Originally published in Greenwich Time By Kaitlyn Krasselt
When David Johnson moved to the Northeast to be with his wife, a native of the area, he knew he had to bring a little bit of his Pacific Northwest roots with him. Those roots included the vines and their fruit in the form of a substantial wine section from that part of the country at Johnson’s new store, Putnam and Vine, which has replaced Le Wine Shop at 39 East Elm St. in Greenwich.
“When it was Le Wine Shop, I just felt the image or perception was that we just had French or high-end wine,” Johnson said. “So we rebranded and made some changes. We had a cooler in the stockroom and we brought that up front and we added beer. … We changed the racks and can store roughly one-third more wine. It’s all about the customer experience and we wanted to make it more open and friendly to improve that.” Johnson, a Seattle native, purchased the shop in May and spent several months rebranding and reorganizing it before celebrating the grand opening of Putnam and Vine on Oct. 3.
Johnson got his start in the wine business when he went to work for Scarsdale, N.Y.-based Zachys Wine and Liquor, one of the largest retailers of fine wines and spirits in the U.S., in 2009. He worked for a few other small wine stores before purchasing Le Wine Shop. Though his career in the wine business started in 2009, Johnson said his Pacific Northwest roots have led to a lifelong interest in the business.
“Growing up in Seattle, there’s just so much great Washington State wine,” Johnson said. “I also love to cook, and wine goes great with that.”
In addition to a large selection of Pacific Northwest wines, which are hard to find in Fairfield County, Johnson said there are a few other things that will set Putnam and Vine apart from other wine stores in the area. The first is a “2 for $20” section featuring a variety of wines typically priced much higher than $10 a bottle. Johnson said he wants to provide a relative bargain for customers and help them experience a greater variety of wines without breaking the bank. “This is Greenwich and we’re right by (Greenwich) Avenue, so people expect it to be really expensive, but we want to deliver value and quality at every price point,” Johnson said.
Additionally, Johnson and his friend Tony McCord, a retired investment banker with a passion for wine and spirits who helps in the store, taste everything — with the exception of a few really high priced items — that goes on the shelf. This allows Johnson to make sure everything the store offers is of the highest quality in addition to helping him educate customers about what they’re purchasing, which is one of his main goals for the store.
Beginning in January, Putnam and Vine will offer a wine club. Members will receive two bottles of wine a month for $49 or four bottles for $99. The wines for the club will never repeat and will be from a different area of the world every month. Additionally, Johnson said there will be monthly tasting and education parties where members will visit the store to pick up their wine and learn about what they’re drinking. If that sounds like too much of a commitment, Johnson and McCord said they encourage customers to stop by for free wine tastings every Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m.
The store has 7,000 bottles of wine and spirits, including 17 ryes, 24 bourbons and 49 scotches. The store also puts together kits with everything customers need to make a specific drink. Johnson said the kits have been popular gifts this holiday season.
“We’re getting a tremendous response from the neighborhood. People who never knew there was a wine store here have come in and had a blast,” McCord said. “We’re really enjoying this experience so far.”