Visitors to Woodstock Wine & Liquor at 63 Tinker Street, may have noticed some changes and new faces in recent months.
New owner David Pinkard, who purchased the business from longtime owner Mary Federoff, has modernized the store’s checkout and inventory system and has focused on local producers.
Pinkard built a new website (woodstockwineandliquor.com) that links in real time to the sales and inventory system, so customers can be sure an item on the site is in stock.
He also removed barriers to make the store feel more open. “One of the first things I did — and I wouldn’t have done it if people weren’t comfortable about it — was to take down a lot of the protective stuff, the Plexiglas, and people walk in here, and they feel like it’s so much more open,” Pinkard said. “That’s not exactly a real creative decision. But it felt nice to be able to do that.”
Featured prominently in front of the store are local spirits in a space Pinkard said he can easily fill two or three times. “As soon as they passed the New York State Farm Distillery bill, it gave a lot of assistance to this industry. And that’s great because they support local farmers who are growing sustainably, organically,” he said.
Distilleries are featuring more heirloom varieties of rye and using ingredients that are lower-yielding but more flavorful. “For instance, the rye whiskies and the bourbons that you find being made here in the Hudson Valley and in the Finger Lakes tastes utterly completely different than the big brand Kentucky bourbons. But once you kind of recalibrate your palate a little bit, they’re really fascinating, so I just I love working with them,” Pinkard said. “The local wineries are a little bit harder to kind of suss out and find them. Some of them are sort of hiding. A lot of them are such small production that they only sell what they make at the winery and don’t distribute to retail shops. But we’re working on that as well.”
New York wines moved from the back of the store to the front and the California and West Coast wines were compressed somewhat. “It was a matter of getting rid of some what I felt was kind of redundancy and just the philosophy, I guess, that every bottle that I put on the shelf has to be is there for a specific reason,” Pinkard said. The natural wine selection has expanded at least 10 times and new selections will be rotated regularly.
He avoids the mass-produced spirits with the logos that were plastered on the sides of city buses, but will steer people toward a local product they will probably like.
“We don’t sell Malibu. We don’t sell Captain Morgan. But if you want Malibu, I’ve got a nice coconut-flavored rum that’s made with real coconut and real 100% rum from a distillery in St. Kitts that is not doped up with neutral grain spirit and a ton of sugar. If you want Captain Morgan, I have a couple of different spice rums that are once again made with real spices and maybe with real rum. Not a bunch of sugar.”
Cheap and tasty
For those on a budget, Pinkard features a selection of wines $12.99 and under. He calls it Cheap and Tasty, borrowing the phrase from Patty Lenartz, proprietor of Slope Cellars in Brooklyn, where he used to work.
“The customers can feel confident that whatever they grab is something that we’ve tasted and we really like and it’s not just a mass-produced cheap wine,” Pinkard said. “They’re really good. They’re all tasty and wines of integrity. I like to always think of this phrase I’ve had in my head… crafted not manufactured.”
Pinkard noted probably 90 percent of the wine and spirits production in the country is mass-produced. “Take a more natural wine and you taste it side-by-side with one of these mass-produced wines and anyone can absolutely tell the difference.”
And it doesn’t have to be expensive. “My favorite discoveries are when I find a wine that I can put on the shelf for $12.99 or $14.99, that’s clean and correct and has just a nice quality to it. Sometimes there’ll be sort of ineffable qualities like, you could probably parse them but, you know, it has, like structure and acidity.”
Roots in music
Pinkard started out as a classically trained orchestra pianist, composer and conductor who moved from Texas to New York City in 1995, where he worked in theater sound design for 20 years. To help pay the bills, Pinkard worked in some of Manhattan’s fanciest restaurants like Gotham Bar and Grill and Eleven Madison Park, where he met his wife, Suzanne. They moved to Brooklyn, where they lived for about 20 years. “I got out of the restaurant business. I just kind of had it. The stress of it was so much, so I moved into the retail side, which I find that I really, really love.”
He worked for 15 years at Slope Cellars in Park Slope, with the last seven as the spirits buyer. “I’m always very curious. Every time I didn’t know something, I just picked up a book and looked it up. And there’s just so much endless worlds to discover just within the production enjoyment of wines,” Pinkard said.
Pinkard and his wife had come to Woodstock with family for years and finally decided to open a store when opportunity arose.
“I just heard through the grapevine that Mary Federoff, who was the previous owner, was thinking of selling the business and that point, I just jumped on it and thought what a great idea. I’d love to live here and be a part of this community and have this beautiful shop. It’s crafted just the way that I think it should be done,” he said.
Pinkard started negotiating with Federoff in November 2020. He moved to the area in April 2021 and managed the store for her starting in May. His wife, Suzanne Connole, now has an acupuncture practice in Kingston. Their daughter, Daphne, 11, attends Bailey Middle School.
“That was a really great transition. I got to know the neighborhood. I got to know the locals. I got to know what people like,” he said. “I know all the locals and all the wines that they like so I make sure that I still have those for them while I’m bringing in new things and wines that I love and spirits that I know from my past job as spirits buyer.”