On a recent Saturday afternoon, a woman walked into a warmly chic West Village wine store looking for a bottle to take to a party. Instead of being
greeted by stacks of wine with shelf talkers, exclaiming “Parker loves this!” or “92 from Wine Spectator” the damsel was instead aided by a real live,
and really friendly, sales person who helped her navigate the nice variety of boutique choices from Alsace to Rioja. After a brief conversation and
some exchanged facts–namely, the evening’s occasion and price point–the two agreed on a 1982 Bordeaux. Pleased with her purchase, the woman
was soon downright ecstatic when her guide graciously offered to decant it for her, so it would be prêt à boire, when she arrived at her evening’s
soirée. While this level of service may seem as rare as a 1998 Veilles Vignes from Domaine de Marcoux, it’s simply all part of a day’s work at
Le Dû’s Wines, the new store opened by former restaurant Daniel’s sommelier, Jean Luc Le Dû.
Leading what many in the New York wine industry are calling a small revolution, the philosphy of Le Du’s Wines is based upon the twin pillars of small
producers and personal service. Le Dû honed his principles while working as head sommelier at the esteemed four-star restaurant, Daniel, for ten
years. Last September, Le Dû took his passion for artisanal wines and high standard of service downtown and set up shop in a smart and spacious,
2,700 square foot store on Washington Street in the West Village. Only opened for eight months, Le Dû’s Wines has already established a reputation as the place to go
for independent, hand crafted wines. You will find no Yellow Tail or Veuve Cliquot here. “We refuse,” says Le Du. “Our vision here is really for
For instance, instead of the ubiquitous bubbly brands, at Le Dû’s you’ll find small grower Champagnes like Egly-Ouriet and Soutiran. And in place
of big market wines, you’ll find hard-to-get ones, like Kistler Chardonnay, and those you may never have heard of, like Domaine Sorin, a producer
While small availability can often equate to big money, Le Dû was determined not to make his store a high-priced haven for collectors.
“Because of my work at Daniel, I was nervous people would associate my store as expensive and exclusive,” says Le Dû, “But we want to be
accessible to everyone.” Democratic the choices are indeed, ranging from an $11 lovely bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, all the way to a 2002
Montrachet Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for a cool $1,999. What is shared by the 800-bottle selection at Le Dû's is that every bottle was
chosen for a reason. “We stand behind all of our wines,” says Le Dû. Pick up a Loring pinot noir, and Le Dû will extol the virtues
of the winemaker who only makes pinot noir. Glance at a bottle of Chevalier-Montrachet from Michel Neillon, and Le Dû will wax poetic about the
The store’s indie approach applies to its small but stellar selection of liquors, too. Instead of the popular vodka, the shop offers a fine selection
of Sakes, as well as small-batch Bourbons, and specialty liquors like Armagnac and Grappa.
Having realized his dream of owning a successful store might have satisfied a lesser man, but Le Dû’s work is hardly done. “We have a wonderful
selection now, but in two years, I’ll have more of the producers I want, and in five, we’ll really have the depth we need.” Sounds like a man on a
mission. Vive Le Dû.
Other points that make Le Dû’s Wines shine:
It’s not surprising, Le Dû identifies more with independent labels than huge corporations. A former musician and rock journalist,
Le Dû used to play guitar in a band before making the leap into the restaurant business. Le Dû gives a nod to his past with his wine club,
which has a rock star theme. For $60 a month (three monthly subscription) you can get a “General Admission” pass which
allows you three bottles of “off-the-beaten-path wines.” Spring for the $300 a month “Tour Bus” and you’ll get three bottles
of “scarce” wines.
The whimsical tone also extends to his in-store tastings. A recent “Champagne, Truffles, and Swords” tasting involved not only
sparklers and chocolate, but a cool Champagne sabering demonstration.
The Art of Relationships
Having worked at one of the best restaurants in the world for over a decade, Le Dû met many notable people from Bill Clinton to Tom Cruise.
But his favorite contacts have been in the wine world. “I have great relationships with independent growers,” says Le Dû. Translation: Awesome
access to highly allocated wines.
But undoubtedly, his most important connections are with clients who have come to count on Le Dû for the best up and coming
labels. “I’ve known many people for 10 or 15 years, so I can pinpoint their taste,” says Le Dû. “If I get a great vintage, or a new wonderful producer,
I can call someone and say here’s what I have.” And they respond. 90% of Le Dû’s business is delivered or shipped across the country.
Le Dû’s Wines is open seven days a week, and his staff is ready to serve. A point exemplified by his no “shelf talker” policy. “I respect Parker and
Wine Spectator, but wine is so relative,” says Le Dû. “If I’m going to sell you a $500 bottle of wine, I should be able to tell you why it’s great
and not rely on a score.”
To do this, Le Dû has hired a supremely knowledgable staff who shares Le Dû’s passion and philosophy. Once, as a joke, they put a sign above the
store declaring, “All of the wines in this store, have scored a 100 percent rating.”
Le Dû credits his commitment to customer service to his former boss, Daniel Boulud. “The other day I passed by restaurant Daniel. It was pouring
rain, and I saw Daniel himself standing outside hailing a cab for lady. That’s service.”