Wine for Dummies. It was the first book that a twenty-something waiter at Ruth\u2019s Chris Steak House, Dustin Wilson, read to nurture his burgeoning interest in wine. You\u2019d never know it when, some years later, he passed the master sommelier exam, a painstaking experience captured in the 2012 documentary, Somm.\r\n\r\nAfter stints as a sommelier for acclaimed restaurants like Aspen\u2019s The Little Nell and San Francisco\u2019s RN74, as well as his dream job, wine director at New York City\u2019s acclaimed Eleven Madison Park, Wilson ventured out on his own.\r\n\r\n\u201cI always thought I would open restaurant,\u201d he says. \u201cBut as I got older, I started to think about work-life balance, and a restaurant is the antithesis of that.\u201d\r\n\r\nThat sentiment, coupled with a feeling that wine shops could use \u201ca little freshening up,\u201d led to Verve Wine. With business partner Derrick Mize, they opened a store in New York City\u2019s well-heeled Tribeca neighborhood. A San Francisco outpost followed in June 2018.\r\n\r\n\r\nA Shop Made for Lingering\r\nDon\u2019t be surprised if you take one step inside the bright, sunlit shop in San Francisco\u2019s Pacific Heights and have the desire to relax with a glass of wine.\r\n\r\n\u201cPeople come by and ask if this is a wine bar or just a store,\u201d says Wilson. \u201cThey want to hang out and eat and drink.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe welcoming vibe comes courtesy of sleek design and a stunning white marble table in the center of the space, where the shop hosts frequent winemaker seminars and tastings.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe table is front and center, because it\u2019s a big part of what we do,\u201d he says. \u201cWe like putting people in front of winemakers and producers. Yes, it helps to sell wine, but it also brings new people into the store and builds a sense of community.\u201d\r\n\r\nUnlike the New York City shop, which replaced an existing wine store, the San Francisco location began as a raw space that Wilson and Mize customized to their liking.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt was a cleaner start, so we got to do what we wanted with the materials, the colors and the functionality,\u201d says Wilson.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nRichard Felix-Ashman of Handel Architects designed the oak-floored interior. Wilson loves the tall, white shelving and the photos from the shop\u2019s Instagram account that decorate the walls.\r\n\r\n\u201cOne of the things we really wanted was to have it look nice, without being a fancy wine shop,\u201d he says. \u201cIt has fine-looking details, but doesn\u2019t feel stuffy at all. Rather, it\u2019s warm and comfortable.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe San Francisco shop carries about 3,000 bottles, while a nearby storage unit houses thousands more. Selections can be ordered from that offsite inventory at the store, and a majority can be delivered to homes the same day or the next day, a service not currently available at the New York City location.\r\n\r\nAfter hours, Wilson uses the space for full buy-out events that include everything from a five-course dinner with pairings from an Austrian wine producer to a group of friends who just want to sample some bottles.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe got a great caterer, turned up the music and made it like a party,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\n\r\nSmaller is Better\r\nA return to San Francisco was in the cards from the get-go. \u201cI love the wine culture and community there,\u201d says Wilson. The bicoastal locations help grow its online business by cutting down on shipping deficiencies.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe wanted to increase our ability to find the kinds of wines we tend to deal with\u2014small, family-owned producers who don\u2019t make a lot of wine,\u201d he says. \u201cThey ship small quantities, and we had more limited access in New York.\u201d\r\n\r\nWilson has always favored wines from smaller wineries who, as he puts it, \u201cmake things in a sustainable way and pay respect to local grapes, traditions, terroir and history.\u201d\r\n\r\nHe\u2019s always trying to educate his customers, and to do so, Wilson expands his own knowledge and seeks out new producers.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFor those who don\u2019t live near New York City or San Francisco, Verve Wine\u2019s website has a section called \u201cDustin\u2019s Recs,\u201d which highlights wines he\u2019s excited about right now.\r\n\r\nSpain tops his current list, specifically wines from Galicia and Catalonia.\r\n\r\n\u201cThey\u2019re not necessarily using modern techniques, but we\u2019re seeing more local grape varieties from people who are taking a hands-off, natural approach,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nOne producer he points to is Alberto Nanclares, who makes what Wilson describes as a mineral-driven, somewhat salty wine that uses Albari\u00f1o grapes.\r\n\r\nWilson also recommends a little known Spanish region: Sierra de Gredos, set high in the mountains about an hour west of Madrid. There, Comando G creates single-vineyard Grenache that includes the Tierra de Castilla y Le\u00f3n 2015 \u201cEl Tamboril,\u201d which blends organic Garnacha Gris and Garnacha Blanca from sandy, granite soil.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a collaboration between two friends, and it\u2019s cool that they\u2019re really championing this place and single-handedly making it special,\u201d he says. \u201cAnd when you taste the wine, it\u2019s the opposite of [most preconceived notions of] Grenache. If you love Burgundy and Pinot Noir, you\u2019ll love these.\u201d\r\n\r\nWilson\u2019s goal with Verve is to give small producers a bigger platform.\r\n\r\n\u201cThat\u2019s my dream, to put them in the spotlight so that people can see and learn about them,\u201d he says.