Bay Ridge Wines & Spirits Showcases Maryland Wines
Walking into the gargantuan space that houses Bay Ridge Wines & Spirits in Annapolis you might wonder how you will ever find the wines from Maryland. But there they are taking pride of place in a second, smaller room that houses the tasting station, a wonderful gift shop, and an entire display of Maryland wines.
“We have always had a Maryland wine section,” said Bay Ridge’s General Manager Phillip Altherr. “When people ask for Maryland wines they want to see them all together.”
Wine makes up about 50 percent of sales (beer and spirits combined account for the other 50 percent) at Bay Ridge, which is the second-largest independent wine and spirits retailer in Maryland. The store has always sold a decent amount of Maryland wines, according to Altherr.
“There has been a steady increase in our sales of Maryland wines as their quality has increased, ” Altherr explained. “We are selling more than ever before”.
Even with the noticeable increase in year-to-year sales, however, the Maryland wine industry still has work to do to gain awareness and acceptance with the wine-drinking public.
“Although the quality of Maryland wines has improved by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, they still don’t have the ‘curb appeal’ of wines from other areas,” says Altherr. “Many people still don’t know that Maryland makes good wines — people go to the wine festivals and just drink the sweet and fruity wines and then don’t think of buying Maryland wines to drink with meals.”
Altherr’s previous experience was in the restaurant and hotel industry, so he is very aware of good food-wine pairings. Some of his favorites are an off-dry Riesling with sushi or Thai food, a nice Cabernet with a good steak, and a Pinot with anything on the Thanksgiving table.
His restaurant experience also gives him insight into why more restaurants do not have a selection of Maryland wines.
“It is tough for restaurants — they can’t keep too many wines open at once. And they have to respond to demand,” he explains.
Now that he has several years of wine retail experience Altherr can offer advice on that aspect of the business to Maryland wineries.
“The wineries need to get out more,” he says. “They should be beating down my door every day with tastings. They show up at the festivals, but that has very limited impact on restaurants and retailers. The folks from Boordy do a great job. They set up a series of tastings for the entire year, and I taste every Boordy wine.”
Needless to say, Boordy wines are the top seller at Bay Ridge, along with St. Michael’s Chocolate Zin.
“There is a base of consumers who want to buy Maryland wines,” says Altherr. “The wineries have to reach them not just at their wineries but by being more responsive to retailers and restaurants. When I make a significant commitment to Maryland wines, the wineries have to make a commitment, too.”
Altherr’s commitment to Maryland wines extends beyond the special display. The wines of Maryland have been featured at Bay Ridge’s tasting station — an innovation introduced a year ago to help educate the store’s customers about wine.
“We want to further educate our customers by giving them the opportunity to taste and become familiar with varietals they may not have been exposed to before,” says Altherr of the tasting station that offers an interesting array of wines each month.
The tasting station and the commitment to Maryland wines are just two aspects that show how the philosophy at Bay Ridge is to go the extra mile for their customers. They offer a wonderful selection of gifts — many of which are wine-related, some of which are nautical in nature, some of which are edible, and some are just plain fun — that are chosen by Gift Store Manager Deborah Tracey and that make Bay Ridge very unique.
Bay Ridge also features an Annual Open House (December 2 this year) that staff and customers look forward to from one year to the next. The store supports its local SPCA adoption program, and it offers food tastings that feature local restaurants. Their array of wines, beers, and spirits is an amazing selection of the familiar and the unusual.
“We develop really close relationships with our customers,” Altherr says. “We like building relationships, and we go the extra mile for everyone. We learn from our customers every day, and we try to honor all their special requests.”
That includes requests for Maryland wines!
Written by Muphen R. Whitney
Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits is located at 111 Hillsmere Drive, Annapolis.
Their phone number is 410.268.1961.
They are open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 10 PM and Sunday from 9 AM to 9 PM.
Visit them on the Web at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits