Longtime Los Angeles retailer and 1985 Market Watch Leader Dennis Overstreet relocated The Beverly Hills Wine Merchant to the Montage Hotel this past spring. “It’s sort of our candy store,” Overstreet says, noting that the 1,500-square-foot space evokes “the land of film and fantasy.” The shop features Biedermeier-style furnishings, antique carpets and floor-to-ceiling shelves lining the walls. Round plexiglass cases display vertical vintages of such wines as Château Pétrus, Château Haut-Brion, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Margaux. The store has LED lights designed to illuminate without giving off heat, as well as stone floors that help modulate temperature. “We’ve gone the extra mile with the design,” Overstreet says. “Beverly Hills is the film capital of the universe, and people come here looking for Hollywood magic. I wanted the store to reflect that image.”
The Beverly Hills Wine Merchant offers thousands of wine SKUs, and Overstreet says the most popular offerings are Bordeaux, Burgundy and cult California wines. “There are a lot of good products out there, but some châteaux and wineries really get it,” he explains. “They’re pursuing legacy rather than just a profit motive. They’re in it for the long term. We’re trying to find those wines and tell their stories. Our responsibility is to make sure that when the wineries hand us the baton, we carry it across the finish line. We want our clientele to know how special this precious liquid is.” Overstreet cites Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle and first-growth French labels as particularly popular, and he notes that big bottles sell well. “When someone wants to show off their generosity, they bring out a double magnum,” he says. “People like large formats. They’re for special occasions, and they age well. They’re memorable.” The Beverly Hills Wine Merchant offers a wide selection of classified growths in sizes ranging from standard 750-ml. bottles to 18-liter Melchiors.
Spirits comprised 19 percent of the store’s sales as recently as 2014, but Overstreet says that share has shrunk as the focus has shifted. “We’re doing at least 90 percent of our sales in wine now,” he explains. “In spirits, we’ve steered into the collectibles, and our selection has moved to the very high end.” Overstreet points to such specialty items as Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon and the Ichiro’s Malt Card series from Japan’s Chichibu distillery.
The Beverly Hills Wine Merchant has Enomatic machines to provide wine samples to customers, and Overstreet often hosts intimate gatherings to taste special bottles, inviting up to 12 people to sit at the shop’s round table. “We like to play matchmaker with clients and wine,” he says. “Wine brings out not only the best of the product, but the best in people too.” In addition to its retail store, The Beverly Hills Wine Merchant continues to offer wine storage at its 30,000-square-foot warehouse located a few miles away. The facility also has a gourmet kitchen and dining area where Overstreet hosts walkaround tastings and sit-down dinners.
Racking up around $7 million in annual revenue, The Beverly Hills Wine Merchant aims to offer a tailored experience to each customer. “Our clientele is looking for something truly special,” Overstreet says. “We don’t use shelf talkers. Anyone can read a list or look at ratings. We have an authoritative, real person guiding each purchase. We’ve gone further than just finding the best of the best. People come here for a special gift, something that has a story and magic that goes along with it. They want heirlooms. When you buy something that you’re going to lay down for decades, you’re not only saying something about yourself and your lifestyle, but also about whoever comes after you. We want to sell people the products that will make their children and grandchildren say, ‘This is someone with real style.’”