keep it simple so give me a grilled burger or smoked brisket and a bottle of Zinfandel and I’ll be happy.

What is your current favorite bottle? I really like the 2013 Elyse Zinfandel that we have in the store. The 12% Petite Syrah and 6% Carignan really add complexity while maintaining great balance. The 2015 Austin Hope Cabernet from Paso Robles is also a wonderful bottle. It really explodes with intense dark fruit and aromatics of cedar and vanilla.

Your favorite restaurant? Currently, in Indy that would have to be Vida. I’m also fortunate to live only two minutes from Oakley’s Bistro.

What was your most memorable bottle? While in San Francisco in 1992 I had a bottle of Martinelli Jackass Hill Vineyard Zinfandel with loin of venison in a rich red wine sauce. If you’re not familiar with the story behind the name of this wine you should Google it just for fun.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? I try hard not to feel guilty about any pleasure.

Funniest moment working here? On a quiet weeknight in Zionsville Mat says to me why don’t you work on dusting the shelves in the dessert wine room. Now, being vertically challenged and having to work over a bunch of port stacked on the floor in front of the shelves, I decide to get a step stool, which of course is now sitting on an inclined ramped floor. Ok, maybe I didn’t think this thing through very well. So I’m balancing on the step stool reaching to the top shelf when I look down and realize my belly is bumping against the most expensive wine in the store, nudging it perilously close to the edge. If you haven’t guessed, it was a bottle of Chateau d’ Yquem 2009, $564. No sad ending so you have to laugh about it.

Best and worst things about working here? I don’t really make any money — I just spend a little less on wine.

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Holly Novosel

You can find beverage sales veteran Holly Novosel at the Fishers store....

How old are you? I am nine in dog years.

What did you do in the real world? I worked for the Coca-Cola Company for 28 years in various sales positions across the country. My last position was director of the Kroger Warehouse Team based in Cincinnati.

Holly Novosel

When and how did your love of wine begin? I lived in Southern California for 19 years and had the opportunity to visit Napa and the Santa Barbara wineries frequently. That created my love for wine.

How would you classify your tastes in wine, old world or new world? New World.

All of us have our favorites. What varietals or regions do you feel are your strongest areas of expertise? I love a good Cabernet or Zinfandel. I have a good understanding of both.

What is your favorite food and wine pairing? There’s nothing like a great steak and a big Cabernet.

Do you have a favorite memory of a winery? Plumpjack. The setting was beautiful and quaint. When I retired, the winemaker signed a bottle and sent it to me for the celebration. Very special.

What is your current favorite bottle? Venge Bone Ash but the Plumpjack that was sent to me by the winemaker was very special.

Your favorite restaurant? Izakaya. We love the atmosphere and the food.

What was your most memorable bottle? A Hundred Acre magnum.

Your favorite guilty pleasure? Sitting outside on a nice day watching sports with a good bottle of wine.

Funniest moment working here? Every day is a comedy with the group that works here but it can be very touching too. Like when I had the opportunity to help a customer from Seattle with her sister here who was fighting cancer. She named me her Wine Angel.

Best and worst things about working here? The best things about working here are our customers and the people who work here. The worst is getting into the back of Doug’s truck to unload in 95-degree heat.

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