An absorbing look at establishing and managing a wine shop through many difficulties, including the financial downturn.
Pasanella (Living in Style without Losing Your Mind, 2000) chronicles his adventures owning and operating a wine shop in a historic New York City waterfront building. His goal was to create a store that was “informed, but relaxed,” and his memoir showcases the same characteristics. Full of informative tidbits about wine, it never comes across as pretentious; the book is completely accessible to those new to the vast world of wine, yet entertains equally well for the seasoned expert. Pasanella also reveals the inner workings of a wine shop, complete with eccentric wine reps and the politics of distribution. He focuses on every aspect of running his store, from run-ins with the State Liquor Authority to more mundane yet equally interesting elements of any small business, such as dealing with a difficult employee. Eventually Pasanella was able to rise above the everyday aspects of his business and embark on an entirely new venture: selling his own, store-brand wine. This adds another layer to the engaging, lucid narrative. The author wanders off on the occasional tangent, but most of the asides are worthwhile, and Pasanella quickly pulls the story back to the main thread, his wine-selling adventures. The recipes interspersed throughout the book, while appetizing, mostly serve to interrupt an otherwise delightful reading experience.
Though he removes much of the romance from the idea of opening a wine store, Pasanella’s clear-eyed memoir is a joy to read from beginning to end.