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A wine-country gathering place since 1881, the Oakville Grocery lies in the heart of Napa Valley, surrounded by some of the most notable wineries and restaurants in the world and considered a must stopover for any wine enthusiast making a pilgrimage to Napa.  It features a wide selection of Napa and Sonoma county wines, local artisan meats and cheeses, a Deli  that makes world-class picnic fixings, an espresso bar with freshly baked goods, and a wide offering of olive oils, chocolates, spices and other epicurean essentials.

In 2019 Jean-Charles Boisset brought his Midas touch to the Grocery when he purchased the property and transformed the adjacent Durrant and Booth house into an interactive wine museum, featuring À la carte pours of Napa Valley wines. Don’t simply plan to just “stop by” the Oakville grocery–it is well worth it to spend an hour or two there.  Treat yourself to a fabulous deli sandwich on one of the courtyard tables while tasting your way around the Valley with some of the museum’s many tasting choices. And oh, if by chance you haven’t purchased a Vinarmour Wine Carrier yet, you cannot miss them here–they happen to be in the middle of the most famous wine-country grocery in the world.

To be sold in this store,
every product must have
a story to tell.

In 2013 Mark and Susie Nievens left the security the well-paying tech industry of Seattle looking for more of a connection in their lives.  They found it in their personal lives in Sun Valley Idaho, and they established in their business lives with the creation of Independent Goods.  Their store in the heart of Ketchum Idaho is founded on their love for a great story, and those moments when a connection is found when you least expect it.  They seek out handcrafted goods primarily from Idaho and the Pacific Northwest from independent makers offering quality products that have a story behind it.  Often times the makers of these products, like Mark and Susie, left everything behind to pursue their passion and the result of which is their product.  Others, the makers of the products come from a lineage and heritage within the producer’s  family.  Each item in their store has a card with the item, telling that story.  The result of which is an unforgettable shopping experience that leaves the buyer, Mark and Susie, and the manufacturer of the product with a sense of connection.  This place was made for Vinarmour.

Exclusive wines in an
exclusive neighborhood

Gordon McIntosh wanted to golf in his retirement from being a GM at an auto dealership in the Bay Area, but when it starting taking 6 hours to finish a round he found another hobby instead–wine.

For 11 years now he has been the proprietor of University Wines, located just northeast of the University of Washington between two of Seattle’s most sought-after neighborhoods, Laurelhurst and Windermere.  What makes this little shop so unique is it’s connection to Jeanne-Marie de Champs, a Beaune négociant who the Wall Street Journal once dubbed “The Grande Damme of Burgundy”.  Jeanne-Marie is a household name in burgundy and she has developed relationships with many small producers whose vines are literally spitting distance from the vines of some of the most highly-regarded estates in the world.  The prior owners of the shop had a good relationship with Jeanne-Marie, and Gordon has taken that to a new level and now provides his loyal customers with bottles that cannot be found anywhere else outside of France.  Every year Gordon personally makes a spring trip to Burgundy to barrel taste (pictured on R  with Vinarmour founder Brian Hart and winemaker Denis Clair of Saint-Aubin, during a morning of barrel tasting his many Premier Cru white burgundies….) to make sure imports only the best.  Although “U-Wines” emphasis is on eastern France, they also have a healthy collection from Bordeaux and Champagne, as well as offering some unique Italian and Spanish wines.  When in Seattle and you are looking for some unique and delicious bottles of Burg for the cellar, stop by U-wines and consider also getting one other the Vinarmour Wine Carriers they sell to help get it home safely.

The Vinarmour Exclusive Retailer for Boulder, CO

With the number one Farmer’s Market in the country, a stellar food scene, and a lively downtown area, Boulder is Denver’s little sister 30 miles to the northwest.  And supplying the fine restaurants and wine enthusiasts in the region is the iconic Boulder Wine Merchant.  Every item at the BWM is hand picked and curated by its owner, Master Sommelier Brett Zimmerman, and we are around to be alongside some of the most elegant and sought-after wines in the world.

The Source For The Boulder Burgundy Festival

Over 10 years ago Zimmerman also founded the Boulder Burgundy Festival, a 3-day event celebrating the fine wines of Burgundy through tastings, meals, and seminars.  The profits of the Festival go to support aspiring wine professionals, medical aid for the needy, and meals for children facing hunger.  In addition to having a vast selection from Burgundy, the BWM has a great selection of wine and spirits from all over the world.

Our First Retailer In The Centennial State

We are thankful to Jeff Mathews, the general manager, and Brett for showcasing Vinarmour products at the best wine store on the Colorado Frontrange.  Stop by to pick up one of our Wine Carriers–what better way to bring a bottle up onto the ski slopes?

Leather Matters

We all know it when we see it. Cheap leather. Poor leather making. When we set out to make the most durable and protective carrier for wine bottle travel we not only had to find the best leather, but also a leather craftsman who would not compromise on quality.

Tannāre Leather — Quality Custom Leatherwork

Just because you start with an amazing piece of leather doesn’t mean that it will end up as an exceptional final product. I will never let a relative of mine cook a wagyu steak that I purchase, because I know that the end result will be a letdown. Similarly, a good hide in the hands of an average leather worker will lead to an average product. Francisco Figueroa is not your average leather maker. He is a 3rd generation leather craftsman, and grew up in a family that was known to make some of the best horse saddles in the world. He and his wife Cindy Jennings founded and operate TANNĀRE Custom Leatherwork in San Antonio, Texas. With a focus on old world craftsmanship, Francisco has caught the attention of rock stars wanting custom guitar straps to major league sports teams.

