Indie writing competition – Vintage Wine Merchants


Bruce Prime not only knows about structuring liquids with nanoparticles, he also knows about the structure of liquids that put the world to rights. His contribution to our indie writing competition encompasses chapels, polymers, roast pigs and Domaine Serene.

Harry Fong is my go-to guy and Vintage Wine Merchants is my go-to store for the perfect wine experience. I would describe myself as an oenophile, not an expert but someone who loves all things wine and never tires of learning more. I have been a customer since Vintage Wine Merchants opened its doors in October 2003 at the brand new Santana Row, a fashionable outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment districtin San Jose, California. The Row quickly became the place people wanted to be: to see a movie, have dinner, taste some wine, do a little shopping. The wine store was right next door to Peet’s, my favorite coffee shop, so it wasn’t long before I wandered next door and met Harry while perusing his wines. On subsequent visits I was always greeted by 'Hello Mr. Prime, how are you today?'. Harry is the consummate gentleman who always makes you comfortable and welcome. I buy wines not only for myself but also for my local professional group’s monthly dinner meetings, and it was not long before Harry informed me that I would receive a permanent discount on my purchases. This demonstrated Harry’s generosity as well as appreciation for a good customer, and made a huge impact on me. In April 2006 he opened the Vintage Wine Bar in a former flower shop in the Row that resembles a small European chapel with outdoor seating. There are three experiences I would like to describe.

The first we fondly refer to as the Chapel. The 'we' is a group of 4 to 5 guys I hike with. We start with coffee at Peet’s about noon while waiting for all to arrive. Then we go next door where Harry or Brent, the domestic wine buyer, help us pick out 2 to 3 wines to go with our lunch. These are usually a selection unfamiliar to us but that the Vintage guys feel will mesh nicely with our tastes. One of them then calls the Chapel to instruct them to wave the corkage (which we make up by generously tipping the wait staff). A short walk later we deliver the wines, walk across the street to order our lunches at the California Bistro, and return to sample our wines. In short order our lunches are delivered to our outdoor table. Two to three hours later the wine is gone and the world’s problems solved. Invariably we end up back at the wine store so people can take their favorite bottle home with them.

Buying the wines for my professional group, the Golden Gate Polymer Forum or GGPF, is a real delight. Typically 30 to 40 people attend our dinner meetings, consuming 10 to 15 bottles during the social hour and dinner. For our group I purchase about three reds to every white, with an occasional rosé in the warm months. Selecting the wines with Harry or Brent is where the fun begins. They know the mix of wines and price range I’m looking for, and on more than one occasion an extra discount gets applied to keep me within budget. We also pick out a nice California wine for our speaker where a little more can be spent. The pleasure culminates with the many accolades I receive and the designation of 'wine expert' by my colleagues. Thanks Harry. Thanks Brent.

The parties that Harry puts on to celebrate anniversaries of Vintage Wine Merchants or Vintage Wine Bar are something to behold. What stands out at these parties is Harry’s generosity. The amazing Champagnes, the Bordeaux, the Barolos, the Napa Cabs, including many older vintages, are amazing, especially considering that this may be my only chance to taste many of them. The sushi bar, the whole roast pig, first class! Enjoying them with Harry and his crew, priceless!

As I write this I just returned from a hiking trip to Oregon, which included a day in the Willamette Valley. The highlight was a visit to Domaine Serene with a tasting arranged by Harry. Without a doubt the best winery tasting ever! Domaine Serene sits on top of a hill with gorgeous views of the Willamette Valley. Inside a table was set for the four of us, with 6 glasses of wine at each place. Plus individual plates with dried Oregon blueberries, a lovely cheese and dark chocolate. Visually stunning and a tasting delight led by Calli, a charming and knowledgeable young woman. Does it get any better than this? Whether it’s organizing a special tasting like this, securing that hard to get bottle of Clos des Papes or choosing the perfect wine for any occasion, you can see why Harry is my go-to guy and Vintage my go-to place when it comes to wine.

Vintage Wine Merchants
377 Santana Row
Suite 1135
San Jose
CA 95128
tel +1 408 260 1115