The dawn of a new year often comes with the birth of new beginnings—and new businesses. Pouring across the Port City in 2015 is A Tasting Room, a local online wine club with a similar structure as Total Wine & More but on a much smaller scale. Michael Bevacqua and Anthony Palermo’s concept offers unique and small-production wines delivered right to members’ doorsteps.
Bevacqua and Palermo share a passion for good wine (and beer). Both have worked in the service and food industry for many years, and much of Bevacqua’s knowledge of quality wines comes from more than 30 years of experience as a wine-shop owner. “We’re both career restaurant and wine guys,” Palermo says. “[Michael] knows everybody and I’m good at paperwork, but I think we’re both floor-worker, customer-service-driven guys.”
Palermo, who moved to Wilmington from Raleigh, is a “beer geek”and holds his cicerone certification. He wants to see A Tasting Room eventually branch out and offer more than wine to its members.
“[Anthony’s] beer knowledge is something I’m in awe of,” Bevacqua says. “He’s amazing at it, and it’s a really nice complement to the things I know about wine.”
“Once we have a brick-and-mortar location, I want to be a part of the growler movement,” Palermo adds—“especially in supporting local beers. There are so many local breweries popping up, and I’d love to be a satellite location for people to fill growlers.”
A Tasting Room will get underway thanks to what they are calling their own community “JUMPSTART Campaign.” Folks can directly donate to their business via their website (http://store.atastingroom-wilmington.com/). “We researched things like Kickstarter, but we were so anxious to get started and do what we love doing,” Bevacqua explains. After several friends offered their support and donations, the two business partners decided to create their own funding campaign to see their “online, community-based wine shop grow organically.”
In essence, their wine club is an upstart business for the people and by the people—all of whom love great wines. “We realize this is sort of a weird angle to start a business from, but, at the same time, if we’re built by the community, then we can plop it down in the middle of that community, yet already exist,” Palermo explains. “I love this new sort of movement with small businesses, with a crowd-sourced, open-sourced business model. Our goal is to be that community corner shop, but to do so, we can’t just pop up somewhere and shove it down people’s throats. You have to have some community.”
Though they have been considering location options for almost a year, and have found a few, the two aren’t rushing the decision. They’re looking for charm.
“We’re not looking to be in a strip mall,” Palermo divulges. “We’re looking at houses, free-standing buildings, and a couple of historic buildings that we’ve really loved.”
Palermo and Bevacqua want A Tasting Room to target small-production wines made by their favorite regional and national winemakers.They’re looking to sell bottles not easily found at other shops or at grocery stores.
“But we’re not talking about really expensive wines, or high-end Napa—though there will be some of that, too—but wonderful wines that, because they’re small production, they’re not available at every Harris Teeter or Whole Foods,” Palermo concludes.
A Tasting Room currently offers two memberships: At just $25 per month, the basic one allows customers two bottles of high quality small-production wines, with tasting notes, and 10 percent discount off all wine purchases with no minimum. The $45 premium membership includes two bottles of premium quality, small-production wines, with tasting notes, and a 15 percent discount off all purchases with no minimum. As well many of their wines will be limited and others may be offered in limited amounts as A Tasting Room exclusive. Though Palermo and Bevacqua are keeping their first wine picks of the month on the down low for now, they’re currently working with BFR Wine and Freedom Beverage, as well as larger distributors like Country Vintner, Mutual Distributing Company and Empire Wine, to cull their lists.
Once A Tasting Room’s brick and mortar is open, the business owners want to be a hosting spot for events and charities, too. For now, though, A Tasting Room’s only home will be online, featuring tiered wine-club memberships, pre-ordering opportunities, shipping and local delivery, and private tastings. Membership sign-up is in full swing, with the first delivery hopefully shipped by mid-February.
Folks can keep tabs on A Tasting Room and its progress on Facebook, or contribute to their fundraising campaign and sign up for membership via their website.