When I visited Francisco and Cindy at their factory it was clear that we made the right choice in choosing a leather maker. As his specialty is custom products, he does not have an “assembly plant” operation. Each item is worked on individually on large wooden tables, and he only has one machine per purpose. Throughout his space he has all kinds of antiques, many of them associated with the leather making industry, and it is quite apparent that he has a fondness and admiration for items that stand the test of time.

The combination of a leather from Horween and the leather crafting skills of Francisco at Tannare has allowed us to produce not only the finest wine travel bag on the market, but unquestionably the most durable and rugged as well. If you already own a Vinarmour Wine Carrier, you may expect with it what one would normally expect with a quality-leather good made by an experienced leather craftsman–years and years of use and utility, developing a beautiful patina along the way.

What Happens to Your Bag?

After the agent gently (sometimes) lays your bag on the conveyor belt, it will exit onto a common conveyor belt and at some point enter a cavernous warehouse. Think your bag is special? Think again, as there are hundreds if not thousands of other bags streaming into this place make a stop at a CTX machine. These large, expensive machine will determine if there is anything dangerous in your bag (illegal drugs, weapons, explosives, and perhaps lithium ion batteries). They WILL see a liquid in your bottle—typically not classified as “dangerous”, however this is the first place where you want to make sure you pack correctly. TIP: Do not pack electronics anywhere near your bottle, lest an agent (who I can assure you does not have a post-doctorate degree) suspect a detonation device for a Molotov Cocktail and pull your luggage off and toss it aside (Potential toss #1) for a TSA agent to search. If this happens, you must assume that the TSA agent will NOT pack the bottle back up nearly as well as you did and throw it back on the belt (potential toss #2). Your bag may also be subject to other checks including laser or xray scanners and sniffing dogs.

If your bag successfully clears this screening it will continue to the airpport’s main baggage system, where the luggage tag will be scanned, sorted (by either humans or robots) and put on a cart in the right direction to your gate, generating potential tosses #3 and #4. Check in too early? Your bag may go to “suitcase hotel” holding area (this involves potential tosses #5 and #6—possibly more, depending upon the airport). Check in late? If your luggage does make it onto the plane, don’t expect that it have been delivered with more TLC, they will be rushing to get it there. If your bag makes it on time to the gate, the ramp agents will put your bag onto a conveyor belt up to the plane (potential toss #7), and stacked with the other luggage (potential toss #8). Once on the plane, your bag is usually secure, unless there is some heavy turbulence, in which case there may be a potential toss #9. Once at your destination the ramp agents will recover your bag and place it near the cargo hold (potential toss #10), throw it onto the conveyor belt (potential toss #11), where it will be loaded onto a cart (potential toss #12) and taken to the baggage claim where it is dumped onto a conveyor belt (potential toss #13), and depending upon the airport may have anything from a gentle slide to a tumbling cartwheel crash onto the carousel (potential toss #14). Occasionally airports have carousel agents to take the bags off and set to the side (potential toss #15).

Worry-free Travel

Now you know what obstacles face you and your bottle on their journey. If you are flying somewhere with one stop you could be facing over 20 potential tosses of your luggage. How does one pack in the face of this? The obvious answer on our end is of course to pack your bottle within a Vinarmour™ Wine Carrier. Not only is it impact resistant, but more importantly it is puncture resistant, so that even if your bottle faces a violent impact and breaks, the Kevlar and Dyneema fabrics within the Carrier will help prevent glass shards from cutting or puncturing it and will not spill or leak.

Tips For Those Without A Vinarmour Carrier

Use “tubes.” Some articles of clothing have a tube shape and may help protect against impact. Place your bottle within socks, shirt or sweater sleeves, or pant legs. The more layers the better. Best examples: “Hoodie” style pullovers, denim jean pants, calf-height gym socks.

Always travel with couple of kitchen-sized garbage bags. After inserting your bottle within your clothing “tubes”, insert inside the garbage bag and wrap excess bag over itself.

Use Neoprene totes. These can offer modest impact protection, and will offer some thermal protection to help prevent your wine from being baked in case your luggage is left in the sun for a period of time traveling in hot climates. Best technique involves putting one tote over each end, and then wrapping in a plastic garbage bag.

Avoid bubble wrap. Have you ever ordered wine and it has arrived shipped in bubble wrap? There is a reason for this—it doesn’t work for wine bottles. Early experiments in impact protection for my product verified this. You are better off wrapping in clothing (and it’s better for the environment!)

Always pack the bottle in the very middle of the luggage, never in contact with any side of the luggage or any hard personal object, with as much clothing around it as possible.

Protect your electronics in the same bag by packing them away from the bottle and wrap them inside a plastic ziplock or garbage bag.

Add a note for the TSA. Keep it short and sweet. Handwritten and signed adds a personal touch that is difficult to ignore. Seen on the left is the one I (Brian Hart) used (before Vinarmour), on heavy stock paper so I could reuse.