FOOD: Edmond Wine Shop
It was a 1965 cabernet that changed the life of Vance Gregory. It seduced the young man, leading him on a 40-year journey through the twisted vines of grapes to owning the iconic Edmond Wine Shop.
In 1971, Gregory graduated college with a degree in electrical engineering. He wasn’t even interested in wine. “I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay for my master’s degree,” Gregory said. “I was offered a summer job at Byron’s Liquor Store. They sent me to California in June 1972 to Napa Valley. I fell in love with it, and got to see what the winery business was like.” Visiting then was like being in a small farming town. “Wine hadn’t really taken off back then,” said Gregory. “No one except vintners like Robert Mondavi believed in California wine.”
But Gregory did. On that first trip, he had a glass of 1965 Charles Krug Vintage Select Cabernet, and his life changed forever. “It was the depth of flavor, the richness and the nuances. It was the complete package. It had a beautiful finish,” Gregory said. “That was it for me. I decided then and there that this was my life.”
So in 1973, Gregory bought a struggling liquor store in Edmond. “I had seen the concept of a wine shop in California, a store that merchandised around the wine selection,” Gregory said. “Spirits were the focus of the stores here at the time. I flipped it around and put wine in the center of the store and the spirits along the back wall. I was laughed at, and guys in the business told me I’d be out of business in two years.”
To make things more difficult, liquor stores could not advertise back then. “I had to rely on word-of-mouth. I just tried to educate the public that wine was worth trying and tasting,” said Gregory. But in 1976, California wine took top honors at the Paris Wine Tasting competition, later dramatized in the film, “Bottle Shock.” “That catapulted California wineries to the top,” said Gregory. “Business started to pick up and I moved the Edmond Wine Shop to a building across the street. I bought the building with an investor in 1978 because I saw the need to expand. We had that store until 2003, when we built this one.”
Wines are still displayed proudly at the center of the store. The hefty selection of beer and spirits line the walls. Gregory roams the aisles, encouraging wary wine drinkers to try this bottle or that. “I’ve been doing this for 40 years. One lady always came in and bought only white zinfandel. I finally got her to try a fruity chardonnay, and then I got her to love pinot noirs,” he said. “You have to transition into wine. It takes time.”
Ask Gregory what his favorite wine is and he only shakes his head. “It’s like asking who your favorite kid is,” he said. “I love pinot noir, I love what Oregon is producing, I love small producers who are real hands-on. I love wine.”
For wine lovers – or those just learning to explore the depth of wine – Gregory and his trained staff are eager to share this passion with others. They can show you the best $10 bottle of cabernet or recommend the best $80 bottle of pinot noir. To Gregory, there’s a “best” in every price range.
“We try to encourage people to sample different things. The idea of our store is to make people think about trying that Australian cab or that wine from Chile,” Gregory said. “It’s about trying something new and drinking what you love.”
For more information, visit the Edmond Wine Shop at 1520 S. Boulevard.