By Bev Stenehjem
One of the first invitations I received after moving to Reno was a get-together with a group of friends at Whispering Vine. I had heard it was a popular wine-tasting bar where all the locals go. What I didn’t know was the back story: it was Reno’s first wine-bar when it opened 22 years ago – owned by Curtis Worrall, a local visionary who knew that Reno was ready for wine.
I caught up with Brian Lalor, the wine manager for Whispering Vine’s Fourth Street location. According to the company’s website, Brian is “the man you call when no one else will do.” Brian oversees the wine inventory at all four locations and does the special ordering. He and the owner also taste new wines together and decide which ones they want to carry.
It’s no wonder why people depend on Brian – he has worked there for more than fifteen years.
“I love the environment here,” says Brian. “Not too many people are as blessed as I am to go to work and talk about their passions. The owner has been very generous and has created an environment that is fun to work at.”
“As a company, we beat all local prices and price-match, as well,” explained Brian. “Along with our great prices, we have great customer service. We connect with our customers — many of whom are “regulars” – and after getting to know their palates, we are able to put something they will like in their hands. On any given day, we have up to forty different wines that are open for customers to taste before purchasing.”
The business has expanded to four Reno locations: in addition to the Fourth Street location, there is a Whispering Vine in Midtown, one at Foothill Road and one at Mayberry Drive. The Fourth Street location is the largest venue; offering 3,000 different wines and the only location that offers a menu of small plates, including specialties like Braised Bison Short Rib Sliders, Smoked Chili Glazed Flank Steak, Escargot with Cognac, Lobster Rolls, Steamed Clams, soups and salads and many other delectable items.
“Because we only have a kitchen at our Fourth Street location, customers at the other three locations are welcome to bring in their own food and many people order delivery from nearby restaurants,” said Brian.
Expansive wine selection, spirits too
Although a majority of the wines are domestic, there is a section for imported wines from Italy, France and Spain. These wines offer a great value with many priced at $15 and under.
“We pride ourselves on finding great deals on great wines. We search for that bottle of wine that tastes like a $20 bottle but only costs $10 – or a bottle that sells for $30 but tastes like $100. Right now, we are selling a Cabernet from Daou Vineyards out of Paso Robles for only $21. It’s a wine where every vintage scores consistently well. Another best-seller is Butter, a chardonnay with local ties, selling for only $11.49.”
What some people don’t realize is that in addition to all the wine, Whispering Vine has a full bar including a large variety of spirits. Customers can order from the “Whiskey Bible” and customize a flight of three whiskeys or bourbons.
“Right now, our best-selling spirit is Frey Ranch – a local whiskey out of Fallon,” said Brian. “Our business is unique in that we offer spirits from private label barrels that are bottled exclusively just for us. Currently, we have approximately eight different private barrels including tequila, bourbon, whiskey and gin.”
In addition to the wine flights offered on their regular menu, special tasting flights are offered every Thursday and focus on certain categories, examples being Oregon Pinot Noir, Napa Cabernet or international varietals. The typical cost of these wine flights is $15 and includes four generous pours.
“And once per month, we offer wine tastings from various wineries. Either the winemaker, owner or rep comes out and talks about their winery and pours up to 10-12 different wines. These evenings include gourmet, passed hors d’oeuvres, too,” said Brian.
When asked about the secret of having a successful business for 22 years, Brian explained, “Our competitive advantage is that we buy in bulk and by connecting with our customers we are able to personalize our services. And importantly, we have an owner who cares about people and has always given back to the community. People don’t forget that.”
Readers can find “Deals of the Week” on the whimsical and highly entertaining website: www.whisperingvinewine.com. Customers can sign up while in the store to receive a weekly emailed newsletter, which details upcoming events and specials.
Note: Whispering Vine is still open during Nevada’s “stay at home” order for picking up bottles and take-out-orders of food. Call (775) 786-1323 to place your order.
Bev recently moved to Reno from the Bay Area where she finished out a career in Human Resources and, as a side gig, wrote about the local wineries there in a weekly wine column. She also published a historical photo book, The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley. A self-described wine enthusiast, Bev enjoys discovering the people behind the wine, becoming friends and celebrating good times. Bev is a member of Nevada Vines and Wines and is excited to explore and share Reno’s budding wine industry with our readers.
This Is Reno is your source for award-winning independent, online Reno news and events since 2009. We are locally owned and operated.