Just Pondering

The wine bar is quiet tonight.  It is raining and nobody comes out in the rain to wander from bar to bar, much more comforting to sit at home with your wine in the dry.  So I have time too much time to think.  Three months in – what have I learned, what would I do differently?

  • My first mistake was several months ago when I initially leased the space for the wine bar.  I had no way of knowing it would take 10+ months to get the build-out completed and the doors opened but that is irrelevant; I still should have negotiated that the rent payments didn’t start until construction was complete.
  • I have come to realize that it doesn’t matter how great your wine selection is or how great your tapas menu is, people want a festive atmosphere.  They may tell you that they want to be able to sit and talk while they enjoy their glass of wine, but they will still leave your bar and head to the party bar if they are not entertained.
  • There is a steep learning curve to running a bar or a restaurant and you have to run hard just to keep up and even harder to get ahead of the curve.
  • There are more restaurant consultants (probably in most towns) than there are restaurants.  Even though you are a new business and you have to watch every penny you spend, these consultants won’t hesitate to ask thousands of dollars to show you how to succeed.
  • Advertising dollars are scarce, but once again, sales people come out of the woodwork to try to convince you to use their advertising medium to reach the masses.  Knowing the right source for your advertising so that you actually reach your target market isn’t easy.
  • Sleep is overrated!  If you get all of these things (listed above) spinning around in your head, sleep is elusive; but you keep going because of that learning curve and because success is the only option.
  • Eating, while not overrated, isn’t quite as important as you once thought.  If are looking for a weight loss program, open a bar – guaranteed 20 pounds.
  • Your wine list does matter.  It is nice to be able to brag about how extensive your list is and even more uplifting to have a master sommelier brag about your wine list.
  • Building a group of regulars is important.  It is nice to see that smiling face come through the door.  It is like having family come visit and it is important to your customers to be recognized and treated like family.
  • I have learned that you actually drink less if you own the bar – you can’t drink at work and you are way too tired by the time you get off!

I don’t want to write about the bar very often.  I still want to write about wine and the experiences that go along with it.  So the wine bar is open.  I have survived thus far – a little thinner, a little more knowledgeable about the industry, but still going strong.  Good days are really good, slow days are just slow days, not the end of the world.


Cheers, All!!!  Thank you so much for all your support while I have chased this dream. If you are ever in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area, pleas come me.  You are all like family!


My 15 Minutes of Fame (almost!)

The wine bar has been open for 3 months now.  I keep thinking I am at a point where I can slow down long enough to post on my blog again, but something always comes up that keeps me hopping.  But I am not so stressed anymore so I do see the light at the end of the tunnel and unless it is a train, I will be back soon!  🙂

For now, please enjoy this video from my appearance on a local TV station for their Restaurant Show.

Latitude Wine Bar on the Restaurant Show



Wine Bar Update: 9-30-2013

STICKER SHOCK:  I need to get one more item for closing on the loan for the wine bar – insurance.  I have gotten two quotes in this week and have experienced some serious sticker shock.  I have dealt with insurance for years in my position as a financial controller.  As a result, I have several connections in the industry.  I consulted with them as I built my business plan for the wine bar and prepared my projections.  I thought I had a handle on it, but the quotes (like everything else I have touched for this project) are WAY over budget.  A couple of things have led to this – being so near the coast (and hurricanes) and the fact that I don’t have an experience rating yet.  I am waiting for a couple of other quotes to come in hoping to find a policy that won’t break the bank.

CELEBRATION:  We also had reason to celebrate this past week.  For the last six months, I have been in South Carolina while hubby was still in North Carolina working.  One of us needed to keep a pay check and since the wine bar is my dream, he wanted to continue working while he helped me realize it.  This past week he was offered a job working for the City of Bluffton doing basically the same thing he has been doing for the City of Winston Salem.

Over the last few months, I have met with bankers, architects, and contractors by myself.  I have made major life-altering decisions with only a phone call to discuss these decisions with Hubby.  I even bought our new home with him only seeing it online, not in person.  But now we can be together again as the construction begins on the bar.

We celebrated by taking the family to The Old Oyster Factory on Hilton Head Island.

view oyser factory

View from our dinner table.

We opted for a bottle of Cakebread Cellars 2011 Chardonnay.  The wine was creamy with just a hint of buttery notes and spicy oak.  It had flavors of green apple, melon and citrus.  The finish had just enough bite to make it linger on the palate.  The delicate balance between acidity and minerality made this the perfect wine for  our meal.

cakebread chard

2011 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay paired with Bruschetta

We started by pairing our wine with The Old Oyster Factory’s own recipe for Bruschetta, then moved on to our entrées.

