Business Review – October 2008

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Business Review October 2008.

JV Wine & Spirits – “Where The Napa Valley Shops For Wine”

By Craig Smith

Although JV Wine & Spirits customers know it as a great place to shop, they may not know that JV carries the largest wine selection of any store between San Francisco and Portland. Inventory at JV tops 4,000 wines, which include 1,000 imported wines, 450 cabs and 500 chardonnays.  JV is the number one retailer in the country for smaller wineries producing 2,000 to 3,000 cases per year. When surveyed, 85% of Napans responded that they shop JV. Not surprisingly, local wine makers shop for wine there more than any place else in the valley.  Yet, despite their success, the store still has the comfortable hometown feel that store founder Joe Vallerga insisted on as a feature of all his stores.

In 1947, Vallerga opened a grocery store on First Street near Silverado Trail. It was a small Mom and Pop operation and carried the family name. From the beginning, the new Vallerga’s offered great customer service and products, and also made generous donations to local non profits. The store was a success, which translated into more and bigger stores, and Vallerga’s became an important part of the community.

The Napa Valley was changing, however, becoming established as a world-renowned wine region. Locally, the demand for quality wines increased. In response, Vallerga’s opened a chain of corner wine and spirits stores called ‘Val’s.” The original Vallerga’s store was converted to a warehouse for the other stores, including the new Val’s.

Trying something new, Vallerga decided to open that warehouse to the public, stacking the merchandise in boxes versus on shelving, and JV Beverage Warehouse was born. The concept was an instant hit with customers.  JV recognized that it could enhance its wine presence even more, and began looking for the right person to help them accomplish that. It was then that Jon Sévigny landed on the scene.

Sévigny is a native of Montreal, Canada, who received both his Sommelier degree and diploma from Wine and Spirits Education Trust in Vancouver, and the Society of Wine Educators. He moved to St. Helena in the late 1990’s. His connections with the wine industry were strong. Sévigny offered to give the staff at JV some wine courses. About three weeks into the program, he knew that the best way for staff to learn was by example. He started working the floor, stayed through the Christmas season and simply never left. Today, Sévigny is JV’s Head Sommelier.

Under Sévigny, JV began to grow stronger. A couple of years later, Meryll Cawn, with undoubtedly one of the best palates in the industry, came aboard as store manager and sommelier. Several years ago, to reflect the size and quality of its inventory and its development into a destination for wine buyers, the store changed its name to JV Wine & Spirits.

“JV is where people come when they want something different, unusual and special,” said Sevigny. Customers include everyone from wedding and corporate event planners to people who don’t know much about wine at all.  JV is not in the least bit snooty, and welcomes everyone. “We’re far more than just a great wine shop,” said Sevigny. “We carry 550 different beers.  It’s fun to watch guys come in, look at our selection, and just start smiling. We’ve got 1200 spirits from around the world, and one of the best Tequila selections you’ll find anywhere. But at heart, we’re still a small store.”

JV Wine & Spirits
301 First Street
At the corner of First
and Silverado Trail.
Open seven days a week.
253-2624. There is plenty of parking. In addition, you can chose from 1,200 wines online at http://www.jvwine.com.

http://www.napavalleymarketplace.com

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