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Wine Talk With Sarah Pierre of 3 Parks Wine Shop

Pierre explains how she got into the business and the process of recommending varietals for novice drinkers.

Sarah Pierre at 3 Parks Wine Shop.
Sarah Pierre at 3 Parks Wine Shop.
Jonathan Phillips/Eater Atlanta

3 Parks Wine Shop is aptly named considering its proximity to three Atlanta park neighborhoods, Grant, Glenwood, and Ormewood Parks. 3 Parks is located in the Enso building on Glenwood Avenue, just steps from two popular Atlanta restaurants, The Shed and Gunshow.

Sarah Pierre, owner and managing partner of 3 Parks, has overseen the shop's growth over the past two-and-a-half years. Eater recently talked with Sarah about her background in wine and food and what it's like to own and manage a popular neighborhood wine shop in Atlanta.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in wine.

I worked in the hospitality-restaurant industry most of my life. My real restaurant stint started with the Here to Serve Restaurant Group a little more than 10 years ago. In 2008, I moved to New York and worked at one of Danny Meyer's restaurants, Maialino, for a while. That was awesome as I just plunged right into the Italian wine list because I really had no idea what I was doing. After that I came back to Atlanta and worked with the Star Provisions group at Bacchanalia, Floataway Café, and Abattoir. I was working in management, and when you start selling great wines, you really have to know what you're talking about. The passion for wine grew from there. It really started in New York as I was I exposed to so much more and really got passionate about wine. After a brief stint in an altogether different industry, the opportunity for 3 Parks came about and it pulled me right back in. It's completely different, running a restaurant and running a wine shop. I didn't know retail at all; I'd never even worked in a wine shop before. But I figured it out. I guess I'm still figuring it out, but it's been good so far.

Can you tell us your philosophy and approach to how you stock the shop at 3 Parks?

I tried to give the neighborhood a selection they wouldn't find when they went to the grocery store. There are definitely wines here that you can find in other places, but I like small-production wines, family-owned vineyards, and family-owned properties. I wouldn't say I only go organic or bio-dynamic, but smaller production is what I'm looking for when picking wines for the shop. I'm also thinking of my customers and what they are looking for when they come in to the shop. We have wines from a broad price spectrum, from wines that cost 10 dollars on up to a couple hundred dollars. But the customers' sweet spot, especially in this neighborhood, is the $15-$25 range. This is the price range where my customers feel comfortable when I'm introducing them to a new varietal or producer. When a customer comes in asks for a chardonnay or merlot, I can suggest other things, but I know they don't want to push the envelope when it comes to their wallets.

How have you managed developing a customer base in the neighborhood?

I think every neighborhood wants a neighborhood wine shop. Especially these days, where so many people want to learn about wine. People come in all the time and say, "I know nothing about wine; help me." When we came in the neighborhood, people were really receptive, almost automatically, because they just wanted to learn. And the people who already knew about wine, their only option in this area was a supermarket, which is fine, but it's not a hand-picked, curated list. I spent time building relationships and making friends in the neighborhood, and being accessible. I'm from Atlanta, so I had a ton of friends and supporters right off the bat, which provided us an established customer base. I still try to give our customers wine options they wouldn't find when they went to a grocery store. I would say 75 percent of our customers are from within a five-mile radius, so we definitely have the support of the local community.

What do the customers who are new to wine ask the most about?

Some people are looking for alternatives to wines they've already tried. Customers often come in and say specifically that they don't want a dry wine, or they don't like overly tannic wine. So, I try to give them alternatives. A lot of people who are new to wine have one word that sticks, and often it's the big grapes, like chardonnay or cabernet. Those wines are popular and are the wines customers know. Or pinot noir, they recognize that because they've heard of it, but they don't really know if they like it. I try to get customers to tell me what they like or don't like about a wine, and then I can steer them in the right direction. I tell people that by the third time I recommend a wine to someone I can feel confident about knowing their palate.

Are there any challenges in running a wine shop in Georgia these days?

I guess pricing is a bit of a challenge. There are some states where pricing is more consistent across the board with everyone. I spend a good bit of time finding wines for customers. Customers will often come in and ask about a wine that they tired in Chicago or California and I will do my best to track that wine down for them.

What's your favorite wine region right now?

I can't say I have a favorite right now. I'm all across the board with my wines right now. I order and try different wines all the time. Though, I do think the wines from the south of France are really great and doing really well in the shop right now. They are value-driven, really easy to pair with food, and many are small production and family-owned. I do like Chenin Blanc right now, as well as most of the wines from the Loire Valley. We also keep a lot of rosé in the shop, especially in the summer.

Are there any regular events or tastings we should know about?

We have a free weekly wine tasting on Wednesday evenings when we open three or four bottles of wine. It's free and open to the public and is a great way to learn about new wines. We also open the space for private events in the store; customers have held bachelorette parties and other private events here.

What are you drinking these days when not drinking wine?

I drink wine. A lot of rosé and sparkling wine. I guess if I'm not drinking wine, and I just want a drink, probably a gin and tonic or a vodka soda. I don't typically drink a lot of beer. It's mostly wine. I have to taste a lot wine in this business.

Eater Atlanta contributor Dennis Attick