PROPRIETOR & NAVIGATOR
Kailua-Kona resident Alex Thropp is parlaying a career as a sommelier and wine expert to a new path as a wine shop proprietor.
Thropp opened Westside Wines in the Kopiko Plaza in Kailua-Kona earlier this year. The shop, which he designed and remodeled himself, offers wine in three pricing tiers, from everyday wines to more expensive, harder-to-find varieties. He also stocks spirits, including Caribbean rum, Japanese sake, single-malt scotches and dessert liqueurs, 60 craft beers and artisan cheeses to accompany the beverages.
A grand opening celebration was hosted Nov. 2 with a blessing by Kahu Danny Akaka.
Thropp spent 30 years working for restaurants and resorts across the country and the Caribbean, selecting and explaining wine.
He then spent about 15 years working for distributor American Wine and Spirits as a fine wine specialist. During those years, he drove 600 miles a week, visiting restaurants and resorts helping them craft their wine lists.
Those experiences combined to help him assist his customers, he said.
“My job is to explain the wines, the composition of the wines, how they match with food,” Thropp said. “I can also help them try new grape varietals.”
Around the world, farmers grow 10,000 kinds of grapes for making wine. That can make the whole task of finding just the right wine confusing and complex, Thropp said.
He also finds customers show up with the name of a wine a friend recommended as the best wine in the world. Thropp talks with those customers about that wine before selling them a bottle, to make sure the wine will be something they will enjoy.
“The best wine in the world is the wine that you like, not that your friend likes,” he said. “That’s what I provide, the background knowledge to navigate through all the labels.”
Wine preferences, like those for clothes and cars, are very personal, he said.
While he promotes his shop as a place with fair prices, Thropp said he can’t compete with a big box store buying certain wines in bulk. He does keep 15 red wines and 15 white wines in stock that cost less than $15. His goal isn’t to compete with grocery store wines, but to offer a different selection that more resembles the wine lists at fine dining restaurants.
If a customer comes in and mentions a particular wine they love from Costco, for example, he might help them find something similar in his shop, but he might also encourage them to buy what they know they love, even if it isn’t from his store.
Thropp also offers items his customers can’t find anywhere else, from French champagnes to seven kinds of absinthe, which come from Austria, France and the U.S. He has three coolers, so he can keep bottled beverages cold, and a microchiller, which can cool a bottle of wine in 10 minutes, for bottles that aren’t in the coolers.
Kona’s wine drinkers have a broad palate and have kept him busy enough he had to hire his daughter, Paulette Griffore, to help in the store.
Keeping the business in the family, his wife, Marian, is the bookkeeper.
Thropp said his wife pushed him to open the shop, which he considered for several years. He did so without investors or partners, doing much of the construction in the store himself, with the help of local carpenters Ross Pegg and Mike Godfrey.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.