Unlike Vin Chicago, Andersonville Wine and Spirits, Lush and Just Grapes in Chicago, finding a boutique wine shop in Michiana might appear daunting. By boutique, I mean a small business that offers highly specialized services or products.
Last year, my wife won a gift certificate to Wine Sellers in Union Pier, Mich. What we discovered when we visited last January was a pleasant surprise.
Jacqui Schiewe has been the proprietor and the face of Wine Sellers since it opened in 1994. She is a vinophile who enthusiastically shares her knowledge of wine and the industry.
Her journey to Southwest Michigan began during childhood summers spent in Harbor Country while growing up in the western suburbs of Chicago. As an adult, she spent some time working in downtown Chicago and California before moving to Michigan City.
Before Wine Sellers became her career, Jacqui was an associate trainer for a number of national corporations. In pursuing her avocation, she took wine appreciation classes under Patrick Fegan at the Chicago Wine School.
In the early 1990s, it was a friend who suggested filling a need in the lake shore area and encouraged Jacqui to open a wine shop. Using her background in education and passion for wine, she embarked on the new venture where Wine Sellers remains today.
The quaint shop is housed in a former gas station on Red Arrow Highway just north of U.S. 12. From floor to ceiling, every nook and cranny is filled with wine and wine accessories.
She estimates the shop contains 1000 SKUs procured from 25 distributors. Her portfolio contains “selections from all over the globe priced to fit every budget.” Many are from small estates and single vineyards including a number of highly allocated wines. She has personally tasted every one and confidently reports she “knows them all.”
In particular, I appreciate her shelf talkers, which are printed on 4-by-6-inch index cards and give her impressions of each wine. Significantly, she is essentially a sales staff of one with an occasional part-time assistant. When you are wine shopping, you are dealing with someone who is intimately familiar with the inventory.
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Through the years, her wine knowledge has deepened through relationships with producers, importers and distributors. She has attended numerous trade events in Napa, Calif., Miami and New York. In addition, she has toured wine regions in Europe. I am envious that she has even been to Pinot Camp, which highlights the geology of viticulture and wine textures. A visit to the Pacific Northwest is planned for this coming spring.
She acknowledges that wine is an agricultural product and she has great respect for the small, hands-on producer. She strongly believes customers “can always find something out of the ordinary when stopping at the shop.”
Winter hours are limited to weekends, and the business is on hiatus in February, March and April. All wines are discounted from 5 percent to 50 percent on Saturdays and Sundays in January. Discounting varies from weekend to weekend throughout the month.
Weather permitting, any January weekend would be an excellent opportunity to check out this Michiana gem. In my opinion you will experience a world of wine assembled by an astute explorer. Tell Jaqcui that the Hoosier Wineaux sent you.