The Chesapeake Wine Company

By Cathy Adams

     The Chesapeake Wine Company successfully combines a retail liquor store and a wine bar in its spacious location in the American Can project on Boston Street.

     Mitchell Presssman, the owner, was driving by during the reconstruction of the Can Company and was intrigued enough by the site to call the developer to find out if they were interested in having a wine store there. They were, but they also liked the idea of having a wine bar.

     Up until that point Pressman, who was a wine consultant at the time, hadn't considered opening up his own place, but the developer asked him to come up with a proposal and six months later it was a reality. "I was excited, and I still am," said Pressman. Even though Pressman has 21 years experience in the wine business "this is the first place I've owned. I'm the boss, for better and worse."

     The Chesapeake Wine Company has deliberately avoided the clutter of "row after row of labels" and crowded aisles of boxes, and instead has an inventory of 300-500 carefully selected wines. And that includes a good selection of wines for under $10 a bottle.

     "I've tasted every wine in here or it's earned it's reputation," Pressman said. His philosophy is to "unintimidate people" and have an atmosphere where customers are "welcome to peruse the shelves, but we're here to offer advice or information" if they want it. One of Pressman's definitions of a good wine is one that provides pleasure from start to finish, "where you finish the last glass and you're not tired of it." Pressman was able to purchase an existing "tavern" license, that allows him to serve wines (as well as beer, grappas and single malt scotches) in the store, a luxury that few wine shops have.

     The small free-standing "bar" in the middle of the store is a comfortable setting to enjoy a glass of wine. The wine menu offers ten to twelve wines, and generally there are about another dozen special wines available. The prices range from $5-17 per glass with $7.50 being the average.

     The Chesapeake Wine Company also carries an assortment of cheese, pates, breads, smoked salmon and trout to serve at the bar or for take home. The crusty and chewy baguettes and boules, from the Bonaparte Bakery in Savage Mill, are delivered seven days a week. The selection, while not large, includes interesting cheeses like chevres (goat's milk cheeses), Rocquefort, Stilton, Maytag Blue, Mahon (a Spanish cow's milk cheese) or Manchego (a Spanish sheep's milk cheese).

     Pressman said his average customer comes in looking for "something for dinner tonight and wants some help with a recommendation." Of course with the onset of summer, beer sales have doubled, but reds, especially Merlots and the Rhone varietals (Shiraz and Syrah) are still strong sellers. And for whites, the best seller is still Chardonnay. The Chesapeake Wine Company also hosts popular wine tastings on Tuesday nights and classes on Sunday afternoons.

The Chesapeake Wine Company
2400 Boston Street
Baltimore, MD
(410) 522-4556

     Tuesday Tastings
start at 6:30
$20 per person, unless otherwise noted.

     June 15
Barbie (Q) Wines
Wines to go with grilled fish, steak, chicken and vegetables.

     June 22
Pinot: White (Blanc), Red (Noir) and Gray (Gris/Grigio) Great tasting Pinots

     Sunday Classes
$20 per person, unless otherwise noted.

     June 13
Wine Class: Basics
What wine is, how to taste it, and the basic styles.

     June 20
Spain: Wine and Food Tasting

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