Seafood Medley

Seafood Medley

Fried Scallops with Mashed Potatoes

Fried Scallops with Mashed Potatoes

Low Country Boil

Low Country Boil

We completed the meal with all the kids getting t-shirts from our waiter.


The Family

We’re home!

Please be sure to check us out on Facebook and give us a thumb’s up.  www.facebook.com/latitudewinebar.  Our soft opening will be a special event for Facebook followers only and we would love to see you there!

Wine Bar Uodate – 9-16-2013

What a difference a week makes!  Actually, I got the news last Thursday (Hubby’s birthday, September 12) that the SBA had approved our loan.  I knew there was no reason to not get the approval, but seriously, this has been dragging out for six months.  So finally it has happened.  And I am excited – thrilled actually.  One would think that I have now jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops they could throw at me but no, they have pulled out a few new ones, like just now ordering copies of my tax return transcripts from the IRS.  Apparently they can’t use the copies I have.  My only question is:  “Why didn’t they order these a month ago instead of waiting until now?”  I can’t blame this on anyone but the bank.

I also met with the contractor today and signed the final quote sheet and paid for all the permits.  We now have a business license, a building permit and have paid our retail impact fees to the city of Bluffton.

The bank hasn’t given me a date for closing on the loan, but I am really hoping this happens by the end of the month so that we can start construction the first week in October.  This is like giving birth – I will have been at this 9 months by the time we get the build-out completed.


Please check us out on Facebook and give us a “Thumb’s Up.”  We are planning a special grand opening party just for Facebook followers and I would love to see you there.

There’s a New Game in Town

Underground Cellar, the new wine start-up founded by technology entrepreneur Jeffrey Shaw, has reconstructed an innovative solution to a problem plaguing the $1.4-Billion direct-to-consumer wine industry: deep-discount websites.  Underground Cellar’s solution is expected to save wineries millions of dollars by steering them away from the deep-discount players like Lot18, Wine.Woot, Wines Til Sold Out, Invino, and WineAccess. Underground Cellar has received big backing despite having 26-year-old Shaw at the helm; quietly raising their seed financing round in May of 2013 and building out an impressive team including naming Jeff Keller as their VP Business Development, who hails from WineAccess, one of Underground Cellar’s key competitors with online wine sales estimated at $25 Million dollars annually. For several years now wineries have looked to these “flash” sites to sell their excess and overstocked wine, but at a huge cost — bastardization of their winery’s brand, reputation, and pricing structure.  The profits for wineries resulting from these flash sales are extremely inconsistent, and do not provide reliable revenue streams sustainable over the long-term. Industry consulting firm VinTank estimates that flash sales now generate in excess of $100-million annually for wineries looking to float through a financial pinch. Shaw realized there is a better way for these wineries to quickly sell their wine without sacrificing their brand and future pricing structure: all they had to do was ditch the discounts and replace them with upgrades. “Instead of discounting wine, we reward buyers with opportunities to be upgraded for free to high-priced wines from their favorite winery’s inventory: often hard-to-get bottles like library wines or bottles from the winemaker’s private stash.  Buyers can increase their upgrade potential through ‘influence points’ which are earned by participating in winery offers, engaging in meaningful discussions, and participating in other site activities,” explained Shaw. Underground Cellar also has the first of its kind storage solution—“CloudCellar” – where buyers can purchase as little as a single bottle of wine from a winery, and store it for as long as they want for free, at Underground Cellar’s perfectly maintained humidity and temperature-controlled wine cellar in Napa Valley. Customers can mix-and-match bottles from different wineries over time, and when they are ready to take delivery they simply log onto the website and select which bottles they want delivered; 6 bottles arrive anywhere in the US for only $5; and 12-bottles are shipped for free. Underground Cellar even boasts being able to deliver wine chilled and ready to drink (nearly anywhere in the US) through a special arrangement with FedEx and Copper Peak Logistics. September 12th marks the public launch of Underground Cellar’s online wine deals marketplace available at their www.UndergroundCellar.com website, launching in tandem with a grand “Mystery Wine Night” event that same evening at the historic General’s Residence at Fort Mason from 6-9pm. Event details and tickets are available at www.MysteryWineNight.com

Taster’s Tablet

Okay, let’s be honest.  If you are reading this article it is because you love wine (almost) as much as I do.  We love wine festivals and events, especially if it offers us the opportunity to taste new and different wines!  But what happens when we encounter too many great wines.  How do we remember all of them – what was good, what was mediocre, what do I want (need) to remember for my next shopping trip – or for that matter, so I can go back later that same day and buy a whole case of that perfect wine???

