Maureen Connors Badding arrived in Wauwatosa 22 years ago via Buffalo and Phoenix. She's a freelance writer and habitual volunteer who enjoys book clubs, travel, entertaining and cheering for her daughter's swim team.
Over the past couple of years of blogging, I’ve mentioned my favorite “gems” on North Avenue — including The Rosebud, Cranky Al’s and Ted’s — and how fortunate we are to have them within walking distance. Lately I’ve been venturing further west to Ray’s Wine & Spirits and have discovered a long-overdue addition to my list of gems.
Before you the wrong idea about my drinking habits, let me explain. A couple of years ago, my highly social neighborhood association started a wine-tasting club, and my husband and I discovered at the first monthly meeting that we had very uneducated palates. That prompted a tour of Sonoma Valley last year and turned us into wanna-be oenophiles.
Before that trip, any wine I purchased for a party was whatever was on sale at the grocery store. That’s because 1) coming from New York, I loved the novelty and convenience of being able to buy wine in a grocery store, and 2) because I’m cheap.
Well, I’m still cheap, but I’m not complaining about making a trip to Ray’s for my wine now. I wandered in there last year looking for a Vinturi, a wine-aerating device that brings out the complex flavors of red wine. (If you’ve ever had that fuzzy-tongue, dry-mouth feeling from drinking a bold red, you need a Vinturi.) I was so impressed by their selection and knowledgeable staff that I signed up for their e-mail list.
Now I get Ray’s Wine of the Week e-mail, which features special buys each week — along with a free wine education. They don’t just say, “Hey we’ve got a great Cotes du Rhone for $9.99 a bottle.” They go into detail about the grape, the vineyard, the winemaker, the reviews and a complete taste profile.
It turns out they’ve been doing this for six years and have a mailing list numbering in the thousands. Some of their clientele live out of state, and they pick up their stash a few times a year. Ray’s wine and marketing guru Orey Laev says they taste 75-100 wines per week and only promote the ones they really love.
I like that I can say yes to the offers I’m interested in and just ignore the ones that don’t tempt me. I passed on a $49.99 bottle of Syrah, but immediately reserved a $6.99 bottle of Cosecha Tardia that Ray’s promoted as a “Summer Slammer.” It turned out to be the perfect Patio Pounder to share with our friends. Now if Ray’s could only recommend a wine that repels mosquitoes!