Silver Lake, a district just east of Hollywood, has been dubbed L.A.’s Hipsterville. The weekly Monday night tasting events at neighborhood wine shop Silverlake Wine (it’s one word unlike the district name) are packed with trendy, creative types, who, despite all PBR stereotypes surrounding the hipster genre, line up, imbibe and linger. People in their 20s appear to dominate the room. The popular store, thus, provides an interesting case study on the drinking habits of Millennials, the demographic following Generation X, whose birth dates range roughly from the mid 1970s to the lat 1990s. With about 70 million Millennials in the U.S., wine retailers have a unique opportunity to establish relationships with a new generation of customers—one that has the potential to drive wine trends in the U.S. over the next 30 years. Wine Enthusiast recently spoke with Randy Clement, one of the owners of Silverlake Wine, about the best way for wine shops to appeal to younger wine lovers.
Wine Enthusiast: Silver Lake has been called L.A.’s hipsterville. Since you opened, have you made any interesting discoveries about younger wine drinkers?
Randy Clement: Young people will try anything. They are 1,000 percent more open.
WE: Why do you think your store is so popular with Millennials?
RC: It was never a target idea. When I was 22 I was the assistant wine director at a high profile LA restaurant. I would go out and know about XYZ wine, but if there was another wine I didn’t know I’d ask about it and get an abrasive, condescending response. People wouldn’t want to spend time with me because I was younger. So when we opened this store, we knew this place could never have that affect on people.
WE: How do you tailor the wine shop experience to younger wine drinkers?
RC: We ask customers about the occasion, food and price and we become like a retail sommelier. We’re always trying to cultivate and educate, so if someone comes to the store 10 times in a row wanting to buy a $10 bottle of wine, he’s going to get a different wine every time.
WE:Â You have three tastings a week. How do you keep them interesting?
RCt: Young people are the first not to care about what’s accepted and known, so we show them things that are small production, boutique and always different. On Sundays we have friends from different restaurants come in and serve hors d’oeuvres, so the tastings become a dual exploratory experience. In December we asked Let’s Be Frank to park their hotdog truck in front of our store for a Thursday night tasting and it worked out really well. It was huge.
WE: What varietal is most popular in your store?
RC: Pinot Noir is probably the most consistent seller.
WE: What wines have taken off lately?
RC: The Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, Servilio Roble Ribera Del Duero 2005, Perfecta Pinot Noir Edna Valley 2006, and Gouguenheim Winery Malbec Mendoza 2007.
WE: What are some of the industry’s biggest misperceptions about Millennials?
RC: That they don’t have any money. That they’re not going to understand what you give them. That it’s difficult to talk to people who know nothing about wine.
WE: What advice would you give wine shops that want to reach younger customers?
RC:Â Be nice to everyone. That’s the core of how we built this business and what’s made it thrive. We treat everyone exactly the same. It goes beyond wine.