Business SpotlightsThe White Plains Examiner

Vino 100 Makes Wine Buying Enjoyable

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Stuart (pictured) and Janine Levine opened Vino 100 in White Plains in 2005.

By Yi Shun Lai

Too many times we’ve been to wine stores and stood around, gawking at tiny labels and pointless scores in dim lighting meant to be sophisticated. Inevitably, after a little while during which no one approaches us to help, we shrug to ourselves, make a little unhappy grunting noise, and just take whatever’s in front of us over to the counter, where we will internally shriek at the price tag and then go home, still unhappy.

This is not that store.

Vino 100, a franchise on Post Road in White Plains, is owned by probably the happiest people in the world. We know this about Stuart and Janine Levine because their wine labels are big and friendly, with actual graphs on them that tell you what type of flavor profile the wines are and the prices printed neatly on them. We know this because their storefront, open since late 2005, sports a doggie bowl out front that says, cheerfully, “Vino for Dogs.” (Stuart keeps a box of biscuits behind the counter.)

And most importantly, we know this because every time we go in there, one of the staff members greets you with an enthusiastic “Hi!” followed closely by a “What can we help you find today?”

See? You’re feeling happier just hearing about Vino 100, aren’t you?

Stuart and Janine are veterans of the PR/marketing and fashion worlds, respectively, so it’s easy to see how it is that they could do so well with any storefront, but Stuart gives credence to his grandfather for the inspiration behind Vino 100. “He built a wine cellar in his house in New Haven back in the 50s,” said Stuart. “We’d go down there and touch the wine bottles, get to know them, so I grew up being able to taste all these great wines, and later, when I was able to appreciate it more, I could understand what goes into a great wine.”

The Levines always had the idea of opening either a wine bar or a wine shop, even through their successful respective careers, so when Janine was laid off in 2003, it seemed only natural that they would consider something that, in Stuart’s words, isn’t something you work at every day, but something you really love. “Too many people open up a retail business thinking it’s a money-making opportunity, instead of saying to themselves, ‘I love this and I want to do this,’” he said.

That passion for the business comes through not only in the Levines’ day-to-day interactions with customers, but also in the occasional newsletter they send out via e-mail. The tone is somewhat educational, but never at the expense of fun. Likewise, Stuart’s blog, Wine with LeVino, is casual and informative, never stuffy.

Perhaps that’s a reflection of the customers Stuart says come into his store on a daily basis. “No one comes into a wine shop unhappy,” he said. “They’re coming in to buy wine. To celebrate. Or to enjoy.” He added, after a moment, “It doesn’t have to be complicated.”

And indeed, the store does reflect the overarching philosophy of the national franchise, which aims to provide a simpler, friendlier way to buy wine. The best illustration of that, of course, is in the chain’s name: Vino 100 simply means that you can find 100 wines under $25 at each of the stores. For yet another example, let’s look at the labels, again: Each printed tag has on it the Vino 100 “barometer,” which uses easy-to-understand terms that anyone can comprehend and stays away from more archaic wine terms. The barometer measures each wine from fruity to dry and light to heavy. Easy enough, right?

Stuart and Janine continue on that track by ensuring that the store does several sampling events per month, and two Grand Tastings a year, in May and December, at which customers can sample dozens of wines. Stuart has also boosted his own wine education by earning a Certified Specialist of Wine certificate from the Society of Wine Educators, and his staff members are all well-educated about the world of wine in general.

Perhaps this is the reason that the White Plains store is number one in sales over the entire Vino 100 franchise. And that attention to constant education might be one reason that the Levines have become true fixtures in White Plains, with Stuart holding positions on the board of the White Plains Business Improvement District and the White Plains Performing Arts Center.

At any rate, we’re happy the Levines found White Plains. And we’re thrilled that we never need to have a terrible wine-buying experience ever again.

Vino 100 White Plains is at 171 East Post Road, and on the Web at


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