A Few Facts: Mention wine education and her face just lights up. “That’s my passion,” said Shannon Carscallen, who celebrated E-Ville Spirits & Wine’s ninth year in business on Dec. 18.
Carscallen, whose family has owned Buffalo’s Gates Circle Wine & Liquor since the prohibition era, has traveled extensively all over the world to taste, learn about and purchase some of the world’s best wines. She knows her stuff. She’s certified in wine education. And there’s nothing she’d rather do than help others learn about what she loves.
“I’ve been doing food and wine pairings for customers every month in Buffalo for many years,” she said. “I’m building an interest in pairings in Ellicottville as well.”
She’s conducted tastings and pairings at Cadillac Jack’s and the Silver Fox, and has trained Cadillac Jack’s staff on serving and pairing wines with menu items. She does tastings in private homes as well, and the store now has a cuvée tasting system in operation at all times. She points out that she and her staff have tasted every wine they sell. “If we don’t like it, we don’t sell it.”
Carscallen also has introduced a “Four-Bottle Wine Club” in Ellicottville. Each month, club members who are truly motivated to learn about wines pay $100 and receive four hand-selected wines. Carscallen provides educational materials so club members can learn about their monthly wines in detail. Some of the selected wines are available in the store; others are unique enough that she can’t stock them but can make them available under these limited conditions. Club members also are invited to quarterly educational events. Currently, there are 15 members and capacity is limited. About half of the members, she says, are year round area residents.
Carscallen is quick to point out that she stocks wines at all price points – “an $8 bottle can be just as fabulous as a $40 bottle.” This year, she has brought in more international wines in an effort to expand people’s horizons beyond Cabernets and Chardonnays. And next year, she has big plans. She explained, “We’re raising the roof!” She plans to create an educational seminar space above the store where she’ll offer more tastings and more wine pairing classes.
Q: What do you think makes Ellicottville special?
A: I think one thing that makes Ellicottville special is that so many of our small business owners are women. That’s one of the reasons I opened the store here. I worked in corporate medical sales for 10 years, an industry that is so male dominated. It didn’t matter how hard a woman worked; there was always a man promoted ahead of her. The atmosphere in Ellicottville is different. The retailers (men and women alike) all work together – we have a lot in common.
Q: In an ideal world, what would you like to see change in Ellicottville in the next five – ten years?
A: More parking! Not only do we need more parking for customers, but we also need parking for employees who work in town so they don’t use spots that are meant for customers.
Q: What would you like to see stay the same in Ellicottville in the next five – ten years?
A: I like that there seems to be more focus on development of things to do in town during the off-season, like the bowling alley, Holiday Valley’s Sky High Adventure Park and the recreational trail. This is a very positive trend I would like to see continue.
Q: Are you involved in any organizations/community/volunteer groups outside of your official responsibilities?
A: I’ve always been an active donor to a lot of fundraisers and non-profits in the area. I’ve been involved in the Royal Acorn Club at the Library, and just last week I was invited to become a member of the Rotary Club of Ellicottville. I’m looking forward to getting more involved at that level.
Q: What are your favorite area events/activities?
A: There are so many great events and activities in Ellicottville all year round, but I have to say my favorite time of year is right now, just before Christmas. The town is all dressed up and adorable, the shops are prepared for the busy season and everyone is cheerful, but there’s also a little bit of quiet before everyone starts getting their mojo going.