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Wine Bars: The Pour House

Sun Nov 26, 2006

Writer’s Note: Portions of this post were originally published in the North Tahoe Action, December 11, 2005.

Wine is complicated, there’s no point in trying to skirt around that. But it doesn’t have to be challenging or frustrating. You shouldn’t have to drink a lot of wines that you don’t like to find one you do. What’s missing in the grocery/big box store experience is guidance, someone who understands wine, who’ll take the time to help you. What you need is: Dean Schaecher.

Dean Schaecher is the proprietor of the Pour House, a small wine shop located on Jibboom Street in Truckee, California. Having worked in the restaurant industry and as a wine distributor before opening the shop, Dean knows a lot about wine. But what makes Dean different, and the Pour House different as a result, is that he wants you to enjoy wine too. And he’ll take the time to help you find the right bottle, staying within your comfort-level price-wise. In fact, says Dean, “I usually undersell people. They typically want to pay more and I’ll sell them stuff that’s a couple of bucks or ten bucks less than they’re used to paying.”

Inside the dimly lit shop, the shelves are lined with bottle after bottle of wines from around the world. Walk in a little further, just behind the register, and you’ll notice a little aluminum-sided bar — this is where Dean works his magic. On any given day, Dean’s got at least four or five bottles of wine open for tasting. Tastes are inexpensive, $1 for wines that sell for less than $15 a bottle, $2 for those $15-25 and $3 for wines that sell for $25 and above. Tastings are done less with selling you a particular wine in mind, than with helping Dean establish what he calls your “bull’s-eye,” where you, the patron, want your wines to exist. Do you like white wines that start of fruity and end up mineraly? Do you like reds with a certain mouth feel, a lot of bright red fruit or a leathery quality? Since most people don’t have the extensive vocabulary by which to describe their wines, Dean works to discover what you like, watching your reaction to what you taste and asking questions. “When I’m in the same room as them [the customer], I know exactly what the frame of reference is, because they’re standing in front of me, tasting a wine and I know exactly what that wine tastes like. They tell me something. That points my arrow towards their bull’s-eye. And the more times we have that interaction, the customer and I, the closer I get.”

The Pour House, of course, isn’t just for newbies. No matter what your level of wine knowledge, Dean’s bound to have some insight. He doesn’t always carry the wines you’d expect; there are few Wine Spectator picks, which, Dean feels, represent such a small percentage of the palates out there. He focuses instead on winemakers off the beaten path and the up-and-comers.

Winemaker tastings are also becoming more frequent at the Pour House. Yesterday Dean hosted Carol Shelton of Carol Shelton wines. Shelton was the award-winning winemaker for Windsor Vineyards for 19 years before leaving to start her own Zinfandel-focused label. She poured five Zins, including the incredibly unique 2004 Monga Zin from dry-farmed old vines in Rancho Cucamonga, California, as well as her 2005 Rendezvous Rosè, a crisp, refreshing rosè made from 100 percent Carignan. Shelton makes about 5,000 cases of wine each year, all sourced and custom crushed at Taft Street winery in Sebastopol.

Events like these and Dean’s attention to smaller producers and attempts to stay ahead of the curve allow his business to be more value-driven. He tastes 100-plus bottles of wine a week, so when a customer comes in and asks for something he doesn’t have, he’ll know what the wine tastes like and can point them towards something that might taste like it. And as customer relationships develop, he’ll be glad to steer you toward new experiences. I can’t wait to try the 2003 Domaine de Cassan Les Esclausels, Cote du Ventoux from France ($12.49) that he sent me home with yesterday.

At the Pour House you might just find you like the wine-buying experience so much that you make it part of your evening out. And then, the only stress will be trying to decide how many bottles you can afford to buy.

The Pour House Wine Shop & Tasting Bar
Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11-7
10075 Jibboom Street
Truckee, California

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