Back to School in Vin Bin Academy

September 16th, 2013

We’ve wanted to do this for a long time – and we had various attempts at it – through seminars at local hotels, through night courses at Assabet, but we always wished for our own classroom – our own location where we could bring the essence of the Vin Bin to our students.

And now we will.

Beginning Oct. 7, we are kicking off our Vin Bin Academy, to be conducted in the Café in the evenings. The setting is perfect – you’ll be surrounded by the various items you’ll be sampling and learning about.

I like our instructors. Marianne, who is quick, informative, a clear communicator. She’ll be leading some of the intro to wine courses. And there’s Fred – the former GM at Panzano, and highly respected Italian wine expert, who’ll be taking us to Italy. You may THINK you know Italian wine, like I did, but then you talk to Fred and he unveils layers of Italian wine that only someone who has lived the soil could explain.

We have the cheery and effusive Don Jean and Bill Livingstone conducting our spirits tasting primers in American Whiskey and Scotch. I’ve learned a great deal from them, and since my first love of drinks starts with wine, I needed some guidance – they are fantastic and I look forward to listening in to their class.

And then there’s Edi.

Where do we begin? Edi came to us as a customer years ago. Having taken cheese classes himself, he’s going to lead our cheese seminars. Edi amuses our staff. He creates our samples in Hopkinton and holds the staff accountable for understanding the cheese, why different honeys and jams influence cheese in certain ways, how to care for cheese. And he is VERY passionate about this. We call him the Cheese Mossad.

His classes are mandatory if you want to appreciate cheese.

The schedule is about to be released, we’re trying to nail down a couple of things, but we think you’ll be pleased with this semester.

Cost is $10 per class, but you get that back in the form of a coupon which you can use in the store.

Cheers!

Rick

 

Wine and Cheese Festival Sept. 21

September 9th, 2013

Oh boy, the 21st, seemingly so far away while toeing the sand on the beach a few weeks ago, is RIGHT HERE NOW!

We expect 300 to 500 people at our Grand Tasting on Sept. 21 – I say this brings out the BEST in our customers. I know our staff gets jittery – especially me – because we keep an eye on the weather – it has never rained on the anniversary tasting, by the way (did I just jinx that?) – but so much is going on, so many small things need to be set – enough ice, cups, proper spacing for people to move around, it does get daunting.

But the bell rings, the first customers come in, the wine vendors go to work, the staff gets charged up – and we ALL have a blast.

We use to advertise this as just a wine sale, but it is really so much more. Certainly it IS a wine sale, but there’s cheese, foods, and now the Café, it’s a weekend’s worth of entertainment – and did I mention it’s free to attend?

We all look forward to seeing you Saturday, Sept. 21, from 2 to 6ish – there is a wine sale, there will be great food, and wine, well, we might spend days at the beach over the summer, but during the evening, we are tasting wines after wines after wines. For every one wine we select, we taste 10. Just like our motto – we drink bad wine so you won’t have to.

We haven’t forgotten our beer drinkers – we always invite Berkshire Brew Co. They were the first beer company to support us when we opened in 2004 and every year we renew our friendship – it doesn’t hurt that they have the purest essence of craft beer.

Our cheese selection always separates us from other stores who do tastings. They may have cheese platters – but nothing like what we bring to the table. We’re bringing in cheese makers from Hardwick, Mass. Our selections are carved from the good earth of Vermont, New Hampshire and the Bay State.

Chef Mike is cranking up the ovens to dole out delicacies – and we are proud of the Café – it was voted Best Lunch in Marlboro, and we haven’t even been opened a year!

The Anniversary tasting is fun, it’s our biggest event of the year, you will see your friends here, and we love seeing you all have a good time.

By the way, if you see Julie during the day – wish her a Happy Birthday – the 21st is her day as well.

Cheers!

Rick 

Finding Nirvana in NYC

July 9th, 2013

Julie, Mike and I just returned from our annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Fancy Food – The Summer Specialty Food show in New York City.

The show displays more than 180,000 food items – we tried to taste them all – inside the cavernous Javits Center in NYC.  If you could eat it – it was here.

I use to joke that this was a show exhibiting sugar, salt and corn starch in every permutation.

But a healthy dose of new food attitude was evident. More emphasis on local, pure, farmstead, gluten free, organic, fair trade, anti-GMOs and antibiotics could be seen everywhere. Still plenty of really good chocolate, olive oils and cheese – especially cheese – cheese has exploded in a big way and is the leading specialty food category in this country.

Cheese, not just imported, but home grown, has taken on a new dimension in just the past few years. Dairy farmers are using Old World styles to raise and tend the herd. More organic pastures, no hormones, better cheesemaking techniques, all adding up to better cheese for us.

For example, our friends at Springbrook Farm in Reading, Vt., produce a raclette that is now preferred by some of our European customers. But we also found new farms from all over the country, and with better distribution methods we can get their cheeses with longer shelf life.

But the Old World still makes fabulous cheese – we found a new cheese from Tuscany which we are bringing in this week.

We also noticed a new trend which we know will continue to grow – craft beer makers. In the past, an occasional brewer would open a booth, now, an entire section was devoted to craft beer, and we saw our friends from Nantucket, Cisco Brewers, at the show.

It was good to walk the endless acreage of the Fancy Food show. Sure, there were booths after booths of dark chocolate, beverages with wacky ingredients – lots of ice cream, olive oils, vinegars and just odd foods. Everything had a market.

For us, it was a week in nirvana, and for you, surprises are in store as our selections make their way to Marlboro and Hopkinton.

Rick 

The Bella Memorial

June 17th, 2013

 

Dogs can be amazing creatures, from our trusted friend to irreplaceable servants. That’s why we take our fundraiser this Saturday so seriously – it is for dogs, but in the end, it is for us.

Our Bella Memorial Fundraiser will help to train service dogs – dogs trained to act as companions and even “therapists” for a wide range of human ailments and disabilities.

Dogs may be easy to train, but it takes time and money. But the rewards are great and well worth the effort.

While we look at our own Fidos sitting on the floor and acting as our best friends, there are dogs doing work that allow people with disabilities to function in life.

Please join us this Saturday, June 22 in Marlboro, at the Vin Bin, from 2 to 6 p.m. We’ll have a great line up of wines, spirits, cheeses, and café cuisine.

Dogs are invited as well!

Go to this site and you can pre-buy your tickets.  http://thevinbin.com/bella-memorial-wine-tasting/

Hopkinton Grand Opening Celebration Saturday, March 23

March 22nd, 2013

Just a reminder that our Grand Opening Event for our Hopkinton store is this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Come join us for a grand tasting event filled with an exciting variety of wines, beers and artisan cheese displays. Right now we are at 70+ labels and counting. Jack’s Abbey Craft Brewers will be joining us and much more.

Don’t know what a Grand Tasting event looks like at The Vin Bin, check out our latest video.

There will be a sale on wine, you can be sure. Admission is free and you may buy Riedel stemware for tasting at $5 a glass. If you purchase 6 bottles or more, your $5 will be credited back to you and you get to keep the glass.

Join us in celebrating our Hopkinton store at 22 South Street, Hopkinton Square. I look forward to getting to know our new patrons as well as seeing our Marlborough Vin Bin family.

~ Rick

Hopkinton on for Jan. 30

January 21st, 2013

Funny thing about new construction – you see workers, but there doesn’t seem to be much improvement – that’s what it was like in our new Hopkinton store last week. After weeks of work, the walls, floors, ceiling seemed unchanged, only the new beer cooler looked like anything had been accomplished.

On Monday last week, I had no doubt we were going to miss our opening date by at least a month – no way everything that needed to be done could be done in 7 days.

And suddenly, in the span of literally hours – everything got done! The walls were painted, the ceiling hung, the lights installed, the floor installed, the wine racks delivered, the plumbing piped in – miraculously, like elves came out of the woodwork during the night and cobbled it all together.

Any contractors who read this understand the process, weeks of labor all pay off when the cosmetics are done.

Kudos to our General Contractor Russ Rapoza, who said his job is to solve problems and meet deadlines. He has.

Look for us to open Wednesday, Jan. 30 at noon, 22 South St., Hopkinton Plaza.

Rick

Call us the Job Creators

January 3rd, 2013

Next week, Treasurer Steven Grossman will visit the Vin Bin with VIP from Marlborough Savings Bank to put a face on the latest program to help small businesses such as us create jobs.

The Small Business Banking Partnership provides funds to local banks, which in turn provide loans to small businesses to help us grow and add jobs.

The Vin Bin has benefited from this program by partnering with Marlborough Savings Bank. Their investment in the Vin Bin has allowed us to move into the Fire Station, create a cafe and nearly double our workforce. In fact, we are still looking for employees today.

Additionally, the Vin Bin has created a second location in Hopkinton — with the help of MSB — and that will lead to 10 more new jobs.

Such a simple, common sense program can result in employment dividends. And if a small business like the Vin Bin can add jobs to the economy, think about what major business can do with the same program?

We welcome the Treasurer to the Vin Bin next Thursday, and we are thankful to MSB for their investment and belief in us.

Now, to you job seekers — we still have positions to fill. And if you are passionate about our industry, love working with people, please give us a call. We are making every effort to help the economy.

