In its third generation of family ownership, Quality House is a throwback establishment, an “old-school wine merchant,” with all the mystery that comes with that territory. We spoke with affable owner Gary Fradin, who assured us that “there aren’t a lot of stores around like us anymore.” Gary started working for his father Bernard, at the age twenty-three. He described his father as a “legend in the business.” He reminisced about watching customers interact with his dad: “they loved him. I watched successful people listen to him talk about wines, and it was like he could do no wrong.” Throughout (and even before) his tenure, Gary tasted wines to develop his palette. Eventually, he was charged with finding a good wine and selling it. His first was the 1970 vintage of the Chateau La Tour de By Bordeaux, which he bought a thousand cases of and sold at $3.99 a bottle. People loved it, and Gary suddenly realized that “this is what I am good at, I AM worth something.” He continued his father’s trend of focusing more and more heavily on wines, which now make up the large majority of the inventory. Spirits are indeed available, however, with Scotches being especially well represented.
Most of the wines in the store are French and Italian; bottles run from the finest of finery to very economical. “What we look to do,” Gary explained, is this: “there are wines that are fifteen dollars a bottle that taste like ten dollar bottles of wine. There are fifteen-dollar bottles of wine that taste like a fifteen-dollar bottle. And there are fifteen-dollar bottles that taste like thirty-dollar bottles – that’s what we’re after. We’re the value added.” To that end, Gary loves when customers come in looking for recommendations, letting the experts be the experts. Indeed, he offers to stock wine cellars for those with a budget in mind but an inexact idea of how to put it to use. We can dream, anyway. In the meantime, our perusal of his well-stocked shelves gave us a good sense of where to turn next time when we had guests to impress.