BinVin - Wine and Beer

By DAN NIELSEN dnielsen@record-eagle.com
TRAVERSE CITY — Helping people navigate the complex world of wine is what Bon Vin is all about, Mark Dressler said.
"Wine shouldn't be sophisticated," he said. "We're not in the snobbery business."
He and business partner Ric Serrini carved out a niche in Traverse City as guides to the complex quilt of flavors contained in the bottles on their shelves.
Serrini spent 38 years working at the Village Corner in Ann Arbor, a wine shop of widespread reputation and where he educated his palate and became a human lexicon of viniculture knowledge. After that shop closed, he and Dressler opened Bon Vin in Traverse City three years ago.
Dressler devoted much of his professional career to the book publishing world, and spent more than two decades basically alone in front of a computer monitor. There came a point where the solitude was too much to handle.
"I had to be out among others," he said.
His personal knowledge of wine is apparent as he helps customers select bottles from the hundreds on the shelves.
"This one is raisin-y," he said of one bottle, "It's distinctive."
Together, Dressler and Serrini assembled an astounding collection of wines in their unassuming storefront at 539 E. Eighth Street. Prices start at $8, with plenty of bottles in the $12 to $20 range. They concentrate on European vintages, said Dressler, because that's where a long history has allowed flavor and price to live happily together.

The two mostly discover new wines through the efforts of wholesale distributors, the only route wine stores in Michigan can legally purchase their stock. Various distributor representatives typically show up at Bon Vin at least four days a week, Dressler said, each with four to 10 bottles of wine to taste.

"We taste a lot of bad wines so our customers don't have to," he said. "It's a treasure hunt."
At least twice a year, wholesalers also host trade shows in Traverse City. At those, local retailers can sample up to 200 wines in a day.
Dressler said his real pleasure comes from helping people to find wines that go well with meals and to educate their palates. That personal interaction includes talking about recipes and meals. He said he recently had a conversation with a customer about a particular dish. Two hours later, she called to make sure she was proceeding correctly.
That personal service helped expand Bon Vin's customer base, he said, and sales are improving every month as word of mouth spreads.
"We're trending in the right direction," he said.
The shop also regularly hosts tasting events. Luca Papini, of Tenuta Villa Tavernago, in Italy, will be at Bon Vin on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. to present a free tasting.