-Rick

Innocence Lost in a Time of Joy

December 16th, 2012

A week ago Sunday, Julie and I were on our way back to Massachusetts after spending a holiday weekend with the kids in NYC.

About midway on the Sunday ride home through a cold, rainy night, we pulled off the Connecticut highway to get some hot coffee, eats and fuel.

Off the exit, we searched around a bit through unknown territory, settling in the parking lot of a diner.

But it was a diner in name only; it was actually a fairly large restaurant that was absolutely jammed with people waiting to be seated. Now, out in the middle of nowhere, on a cold, rainy Sunday night, this was a big surprise.

So we were seated and quickly figured out the draw – we took in the warmest, friendliest atmosphere I’ve  seen in a roadside diner. We sat next to a large party of what appeared to be young mothers and daughters, celebrating something, maybe a holiday party. But the loud laughter and cheeriness was unmistakable – that of innocent glee and unbridled merriment.

In fact, the entire restaurant was that way. It seemed every patron knew the staff, knew the owner, knew others seated at the counter and tables. Smiles and pleasantries all around.

It sort of reminded me of the Vin Bin, in that way in which everyone who comes is immediately a part of the family.

Oh, the food was good, big portions, inexpensive. We asked our waiter about the joint, and she knew the entire history although she didn’t look much older than 18. Apparently, her mother – who still worked there, was among the first staffers in 1973.

Julie and I lingered around a bit because the vibe was so warm and friendly, and we picked up a couple of the largest apple turnovers I have ever seen. While we were heading back to the car, we talked about how this place was to become our new half way point on our trips to NYC – going and coming, we wanted to start and end our trip at this place. When we got home, we told everyone of this fantastic restaurant we found.

The place? Blue Colony Diner in Newtown, CT.

A few days later, when news hit of the unspeakable slaughter we knew exactly where it was. And I began to think back to the smiling, laughing parties in the diner – especially the group of young Newtownian women and children.  It made me profoundly sad as the horror unfolded; watching the end of innocence for  a town and good people who, like us, only wish for happiness and camaraderie in what should be a time of joy.

–Rick

The Tale of the Giant Crucolo

December 5th, 2012

As a lover of cheese — you might have read of the Crucolo Parade heading into Concord Thursday. My best friend in the cheese world — Peter Lovis, owner of the Concord Cheese Shop, has created an event where he rolls a 400 pound wheel of Crucolo into his shop in December, declaring it Crucolo Day. Peter even went so far as to travel to Italy to help make the cheese for this year. 

Good for him. But, as you might have suspected, we like to think the Vin Bin planted the seed for this whole thing.

A giant wheel of Crucolo was spotted by yours truly and the Misses when we traveled to the Fancy Food Show in New York several years ago. While there, the people who make Crucolo — an Alpine style Italian cheese made in Trentino — had the wheel on display. This made a great photo to share with Vin Bin Nation when we got back from our trip. Now, I had never imagined a wheel as large as that actually being useful in a small cheese shop such as ours. But Peter and his mind began tinkering with an idea — an idea that would result in a 400 pound wheel rolling through the streets of Concord just in time for Christmas.

While Crucolo is popular here — it is my favorite cheese to melt in an omelet —  in Concord, Crucolo is worshipped.

We love to see Crucolo get its just due, and we are happy for Peter, one of the finest cheesemongers in this country, bar none.

And we will let you in on another  little secret: One quarter of that giant cheese — about 100 pounds — ends up on the cutting board of the Vin Bin each year that it is brought in.

Thanks Peter, Happy Crucolo Day! We’ll be by on Thursday to get our piece of the “pie.”

– Rick

Hello Hopkinton

November 28th, 2012

A little more than a year ago, we moved our little store into this great space — a 100-year old fire station, landmark of downtown Marlboro, icon in the city — and now home to the grooviest store in town.

And here we go again. Not moving, but ADDING another Vin Bin.

In the coming weeks, you will learn of the Vin Bin’s additional store at the new Hopkinton Square Plaza on South Street.  The plaza is at the critical junction of South Street and Main Street — adjacent to the EMC campus and access to the leafy suburbs of Upton, Mendon, Grafton and beyond.

The Vin Bin will be an anchor store in the plaza with Price Chopper.

You will find our comfortable, pleasing shopping atmosphere, same exuberant and helpful staff — and of course, the most unique beer and wine selection in town and YES — our cheese counter.

So for our friends in the greater Hopkinton area, we are coming to you.

We expect to finish our construction over the next 60 days, but look for us — and look for news of us opening — before the Super Bowl.

In the meantime, enjoy the Vin Bin Marlborough, and think of the future with a Vin Bin in Hopkinton.

-Rick