New Plum Market- From Michigan to Chicago with Wine
Plum Market, one of Michigan’s premium wine and specialty grocers, opened its first Illinois location at 1233 North Wells Street in Chicago on June 26th.
Certified Sommelier Anthony Minne relocated from the Plum Market in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to manage the wine department in the new Chicago store.
Wine has always been an important part of Plum Market. C0-founder Marc Jonna was once a wine buyer at Whole Foods and he was directly involved in designing the impressive wine section and wine bar on Wells Street.
“We have over 900 selections of wine and 700 selections of spirits,” Minne said. “We do have a wide range of varietals and regions represented, but the wine buying experience here is fun and manageable. We don’t think you need to have 40 Pinot Grigios to be successful.”
At Plum Market, beverage sales are 15% of total sales, which is high by industry standards. “We don’t treat wine like a secondary item,” Minne said. “Instead, we’re more like a European market where you can get your food and wine together.”
Plum Market is known for stocking a wide selection of Michigan wines at its Michigan Stores. In Bloomfied Hills, Minne said he had approximately sixty different Michigan wines.
“We will have plenty of Michigan wine at the Chicago Plum Market; I’d also like to learn more about the wines from Illinois, Ohio and other parts of our region,” Minne said.
While Minne and Plum Market are supporters of Midwest wine, they do not evaluate U.S. regional wine differently. “Any wine region has to compete on a world level to succeed,” Minne said. “I have to be able to tell a customer that a Riesling from Michigan is as good as a Riesling from Germany, and now I can honestly say that.”
Minne said the Midwest reds are the toughest sell because they can lack “that richness that American wine drinkers have come to expect.”
Minne’s advice to regional wineries that are trying to appeal to an urban wine drinker is to use the local angle. “It’s most effective to use the customer’s emotional connection to the region. If a customer has a physical reference point in a wine region, then they have a connection.”
Minne started in the wine industry in another Jonna family venture- Merchant’s Fine Wine- in Grosse Point Michigan at age 13 doing odd jobs. He also worked for a stint at Veritas Distributor in Michigan. Then he moved into restaurant work with an eye on becoming a sommelier with Madeline Triffon as his mentor. “Two weeks before the exam, she (Triffon) said “you’re not ready,” so I spent every night with Patrick Peterson, the somm at Coach Insignia restaurant in Detroit, who is one of the best service people I’ve ever seen.” (Peterson now works at Plum Market.)
“At Plum Market, we’re wine geeks that don’t turn up our noses at people who are not wine geeks. We cater to everyone,” Minne said.
See related story: Midwest Wine Fighting Its Way Into Chicago