For cellar master Ed Schlich, wine is a democratic beverage that anyone should enjoy without concern about their knowledge of the products.
"People have been intimidated by others when it comes to wine. If they dare to go into a wine store and been accosted by a merchant who was less than welcoming, they are put off by the whole experience," shared Schlich.
At OlyWines, Schlich offers more than just choices of bottles. He provides an educational experience for people and helps them "embark on their journey" with wine. He said wines have many flavors that touch on cultural, historical and culinary points.
"I like to share the [wine's] provenance – where it comes from, its history and cultural ties," Schlich said in an interview with The JOLT.
OlyWines, located at 321 Cleveland Avenue SE, Suite 309 Tumwater, opened in April.
Its Facebook page stated that Oly Wines has a great range of catalogs from all over the world. These wine collections are from Washington, Oregon, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia/New Zealand, California, South America, Israel, Lebanon – even Uruguay -- all housed in a 640-square-foot shop.
He is confident that people will be satisfied with the price of his wines because people generally have an impression that wines are expensive. "Wine, being 'democratic,’ should not be more than $15. It should be accessible, price-wise."
OlyWines, he added, has a lot of bottles under $20. He has great lines in the $11 to $17 range.
Wine, his passion
Schlich has more than 40 years of experience in the wine industry.
He claims to have had great mentors and a broad education in everything wine-related.
After attending college in Virginia, he started winemaking. "Then a family friend pulled me out of the vineyards of Virginia and said, 'I need you at Windows on the World'."
Windows on the World was the fine restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center in New York City. Schlich worked at Windows on the World from 1978 to 1979. He was doing the equivalent work that’s now usually called a sommelier – a wine steward.
"We didn't use the word sommelier back then because of the snobbism association with anything French in wine," he said. Instead: He was the Cellar Master.
When not on the restaurant floor doing cellar mastering, Schlich was responsible for holding a reserve list of about 4,000 different wines.
He went to France and worked in a vineyard, starting as a helper and then moving over to selling wines to the public and as a wholesaler-importer. He was there for 17 years.
When COVID-19 hit, everything went online.
By then, Schlich was in Bogota, Columbia, teaching English, mainly to business people there.
"I wasn't born with a mouse in my hand, and I got sick of clicking,” Schlich said. “But students loved my lessons because I taught life lessons through language. These were the kids who are computer programmers, computer tech specialists in Bogota," said the 61-year-old wine connoisseur.
When he came home in August last year, he started planning the wine business. At first, he had a partner who wanted to do business online. It means more "clicking" for him. Schlich says he is a brick-and-mortar guy and prefers dealing with people, not computers. They parted ways.
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