Victor Mendes spent half his life selling wine. The other half: growing up on Long Island, New York, where his family made wine in the basement and taking trips to his grandparents’ vineyard in Portugal’s Vinho Verde, where, says Mendes, more than half of the wine consumed in their town of Chaves was produced by his family.
This fall, Vienna Vintner celebrated its twentieth year in business under Mendes. Mendes and his brother (Sergio Mendes now owns Ashburn Wine Shop) bought the business when he says sales were down 70 percent after Total Beverage (now Total Wine) moved in, though the store was almost 10 years old.
“I knew enough to be dangerous,” says Mendes of his wine knowledge at 23. But now Mendes makes his own wine in California’s Paso Robles region, with the third vintage due in January. Called Vix, it was previously named The Stonehouse, an homage to where the business is now located, across the street from its original location. Housed in a three-story, historic 1940s stone building, Vienna Vintner hosts events in a private space upstairs decorated with antique pieces found by Mendes, with the first floor operating as a boutique wine store.
Mendes concentrates on smaller producers and family-owned operations not found at big-box stores, with quality bottles going for $16-$25. “Wines that are made with love,” he says, and not sugar, oak chips or added sulfates.
There’s also a temperature-controlled cellar in the basement with a 1990 Montrose, St-Estèphe ($500) and plenty of bottles with 1959 vintages, like the Chateau Yon-Figeac Saint-Emilion Grand Cru ($125), to help celebrate next year’s milestone birthdays. // Vienna Vinter: 320 Maple Ave. E, Vienna
Victor Mendes’ Seasonal Picks
Jason Stephens Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Santa Clara Valley, California ($22)
Encostas De Serpa Reserva 2015, Alentjeo, Portugal ($17)
Thilbaut Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, Monticello, Virginia ($33)