Wine Enthusiast Magazine has chosen Stew Leonard’s Wines as its Wine Retailer of the Year. Each shop is independently owned and operated, with three stores in Connecticut, three in New York and three in New Jersey. Stew Leonard’s Wines aren’t a chain or cooperative buying group, and aren’t part of the Stew Leonard’s grocery chain.
The stores received the annual award in recognition of their commitment to customer service, employee training, and unique and innovative product offerings at competitive prices. Additional features are signs offering food and wine pairings, tasting notes, and history, along with a comfortable, inviting atmosphere. Previous recipients of the honor include Sherry-Lehmann and Spec's Wine, Spirits & Finer Foods.
“I’ve learned a lot about food and retailing from my father,” noted Stew Leonard, Jr., president and CEO of Norwalk, Conn.-based Stew Leonard’s. “When the wine business was first starting up in 1999, we visited many wine retailers here in the U.S., including our friends at Applejack and Total Wine, as well as around the world, and we’ve shared ideas. They’ve helped us a lot. It’s been exciting for us to take our food and farming background and add wine.”
Since the first store opened in Yonkers, N.Y. in 1999, Stew Leonard’s Wines has grown to almost $100 million in sales, with 150 associates at nine stores in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. The locations also attract some of the most famous names in food and wine for tastings and events, among them Martha Stewart, Giada DeLaurentiis, Bobby Flay, Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali.
Stew Leonard’s Wines “ legendary customer service and great pricing, combined with a great selection of wines, creates a friendly, affordable entry point into wine for customers not really comfortable with such purchases,” noted Adam M. Strum, editor and publisher of Mount Kisco, N.Y.-based Wine Enthusiast Magazine. “And there’s plenty for the more experienced wine lover as well.”
Each year, the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine recognize outstanding achievement in the wine world, in that given year and over time. As well as Retailer of the Year, other categories recognized are Winemaker of the Year, Restaurateur of the Year, American Winery of the Year, Importer of the Year and a Lifetime Achievement Award. The winners are revealed in the publication’s Dec. 15 issue, and the honorees will receive their awards at a gala black-tie dinner in New York in January.