I have been a patronizing The Austin Wine Merchant, 512 West 6th Street, for years. (I must admit to being temporarily seduced by the big box liquor stores when they arrived in town, but that didn’t last long.) The Merchant has a wonderful, thoughtfully chosen selection of wines, and the staff is very helpful and knowledgeable about them all. I find their prices to be the best in town, as well. (They sell liquors and beer also, but I only have personal knowledge about the wine). They also have a variety of stemware and other items that make great gifts for wine lovers. John Roenigk, one of the owners, is always on hand to assist customers and make suggestions for new wines to try. I have never left with a bottle of wine that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. They also do complimentary wine tastings every Wednesday evening from 5:00 – 6:30, and Saturdays from 12:00 – 3:00. Details about the wines to be tasted are available on their website http://www.theaustinwinemerchant.com, and they also maintain an email list for notifications about tastings, sales, wine dinners, etc.
They maintain a list of wines purchased by each customer, so if you don’t remember the name of something you had before, they can look it up. They also offer an amazing gift service. Last year, I needed a nice gift for an attorney who had graciously done some legal work for my family, and refused to bill us, so I emailed John and asked him to select some wines the attorney had enjoyed before and gave him a price range. The following day, I was in the attorney’s office when the beautifully wrapped case of wine was delivered to him. He was blown away, and very excited to see in his case, wines that he knew and loved.
A while back, I started to notice that the landscape around the parking lot at the Austin Wine Merchant was changing. There was lettuce growing along the East side of the building, where grape vines once grew. Then on a subsequent visit, to buy wine, and harass John about opening a Twitter account, I noticed that half of green space along the back of the parking lot was planted with a variety of herbs and vegetables. Lots of cilantro and broccoli, especially. It was about that time that John asked if our company would plant the remainder of that space with a winter garden. Nothing organized, he stressed, and I had to suppress my desire to seed in the shape of a giant wine bottle. We tilled the soil, amended it with 3 yards of compost and planted lettuces, arugula, kale, chard, cauliflower, bok choy, radishes and lots of herbs. I went by this morning and took a few pictures. I think the idea of an entirely edible landscape is fabulous, and hopefully the wave of the future. Go on by the Merchant, pick up some wine, and snip some lettuce or cilantro to take home with you. That’s what its there for. And if you eat at Bess Bistro, you might just find some of the Austin Wine Merchant’s produce on your plate as well.