January 03, 2008

Storyteller Wine Company

I'm not one for end of year "best of" lists. But I know this. One of the best things to happen in the Portland, OR, wine world this past year was the opening of Storyteller Wine Company.

I first met Head Storyteller Michael Alberty in the summer of 2006 at a wine gathering at the Manning's house. Alberty was the mysterious Christopher Walken-looking guy with a bottle of 2001 Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Laurence in his hand.

I immediately liked him. He's funny with a deep but totally unpretentious wine intellect, a great palate, seriously good taste in wine, and he tells great stories. It turns out he's a really good wine merchant too.

Storyteller is two stores really. One is virtual except for the back office of the John's Landing shop itself. Most of the sales here are internet and phone driven, with email specials, a website, and special orders of just about anything available out there. I'm on the email list but I don't special order much. But if you're looking for local stuff, or great Rhones or whatever, Michael's a really good guy to know.

Then there's the shop itself, open officially only Friday evenings and Saturdays. And when Michael's around (look for the Suburu wagon). Or by appointment. The shop is in a former day spa, with a few separate rooms that are different but work well, especially with events.

The tastings here have been consistently good so far, sometimes exceptional. I won't drop names, but Michael's not afraid to open pretty much anything ('05 Tempier Bandol Cabassou, oops) if the mood strikes him.

And it's just not for me, a sort of friend. I pay full price here by the way. No special favors. And I've been in the shop repeatedly where a lady walking her dog or who knows who else has stopped in only to end up drinking grower Champagne or three vintages of Vieux Telegraphe or whatever the line up was. "Oh, that is good, yes. What is that again?"

This is just a plain and simple good wine shop, and definitely one of the best wine things to happen around here in the past year. I look forward to seeing where Storyteller goes in 2008. Alberty's suggesting that bigger things are on the horizon. I'm usually skeptical of anything like that, but knowing Michael, I'm guessing this store has only just gotten started.


Andrew said...

I worked for Mike for 4 years, you're witnessing the tip of the iceberg. Prepare thyself for things to come and the one time you miss an event will be the time Jay McInerney or Jancis Robinson will pop by to chat up the head tell himself. I'm not joking.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Thanks for posting that, because I was struggling to find the right way to convey what Michael's all about without putting him on the spot or just sounding ridiculous. But you're right, this seems like just the tip of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up Vincent. After reading your post I stopped by Michael's shop and chatted with him. It's always a good thing for wine lovers when a passionate wine guy hangs his shingle in town. Good times ahead for wine lovers everywhere!


Vincent Fritzsche said...

That's great to hear Ruben. Hope there were some good things lying around.

Fergus Vargas said...

I think Michael is doing a great job, but I've heard that he is ruffling some feathers in town. Many of the local wine shops have been coasting on the standard (or higher) Portland retailer margins, and don't seem to like real competition.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

That's hillarious. If you love wine, how can you not like Storyteller? There are many, many other good shops out there. No one shop will take all the business. I'm a customer in many stores, and that won't change. But how is this store not a good thing? I know, I know, there's a lot of cynicism and insecurity out there.

Michael Alberty said...

Drew, you guys really need to move out here! I really miss the group of wine geeks we put together at the Corkscrew! And trust me, there would be lots of advance warning about Jay or Jancis.

Vincent, thanks for the kind words. Now the pressure is on to live up to them!

Ruben, it was great meeting you. Anybody that drives from Banks to buy Loire Valley wines is ok in my book.

Fergus, I'd be surprised if any shop owner in PDX even knows I'm here. I just keep my head down and do my thing. And heck, I quietly walk in and buy wines from most of the stores in Portland so at least they added my business in 2007!

Cheers everybody!

PS Vincent, I was reading your earlier blog. I have to confess I talk about you after you leave. Of course it's to myself so I'm not sure if that counts.

Andrew said...

Mike, Portland is a sweet spot on the map and the thought crosses my mind of landing out there when I'm done with certification. The family unit isn't against the idea either. Maybe....

Fergus, imho, with Mike in town, there really isn't competition.

Vincent, glad you found him. Do you have a tasting group going? Make Storyteller your clubhouse. Back here in CU we have one going and the best occasions were Mike leading us around by the tongue. Pardon the mental image that provides.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Yeah, that description does conjur up some scary thoughts. But I get the point. I do have a group but never thought about crashing Michael's place. Good idea.

And I can't recommend Portland highly enough. It's about the best place for family units, and everyone else, that I can think of.