Teaching Seattle about the joys of wine

Dan McCarthy has been a leader in the local wine industry for more than 30 years

Dan McCarthy’s long relationship with wine began because of an argument.

The founder of what would eventually become McCarthy and Schiering Wine Merchants, walked into La Cantina wine shop in the 1970’s when he was in college because he had gotten into an argument over whether “Sauvignon” was a type of grape or a wine region and wanted to know the answer. 

Turns out, it’s a family of wines, such as Sauvignon vert or Sauvignon blanc.

La Cantina was located in the University Village, and the owner was flustered with how busy his store was and how few employees he had there. McCarthy left the owner his contact information and told him he would be happy to help. 

“He called me five days later,” McCarthy notes.

Thus began McCarthy’s rise to being one of the Puget Sound area’s premiere wine merchants. 

McCarthy began working as a wine wholesaler until 1980 when he decided to open his own business. 

“I risked going into business with the very little money I had,” he says. “Thirty years later we’re still here.” 

His first store was in Ravenna. Jay Schiering, a geologist, was a frequent customer, and they became partners in 1984. 

“He was tired of geology and was starting to love wine more and more and was looking for a way to get into the business. I was trying to make a struggling business survive, so becoming partners helped.”

But both men wanted to manage a shop. So, in 1990, McCarthy opened his Queen Anne store. 

The store is now located in the A&J Meats building and has been there for the past 10 years. 

Early on, McCarthy and Schiering was special for the fact that the stores have wines from around the world that are personally selected by the staff. 

“We have a much broader range of wines than in grocery stores,” said McCarthy, whose stores hold thousands of bottles of wine. Most of McCarthy’s customers have been coming in for years and he has developed friendships with them. “I like to think of them as family. It’s obviously a business but it’s a fun and friendly business. There are other ways to make more money but very few ways to have as much fun.” 

McCarthy uses between 40 and 50 wine distributors, and he tries to access any distributor a customer is looking for. His best selling wines tend to be the 2008 and 2009 Oregon Pinot Noirs. “Oregon has become the new fascination,” McCarthy added.

 As for his own favorite wines, McCarthy said he likes White Burgundy, describing Burgundy as “my passion.”

One of McCarthy’s main projects is trying to adapt to the new world of social networking. He believes it is a great way to reach a younger clientele and he doesn’t want to be lost in the shuffle. 

However, he acknowledges he still has a ways to go. His company website doesn’t yet link to the company’s Facebook page, and he is still working out many kinks when it comes to issues such as blogging, posting current photos and just understanding this new universe of social media. 

“At some point the older generation stops drinking or buying wine as much so our future will be dependent on catering to the young generation,” McCarthy said.

He is working on being  more active on the company’s Facebook page in order to post notices of upcoming wine tastings and pictures of their events. Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the wine store hosts a complimentary tasting and McCarthy frequently invites winemakers to attend and then focus the tasting on their wines.

His goal is to get younger people to come to his tastings, so posting pictures or writing about the events should give them a better understanding of this type of environment. 

McCarthy also frequently hosts wine tasting dinners and believes that if he can get younger members to attend the tastings and dinners, they will see how truly fun and interesting the world can be.

Says McCarthy, “A lot of people in the younger generation see tastings and dinners as formal and awkward but they are actually really enlightening.”



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