I always think I will remember the wines I like, but truth be told, I am more likely to remember the ones I don’t.  And if I am at a major tasting event, by the time I get through the tasting,, going back to buy a specific wine (or case) is the furthest thing from my mind.  So we should all take good tasting notes that include special markings by the wines we really like, but where do you put your wine while you write and score these wines.  You need your hands free!

The Taster’s Tablet was invented to free up our hands so we can take notes and retain a little bit of our dignity as we do so.  Don’t be caught with a wine glass dangling around your neck sloshing wine all over your shirt.

Wine Glass Necklace

Wine Glass Necklace

Instead, use Taster’s Tablet.  You will have both hands free to take tasting notes, greet people or sample delicious tidbits of perfect pairings.


Here you have the wine perfectly balanced in the glass holder at the top of the tablet.  You have a free hand and the glass is stable.  You can take notes and score the wines as you go.  The glass slides easily in and out of the glass holder for tasting.  The tablets come with taster’s note sheets and flavor descriptors to help identify the flavors and aromas you are picking up in the wines – perfect for the wine connoisseur or the novice.

Put your logo or design here!

Put your logo or design here!

You can also have the tablets customized with your own logo or design.  Use them at your next event or as giveaways so that your brand is front and center at the next BIG wine tasting in your area.

You can find Tater’s Tablet on Facebook and Twitter (@TastersTablet) as well.

Taster’s Tablet was a media sample received for review purposes.

Wine & Cigars

Everybody has a story to tell; sometimes they have an audience and sometimes they don’t – AND sometimes you create your own venue and let the audience come to you.  This is what Juan Carlos & Isabella Jiménez have done.  Six months ago they opened  “ta-ca-ron“.  They now have their piece of the American Pie and the audience for their story.

I was driving home from Beaufort the other day and in typical Red Wine Diva fashion, I spotted a sign for “Boutique Wines” and knew immediately, I would have to pay a visit to this store.

Juan Carlos, a marine biologist specializing in whales, left Cuba on April 19 (not sure what year) to find a better life.  Well he did more than that, he found a partner to share that life with.  When Carlos and Isabella got married, Carlos packed up and moved from Florida to Arizona, Isabella’s home.  After six years, he missed the ocean and the marine life he had studied and worked so closely with for years.  He convinced Isabella they should head back to the East Coast.  Their intent was to visit major cities along the coast and find the one that suited them best.  Driving south from Charleston, they decided to take a detour through Beaufort.  It was December 30 and most everything was closed.  The only thing they could find open for dinner was the Breakwater in Beaufort.  The place was packed with no seating room so they opted to sit at the bar.  You learn a lot about people and places sitting at a bar.  Three bottles of wine later, the couple had decided that the quaint, beautiful, historic Beaufort would be their new home.

Ta-ca-ron is still a work in progress.  Today they specialize in gourmet condiments and sauces, specialty beers from around the globe, Latin coffee, boutique wines and the most unique gift items.  But let’s not forget the cigars – they really specialize in cigars!  Carlos actually owns a factory in the Dominican Republic where Cuban seed cigars are manufactured.  Originally the cigars were only sold at wholesale but today ta-ca-ron has limited hours where they are open to the public and these cigars can be purchased.

The cigars are where the stories come in.  Each cigar is named after an event or a story in Carlos’ life.  Ta-ca-ron’s premier cigar is an anniversary cigar called 4/19.

Carlos' Anniversary date of leaving Cuba

4/19 – Carlos’ Anniversary date of leaving Cuba

The next cigar represents a Chevrolet Impala owned by Carlos’ father.  The Impala mysteriously went missing without any trace of what happened to it until they saw it being driven by Castro on TV.  A few weeks later it mysteriously reappeared (crashed) back home.

Castro Impala

Proud of his heritage, Carlos also sells items that represent his family.  This private label coffee shows his Mother and Father dancing.


Carlos and Isabella are very philanthropic and believe in giving back.  They have created their own Foundation, El Campesino Foundation.  Funds raised through this foundation provide shoes for less fortunate children in the Dominican Republic.


Juan Carlos visiting the children

Juan Carlos visiting the children

Ta-ca-ron is in the process of setting up a wine boutique to go with their cigars.  They already have a few wines on the shelf and have more coming in.  Once again, celebrating their heritage, the wines will come from Spain, South America – and beyond.

Sangria reminiscent of the Spanish Sangria Carlos' Father used to make.

Sangria reminiscent of the Spanish Sangria Carlos’ Father used to make.

Gazela Vinho Verde

Gazela Vinho Verde

Typical hours for ta-ca-ron are Thursday thru Saturday but I have it on good advice that if you see a little red convertible outside any day of the week that you are welcome to come in and browse or visit.  You’ll be glad you did!!!

Cheers to Juan Carlos & Isabella for living the American Dream!!!

Latitude Logo Apparel

As most of you know, I am opening a wine bar in Bluffton, South Carolina – just outside of Hilton Head. The process has been (much) slower than I ever could have imagined, but things have started moving forward. Today we got t-shirts in with our logo. We wanted the shirts so that we could start wearing them out in public to build an awareness of the wine bar. I actually wasn’t planning on selling them, but I have had several people say they would like one.

Logoed computer bag and t-shirt

Logoed computer bag and t-shirt

The shirts are great!  We bought them through a local company called New South Shirts.  The price was very reasonable and everything looks so good.  These shirts are embroidered and for a one-time setup fee, I can now go back to New South Shirts any time and order additional merchandise – embroidered or screen-printed.

New South Shirts

New South Shirts

As a matter of fact, New South Shirts has been so easy to work with (love their staff!!!) that we have decided to order extra shirts to give away on Facebook.  Obviously we are trying to build up our following on FB as well so for a chance to get one of these shirts, please click here and give us a thumb’s up.

We will be hosting a special “Grand Opening” for our Facebook followers as well so stay tuned for the announcement!

What do you think?  Are you as excited as we are???

      Ladies Logoed Shirt

Ladies Logoed Shirt

Side Bar:  I have decided to dedicate Monday to blogging about Latitude Wine Bar.  I originally set up a separate blog for the wine bar, but it is just too much to keep up with and as one avid follower pointed out, Latitude Wine Bar will eventually have its own web site and won’t really need a blog dedicated to this journey.  I appreciate all of you being part of this experience and hope to one day serve you a glass of vino.

Reclaim, Reuse, Repurpose

Latitude - The Journey

If you’ve ever built a house, you know first-hand how difficult it can be to choose everything from the brick or siding to the counter tops to the lighting and plumbing.  It’s fun, but it can be stressful as well.  Having built a house, I thought I would be a step ahead of understanding the process – and I am, but I REALLY want the wine bar to represent my personality.  I don’t want to throw money away on lights or counter tops that don’t match or work with the feel of the bar.

The image above has given me my inspiration.  My goal is to use as much as I can from reclaimed and repurposed products.  I visit the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Bluffton frequently.  On one visit I got really lucky, finding a sink for one of the restrooms as well as the siding for the bar counter.

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Kickin’ It Into Gear

For those of you that read my blog regularly, you know that I have a section called, “America Dreaming.”  I started this segment of my blog to shine a light on people who have stretched beyond their comfort zone to live out their dreams.  My criterion was simple, the business had to be wine-related and had to have been started during the economic down turn.  All of the people I interviewed were happy.  They were doing what they wanted to do.  They had their piece of the pie.


So I have decided that it is time to chase my own dream, to have my piece of the pie.  Through my writing I have been living vicariously through others.  Now it’s my turn.  I created a Kickstarter campagne to help raise money for the build out.  We found this great space in Bluffton, SC (just outside of Hilton Head) that we fell in love with and feel certain that it is the perfect location for the bar.  The bar will be in Old Town Bluffton, a historic district that has been revitalized and is alive with people and activities.  The bar is on Calhoun Street in the Promenade area.  People park at one end of the Promenade and walk to all the quaint little art shops, restaurants and bars.  If you walk to the end of Calhoun Street, you actually end up at the May River which dumps into the ocean.  The setting and the atmosphere of the whole area lends itself to fun and community – to meeting new friends, to living the American Dream.


Like us on Facebook

I just sold my Mercedes last night to free up some cash for the build-out of the wine bar.  I am a little sad this morning thinking about letting the car go but I am trying to keep my eye on the prize – Latitude Wine Bar.

We have two weeks left on our Kickstarter campagne.  Please check it out – give us “kick” to keep us moving in the right direction.   Help me achieve the American Dream and have your name posted on the “wall of fame” at Latitude Wine Bar.  I have decided to have dedicated space for everyone who pledges to the campagne.

Thank you all for being part of the dream!!!

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