Wine is an adventure that you drink with your friend

By Rick Hemphill

Nestled near the center of Charles Town sits a long narrow shop stocked with cubbies full of exotic and distinctive bottles of wine presented by a soon to be Sommelier waiting to pair your palette with a wine of delightfully different textures.

David Cline purchased Oliver’s Wine and Cheeses and since October has been delivering his take on local and international wines. “Well as a passion I always wanted to start a vineyard,” David explains. “But they cost a lot of money to start up and so I started selling wines to get good and understand the wines.”


“I am working on my Sommelier and that gives me creditability for selling the wine.” “For being open for such a short period of time we are doing well.” “We specialized in boutique wines so my wines are not found in grocery stores.” “I want to specialize in the hard to find stuff.” “The median price is $23.00 but I have stuff from $6.99 to $120.00.

His customer demographic is 85% female from the housewives to corporate officers and the wines run a similar variation in price and type. “I think it is split down the middle,” David says. “30% of my inventory is based on high end wines the rest is medium to low.” “I have a $12.00 and under rack for the quick person on the way home while the kids are still in the car and some excellent high end wines from around the world.”

“We are here for education and my goal is to teach customers about wine,” David continues expansively on his favorite subject. “So the first thing I am going to do is ask them some questions.” “What kind of wines do you like?” “The sweeter wines, the whites, the red or do you like the robust reds.” “That helps me determine what their palette is like so I can fit the wine to their taste.”

“The next time you come in we can try to push your palette out a little bit and do something different.” “That way you don’t drink the same wine every day and lose your passion for it.”

David has passion for wine in abundance. “I have 2 tastings this month and a tasting every Saturday starting in January,” David says enjoying his avocation. “You can come in and talk with our distributors at the tastings.” “They are going to know way more about the wines they are servicing than I would.” “It’s a science.” “We have grapes grown in France and the same grape is grown in Spain yet produce different wines.”

“The Spanish grape is going to be a little more peppery than the French and it is fun to get to know the differences.” “I keep a couple sample bottles here to help people make up their mind and that can help.” “Whether they like it or make the scrunchy face I can show something that is in their wheelhouse.”

David wants those wheelhouses to open a bit wider to experience the adventure of different wines. “Typically whites go with white meat and red wines go with red meat,” David says. “If you lightly butter fish then yes white is correct but if you start using herbs in flavoring your cooking you are going to want a different flavor of wine to back up those spices.” “Some may mix better with a red.” “You really need to look at how you are providing those flavors to your meat.” “Get some feeling of why you like the wine you like.” “What is it that drives you back to a particular wine/” “Is that the only wine you have experience with or is the wine maker

flavoring with something you like.” “That way when you ask questions you can say I like it because it is floral or citrusy.” “When you get to know the basic layers in the wine that will help you select other wines that fit your palette.”

One of the benefits of owning a wine shop is the ability to experience your products and be able to better assist your customers finding that fit for their palette. “I look at Predator, right now which is a really cool wine that is grown in California’s central region,” David says reaching for the bottle. “They are sustainable because they have very little waste.”

“80% of what they use to make the wine goes into the wine and the remaining 20% goes into fertilizer.” “The reason they call it predator is because they use lady bugs as a natural predator for other insects.” “They breed them and release them into the vineyard to attack the pests.” “The Predator is a zinfandel from Rutherford hills.”

Many of the wines David carries have an international origin which is not surprising since he has traveled extensively around the world as part of Uncle Sam’s navy. “I spent 8 years in the navy as a naval air crewman,” David remembers. “I got to see a lot of the world.” “After I got out I was in IT for 35 plus years and bounced around being a jack of all trades.” “I think that education gave me an understanding of how to run projects and the knowledge I gained I can put into this business.”

“The learning curve has not been as sharp as it could have been but it was a long process.” “I give credit to my x-father in law who was a pharmacologist, Dr Peter Roszkowski.” “He actually got me into the science of making wine.” “He was Polish and so his dinner was made around wine.” “Over the years he showed me the differences of the varietals of wine and grapes.”

David’s appreciation of those varietals has become his strength as he stocks his shelves for his customers. “I love the Spanish wine Can Blau,” David says as he ticks off his favorites. “It has some really good flavors and it is a blend which means it has different grapes mixed together.” “There is no separation in the grape flavoring and that is what you are looking for in blends.” “Mas de Can Blau is another really great wine costing about $40.00 a bottle.” “The product itself is a phenomenal wine being a great blend and aged for a little bit longer.”

“The Chilean wines are really good and the prices are low right now making them a good deal,” David explains. “This is called 20 barrels because they only make 20 barrels at a time.” “When it is gone it is gone.” “It is aged really well and it has some really good textures.” “It is velvety and it has a clean finish in that it does not have one of the high tannin, high acid values so your tongue doesn’t swell.”

David can give a complete evaluation of every bottle in his shop and his enthusiasm is continuous for all of them. “Stags leap is from the central California valley and it is phenomenal,” David says with many more favorites on his list.

“The French are starting to get into the blends and I am really into the Latin wines and the Argentineans are really undiscovered.” “They are a little bit more peppery and a bit more robust with their higher tannin and acid values.” “When you drink them they are a huge burst of flavor in your mouth.” “The secret is to let them breathe for 5 minutes in a decanter and that will be a whole different wine.”

“I carry almost a 1000 bottles of wine in stock,” David says. “Keeping on top of that and knowing what to stock and what not to stock keeps me busy and now we have a lot of cheeses.” “All of my products have to come through a distributor except for West Virginia products and we try to keep enough cheeses in stock to pair with 90% of the wines we sell.” “Cheeses are like wines there are different flavors and textures.” “We do cheeses when we do wine tasting and that way people can try something to determine where they are in the cheese palette world.”

David loves the panhandle and considers it to be a great wine making area. “Charlestown has just been so good and supportive for my venture,” David says honestly. “We have a merchant meeting once a month and because we have such a small customer base the more we work together the better we all are.”

“If you are new to the wine world go somewhere where you can taste the wine and let them help you understand the wine process,” David says. “That will help you understand the wines you want to drink and this is a cheaper way to taste the wines ahead of time.” “Come to my shop and learn more about wine and educate your palette.” “Grocery stores don’t carry my wines, they are hard to get.” “I can be more selective in the wines I carry based upon regions, varietals, different types of whites, or reds.” “I may not have as many but I have way different ones that are more subtle and better tasting.”

“My whole idea is to provide wines, beers, and cheeses that are not from your geographical area,” David explains with his enthusiasm. “I want stuff from all over the world so you are getting a better experience.”

“We did a wine testing with wines from Spain, Italy, France and one from the US.” “When people tasted the wine you could see them going around the world to those places as we explained why the grape was grown in that region.”

Wine to David is more than just a beverage with dinner. “I just like the science behind making wine,” David relates. “The same grape can be grown in two different regions and produce different flavors.” “It’s the science; it’s the passion; it is just everything that wine is.” “Wine is an adventure that you drink with friends while having great conversations.”

“It is also something that you can enjoy by yourself to get a better understanding of the vineyard and why they make the wine that they make.”

Oliver’s Wine and Cheese 207 West Washington Street Charles Town, WV,

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