Albert L Hotchkin Jr, founder and part-owner of Manhattan boutique Burgundy Wine Company, died on Tuesday, aged 59.
Hotchkin’s shop, which opened in 1988, was among the first in the US devoted to red and white Burgundy and Pinot Noirs from Oregon. Eventually the portfolio expanded to include selected wines from California and the Rhone.
The shop, which he ran with his business partner Geraldine Tashjian, a part owner, catered to a nationwide clientele, and until last October operated out of clubby digs in Greenwich Village. Much of the business was mail-order, with little reliance on walk-in trade.
A few weeks ago it moved to larger, more public quarters in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan.
Hotchkin was passionate about Burgundy and visited the region several times a year to discover new producers. In addition to the blue-chip appellations, he loved to find and publicise good-value wines from places like Auxey-Duresses and Montagny.
He especially admired the personal service of older, established UK wine shops, and would describe himself as a ‘Wine Merchant’ in the old-fashioned sense. He infused the title (which was always written using capital letters) with a pride seldom heard in his trade.
Hotchkin figured prominently in Manhattan’s wine life from the early 1980s, when he established Tastings. This midtown wine bar served wines from around the world by the glass at a time when the practice was just becoming chic. He added another wine bar, Tastings on 2, on the East Side, but disposed of both before opening the shop.
In 1982 while operating Tastings, he founded the International Wine Center, which offered almost daily classes and wine tastings to consumers and professionals in rooms above the wine bar. The place pulsed with energy, reflecting the lively wine scene of the time.
The roster of guest lecturers included leading winemakers from the West Coast and Europe, while many of those who attended, now in their late 30s and 40s, have become directors, buyers and sellers in New York’s wine trade.
At a tasting of the 2000 vintage of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Manhattan today, Aubert de Villaine, co-director of the domaine, said, ‘Al was a friend of mine and all Burgundy growers. He was intimately involved with the life and work of the growers. He shared their aims and philosophy.’
Written by Howard G Goldberg6 February 2003