The Wine Guy
Grapevine Cottage Owner Talks Success of Fishers, Zionsville Locations
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Amy Payne
To owner Doug Pendleton, Grapevine Cottage is more than just a wine retailer. It’s a one-stop resource for those who not only want to pick up their favorite wine selections on a regular basis but also want a social, customer-oriented wine shopping experience.
Since opening the first of his two Grapevine Cottage locations in Zionsville in August of 1999, Pendleton has slowly built a solid customer base through what he says is a balance of variety, good service and sensible pricing. More than 1,000 bottles line his shelves, all of which are rated at 85 points or higher out of 100 by Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate (typical wine rating systems are based on a 100-point scale).
“We feel like we curate the store, and I think that’s what makes us unique,” Pendleton says. “Nothing goes on the shelf that we haven’t tasted. What drives our business is people who drink wine on a daily basis and have it with dinner. Next to Broadway or New York City restaurants, wine is probably the most reviewed product on earth, and we spend a lot of time using the ratings to help choose wine.”
In 2011 the Pendletons opened a second location in Fishers, and their staff of 22, many of whom Doug says are retirees who work part-time due to a true passion for wine, seek to engage each and every customer in conversation to find the best taste fit.
“I like to think we’re in the business primarily of selling wine to people who actually drink it,” says Pendleton, who worked in the clothing retail business from 1972 until 1998 when he decided to open his Zionsville establishment with help from his wife Linda. “In other words, we’re not what you would call a collector’s store.”
To that end, Grapevine Cottage offers a few unique services including a Wine of the Month Club, through which members pay a fee and get two wines – typically a red and a white – every month, taste-tested by Pendleton. The Wine Guy, as Pendleton has come to refer to himself over the years, also publishes a weekly email newsletter featuring news articles on wine, restaurant and wine reviews, recipes and more, which now reaches approximately 7,000 people.
“The newsletter has really helped to drive the business,” Pendleton says, adding that he’s now put out more than 950 weekly issues. “There’s a little bit of pressure there to keep putting good information out consistently that people will respond to, but it’s worth it.”
Carlene Clark, manager of the Fishers location, says her store has attracted an increasing percentage of the younger Northside Indy population since relocating to East 116th Street from 96th Street two years ago.
“A lot of people need advice when they’re about to go to a party or something, and they don’t know where to begin,” says Clark, who began working for Grapevine Cottage back in 2005. “It’s fun helping people and a lot of times what’s featured in our Wine of the Month ends up being a big seller that month.”
Pendleton also offers plenty of cheeses, pasta, charcuterie, cookbooks and wine accessories at both of his establishments, and the store offers delivery for gift baskets that do not include wine.
When asked about his own wine preferences, Pendleton laughingly says that Linda accuses him of “liking everything.”
“If there is a category I like most, red wines from the Rhône Valley in France are probably it,” he adds. “When I go to the cellar for something to pair with dinner, it seems like two or three times out of five I come up with something from the Rhone because it pairs so well with food.”
Pendleton has no plans to open additional stores currently, and says he simply appreciates the chance to run an independent business for nearly 20 years that sells a product that he is genuinely passionate about.
“We try to find the best possible values, and, in this day and age, that means finding excellent wines under $20,” he says. “We don’t focus on having every possible brand. We focus on having the best possible wine at the best possible price.”
Grapevine Cottage is located at 61 South Main Street in Zionsville, and 8235 East 116th Street in Fishers. For more info, call 317-733-1010 (Zionsville) or 317-288-5316 (Fishers), and visit them online at grapevinecottage.com.