Waterford Wine Co. Opens

by Tim Lambrecht

Ben Christiansen, owner of The Waterford Wine Company is soft-spoken, knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. He is also passionate about wine, education and service.

“Being able to talk to people about what they are looking for is an advantage I can offer. Some people are seeking basic advice while others are very technical, ‘why is this vintage different from that one?’ for example.” As you enter the store, you notice the subtle tasteful decorations and soft music. It is a very comfortable atmosphere to talk about and purchase wines. A relaxed atmosphere helps people ask questions and contributes to the success of the store.

“When a person comes in and they want some help choosing a wine, the first thing I ask them is if they prefer reds or whites,” Ben explains. “The next question would be do they like lighter or heavier wines, and most people will know their preference. Then I ask them if they prefer a Pinot Grigio or a Chardonnay. Many customers will know their preference but if they don’t, I can give them a sample and based on their reaction, I can usually steer them in the direction of something I think they will like.”

The wines are arranged from the lighter bodied wines in the back to the heavier bodied wines up front in the store, and the more expensive wines are on the higher shelves. The price range is from $5 to $300.

Originally from Iowa, Ben has lived in Milwaukee for five years. He resides on the East side with his wife, Susan, and son, Arthur. “I was a stay-at-home father and before that I was a cook, so I guess that’s where my wine background comes from,” he says. He has cooked in some of the Midwest’s finest restaurants, including Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and Dream Dance in Milwaukee. He was also at Restaurant Vecchio Mondo where he managed the wine and dinner functions.

He learned a lot about wines while taking culinary classes, but stays informed by studying and reading reviews. “There has been more interest in Pinot Noirs versus Merlots, and that’s because of (the movie) Sideways. I think that’s true everywhere. That’s the biggest trend in the wine world right now.” Ben said wine tastings and vineyard tours have been increasing due to the exposure from the film. The grand opening party for his store drew 400 people!

Ben also offers classes on the basics of wine appreciation and food pairing as well as tasting events.

“I chose all of the wines here myself and I chose each one for different reasons,” Ben explains. He adds that he doesn’t have one favorite wine. He compares himself to a teacher trying to choose a favorite student. “You don’t necessarily have favorites but you take them for what they are.”

The Waterford Wine Company is located at 1327 East Brady Street and is open 11 am to 9 pm Monday through Saturday and 12 to 5 Sundays. For more information, call 289-WINE or go to www.waterfordwine.com.

Riverwest Currents online edition – May, 2006