November 7, 2013 | by Mark Lee
Wine selling, story telling
wine, David-Michael Shott, John Gjika, Local Vine Cellar, gay news, Washington Blade

David-Michael Shott and John Gjika. The Local Vine Cellar stocks more than 500 wines and 150 craft spirits. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Although a diverse professional journey provided the path, local proprietor David-Michael Shott has never been more at home.

The founder and owner of The Local Vine Cellar fits like a bottle sleeve amid the warm burnt-sienna walls and dark wood shelving that give the well-designed and inviting 1,300 square-foot shop the ambience of a libation collector’s brick-accented repository. Typically outfitted in tweed or textured jacket with pocket square while sporting loosely slicked-back hair and facial stubble, it’s easy to imagine the youthful but professorially bespectacled 41-year-old Shott ensconced among a personal reserve of select wines and small-batch liquors.

At the independent enterprise launched two summers ago, he is.

Alongside John Gjika, Shott’s partner in business and life, the engaging duo assemble the store’s diverse selections. Stocking more than 500 wines and 150 craft spirits, they carefully curate a dynamic portfolio and extensive inventory of artisanal offerings.

Their focus is on small family-run international and domestic vineyards, producing fewer than 50,000 cases a year, and small-batch liquor distilleries. The shop offers some of the most unique and sought-after products on the market – within an affordable price range and including bottles of wine under $15. A selection of craft beers and premium cigars are also available.

“Curating acquisitions is like getting postcards from all around the world,” Shott explains, pointing out that specialized varietals “take people on a journey of discovery.” He adds that while avoiding media-driven labels in search of the distinctive, “we also satisfy customer desire for classic vintages while striving to present hard-to-find, low-yield and exclusive products.”

The goal is to “demystify and deconstruct the buying experience for the customer,” partner Gjika says, with the effervescence of an uncorked bubbly. Guiding customers in an appropriate choice, whether for home or special occasion or gift giving, he delights in assisting the connoisseur and casual shopper alike.

Both operators strive to make the process accessible to all. “The demographic changes in the city have prompted more openness to unique wines and spirits,” Shott says. “The wave of new residents and younger millennials” in the city “are well-traveled, inquisitive and want something special,” he observes, “and both of us enjoy introducing them to that.”

Located in D.C.’s center-city Penn Quarter mixed-use neighborhood, at 425 11th St., N.W., the business has quickly become a favorite among those living, working and visiting in the area. “Destination customers” drawn to the unique selections and personalized service unavailable elsewhere also comprise shop patrons.

Shott and Gjika opened the storefront a year-and-a-half ago, meeting during the build-out. When remodeling the space, only steps from Pennsylvania Avenue and within the shadow of the historic Old Post Office Pavilion clock tower atop the soon-to-be Trump International Hotel, they injected a comfortable Old World décor and charm.

Under a 20-foot ceiling with natural walnut porcelain flooring below, the interior features elevated wooden tables ideal for the sampling events and presentations that have become popular regular functions. A large Tuscan table is a prominent focal point, evoking more the ambience of a Napa Valley winery cellar than a retail environment.

A robust event schedule includes visiting winemakers introducing their products in a relaxed social setting. Tastings, informal seminars, intimate wine dinners and other events are announced on the company website, email newsletter, and social media.

Shott and Gjika note that customers have strong sense-related memories of wine, in particular, prompting storytelling of favorite vintages, past travels and vineyard visits. “Every winery has a story,” Shott points out, “and so do our customers and they love to share them with us.”

These dedicated entrepreneurs are quickly building their own story of success.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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