Imagine a wine shop where an expert has personally tasted and selected every wine, and beverage industry types drop in to make deals and shoot the breeze. Novices won’t accidentally buy nasty mass-produced plonk because it’s simply not on the shelves.
Wines by Nature is that kind of place. It opened last summer in The Shoppes at East Wind, an elegant new collection of boutiques, restaurants, studios and artisanal food shops in Wading River.
George Eldi, the owner and Long Island native with almost 20 years in fine wine sales, chose this location to realize his lifelong dream because, he said, there’s a real sense of community, especially with shops like The Cheese and Spice Market next door.
Time and experience have clearly bestowed upon this wine connoisseur a bevy of business savvy, encyclopedic knowledge and very good taste, not to mention amazing adventures involving the world’s greatest wines, like tasting Essencia Tokaji. “It’s so expensive, you drink it by the tablespoon,” Eldi said. It’s true, these Hungarian beauties cost up to $1,000 per bottle.
Wines by Nature is full of fascinating reds, whites, pinks, bubblies, liquors and spirits at all price points. Many wines are quality products from lesser-known regions, but there is also a to-die-for selection of high-end wines, like my favorite Bordeaux red, Chateau Phélan Ségur from Saint-Estèphe.
Over the years, Eldi said he found himself drawn to vineyards that are sustainably, organically and bio-dynamically farmed, as well as wines made with minimal intervention, low sulphur and certainly no unnecessary chemical additives. “I got to know so many people behind the labels and felt that more people need to know their story. How could I not open a shop with that focus? We seek out wines that have a taste-of-place and soul, where Mother Nature has the say in the identity of the wine, not a marketing group or a chemist.”
These wines are hands-on efforts from smaller producers, like The Hermit Ram Sauvignon Blanc ($30), a cult wine from the Canterbury region of New Zealand. It’s melon-y, complex and cloudy because it’s unfiltered, according to Magnus Riddiford. He’s from a multi-generational farming family in New Zealand wine country and co-founded Wine Dog Imports to bring these kinds of wines into the U.S.
There’s a great Long Island section, too. Eldi credits many of the early winemakers of the East End for inspiring him when he was just starting out. “I learned more drinking beer with winemakers than on any sommelier course I took.”
That day, I was looking for crisp, dry whites. Eldi picked out a Patricius Tokaj Dry Furmint from Hungary ($15), an Antonopoulos Moschofilero from Greece ($12) and a Domaine Marcel Deiss Alsace from France ($23). They were all delicious and I particularly liked the Furmint. Another white to try, he recommended, is Aligoté, a lesser-known grape that’s traditionally rather rustic but is now made in a more refined style. “It’s a way to drink white Burgundy at half the cost.”
When discussing reds, Eldi explained that it’s hard to find high-end Burgundy because so much of it is allocated in advance to buyers and collectors. But he has friends in high places that can help with that. A week later, I received a shipment of three Burgundies, including a 2012 Alain Burguet Gevrey-Chambertin, “Clos de Beze” Grand Cru ($500), which was absolutely stellar.
It’s all about being in tune with his customers, Eldi said. As for his favorite wine? “Vintage Brut Champagne from Pol Roger. I could drink that all day, every day.”