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Wine Chat with Nesha Smith of Jamaica Liquor Warehouse

At The Wine Reckord

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Coming up to the first anniversary of The Jamaica Liquor Warehouse, which opened with great fanfare in November 2016, I am finally able to sit down with Managing Director Nesha Smith.

 

Chris Reckord (CR): How did you get involved in the wine business?

Nesha Smith (NS): I got involved with wines when I first moved to Montego Bay to take up a job offer at CPJ as a brand manager. There I managed both wine and spirits brands and got my first taste of the industry.

 

CR: How did the idea of Jamaica Liquor warehouse originate?

NS: The concept of Jamaica Liquor Warehouse came about as a result of my travelling. The concept of a walk-in retail liquor store is so common and popular around the world it always bothered me that we didn't have one in Jamaica, and with the growth in wine and spirits sales and knowledge in our country, I knew it was time.

 

CR: Wine seems to be very prominent. Why?

NS: Wine is definitely the popular choice right now. Wine isn't just a drink, it's an entire culture. It's aspirational, and people want to experience the finer things in life. The wine brands of the world have been doing an excellent job of making this dream more accessible to the average consumer. Making wine less intimidating is making it more popular.

 

CR: You also have a cafe. Was that part of the original plan? Or market demand?

NS: The cafe was not a part of the original plan, but being the foodie that I am, it was very hard for me to resist the opportunity to provide a more complete experience for my customers.

CR: What are your most popular menu options?

NS: Our waffles with crispy chicken and shrimp, the warehouse burger, and our coconut cream shrimp mac and cheese are definitely crowd favourites.

 

CR: What wines are flying off the shelf?

NS: Every wine has its moment, but consumers are loving Red Blends. Our top sellers are 19 Crimes, Apothic Red, and Primal roots.

 

CR: Did you experience an 'aha' moment with respect to wine?

NS: I wish I could say I did, but my wine love story is a long one. I have been drinking wine since university with friends and have continued. My palate grew over time and I'm proud to say that over the past 12 years I have gone from a basic Yellow Tail Merlot to one of my favourites — Amarone. I've taken my time with wine and every step of the way, every sip has become a learning experience for me.

 

CR: What is your preferred style of wine?

NS: I prefer full-bodied wines, a buttery Chardonnay or spicy Malbec or Zinfandel. On hot days I opt for a well-chilled Orvieto.

 

CR: Do you collect wines?

NS: I do not collect wines. I use my wine app Vivino to constantly make notes of the different wines I try and also wines I plan to try, and if I like it I'm definitely drinking it sooner than later.

 

CR: Which wine destinations have you visited?

NS: I have visited Mendoza, Argentina.

 

CR: What are the big lessons you have learnt since opening?

NS: The biggest lesson so far for me is that taking risks and following your instinct can go a long way. Customers love when we try dishes that are out of the box, and they definitely love our more intimate and personalised experience in the store.

 

CR: What are your thoughts on the local wine scene?

NS: It's growing! More people are consuming wine, and more often than not they are experimenting with wine. Customers always ask us what's new or what do we suggest because they are looking for something different. I always get excited because for the industry to grow, the consumer experience and knowledge must grow first.

 

CR: What do you want readers to know about Jamaica Liquor Warehouse that they might not know?

NS: We are very hands-on with our customers and I myself am very accessible to guide customers through our selection and to make recommendations. Also, we order for customers daily from our different suppliers special items that we may not stock but we have access to.

 

CR: What's next for Nesha and Jamaica Liquor Warehouse ?

NS: For Jamaica Liquor Warehouse, the next move is always about growth and improved customer service. For me, the immediate focus is on my business, which means more education in wines and spirits and fortunately for me, more travelling.

 

Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to creckord@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord