Ed Schlich Brings Oly Wines to Thurston County with Tasting Table and 200 Wine Varieties
There are many places that sell wine – restaurants, wine bars, shops – but none offer “a wine journey”. That’s what Ed Schlich promises at his newly opened boutique, Oly Wines. Here you will find much more than vino. Oly Wines offers an educational experience on wine.
“I think if someone comes here half interested in wine, I will pursue their interest and encourage their interest in learning more, broadening their horizons about wine, about its history, about the history of the regions, the provenance and food,” he says.
Ed is definitely the right person for the job. He entered the business right out of college and spent four decades in the industry doing everything from pruning vines to selling wine for large distributors to being cellar master – sommelier. – in high-end restaurants in New York. During his nearly 20 years in France, he discovered the grape varieties, the growing regions and the different winemaking methods. Ask Ed about rosé wine, for example, and he can go into detail about not only the two winemaking methods, but which is preferred and why.
“I got into the wine business because of my passion for the arts at the time and I’m not an artist,” says Ed. “If I can make a stick figure, it’s a good day. . So, I realized that wine was my art form and making it, explaining it to people and bringing it to life through the glass is my passion.
Oly Wines is his passion embodied. It’s a 639 square foot store still in the early stages of its evolution but already reflecting Ed’s extensive knowledge of all things wine. A tasting table graces the entrance for hosting informal tastings as well as events planned for the future. Shelves and tables filled with wines from around the world line the walls. Short-term enhancements include a transaction table and maps presented by country or region where customers can learn more about the regions where the wines come from. Ed also provides chalkboards on the walls where he can write humorous idioms about wine. At some point, Oly Wines may offer a few beers and possibly a delivery service.
Ed wasted no time opening his store. He returned to Olympia last August after teaching English to business leaders in Colombia. Until he could open his shop, he provided a landscaping and pruning service, using the skills he learned in French vineyards, and worked as a sommelier in local restaurants. He finally realized his dream when Oly Wines opened on April 14, just eight days after receiving its state specialty store license.
Oly Wines is already home to over 200 varieties of wine from five continents, including countries such as France, Italy, Israel, Australia, Chile and Uruguay, to name a few. There’s also a good bit of wine from another region that Ed likes – the North West. “Washington wines kill it on the national scene and for good reason,” he says. “The wines are big, juicy and unctuous. New consumers embrace them wholeheartedly.
Despite Ed’s long experience in the wine industry, he will be the first to tell you that there is always room to learn. Ed described a recent visit from a client.
“(She says), ‘I’m from a wine club and there’s a wine from Italy that starts with a ‘v’ that I’m looking for.'” At first, that wasn’t enough to keep going. “She comes back afterwards and she shows me a picture of a Valpolicella, so shame on me,” he jokes. “If I was really good, I would have known it was Valpolicella from Italy.”
He didn’t have the wine in the photo in stock, but he had another Valpolicella available. “There’s nothing wrong with the wine she was looking for,” says Ed. “It’s from a great producer and I’ve sold it many times before. But the one I had in stock is the Bertani Valpolicella, in my opinion this is the master version.
The customer accepted. “She loved it,” Ed said proudly, “and she came back for more and more wines too.”
Ed wants people to taste wines and plans to hold tasting events, but Oly Wines is not a wine bar. It is a retail establishment with a generous contribution to wine education, thanks to the extensive knowledge of Ed.
“We take them on a trip, whether it’s red, white, rosé, sparkling, fortified, it’s a wine trip. I hope they want to know more about where a wine comes from,” Ed says. “And if they do, we develop that and I tell them what they’re interested in, I flesh it out with them.”
Oly Wines offers wine accessories, from corkscrews to decanters, plus something for serious wine lovers: copies of Windows on the World Complete Wine Course autographed by Kevin Zraly, America’s Top Wine Educator and mentor of Ed. Ed worked with Kevin at Windows on the World restaurant in the 80s and helped edit the first edition of the book. “This wine book is arguably one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone interested in wine.”
Two grand openings are in the works, one on a weekday and another on a weekend, although no date has been set.
When Ed has Oly Wines furnished and decorated to his liking, he plans a grand opening. But you don’t have to wait until then to stop. It’s now open at 321 Cleveland Avenue SE, Suite 309 Tumwater Washington 98501 (right next to Luxe For Style Hair Salon) from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.