In the hamlet of Monte Rio, Sophie?s Cellars wine shop is preparing for today?s arrival of the big spenders, the cadre of America?s wealthiest men gathering at the Bohemian Grove to kick off the annual encampment of power politics, hijinks and serious drinking.
?They consume a lot of wine,? said co-owner David Defries. ?One day a grove member spent $20,000. It?s not unusual for one member to come in and buy in one day what we have sold in a month.?
Defries said every year there?s a three-week window when business is outrageously prosperous, when bottles of wine, in the $400 to $600 range, sell easily. The priciest wine on the shelves is the Schrader, 2004 CCS Beckstoffer Vineyards, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $580.
He calls this interval ?a bit magical? because the shop has unlimited access to practically any wine in Wine Country - in the world, for that matter. Wineries want to get their wines in front of the shop?s well-heeled customers.
?For the last three years we helped grove members with a big-bottle event and we needed 80 magnums,? Defries said. ?Wineries opened up their wine libraries and the owners even offered up magnums from their private cellars. The wine sometimes came from winery owners in private cars with a driver. Wine normally comes from a distributor.?
The upscale wine shop in the yellow cottage has great grove appeal. For one thing, its lavish showing of wine and cheese is unexpected in a modest river town like Monte Rio. But on a practical note, it?s the only wine shop in town and the closet in proximity, just across the Russian River and about two miles from Bohemian Grove.
Inside, the d?or reflects affluence, with its granite counters and countless racks of wine dominating the store. There is jazz in the background, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing ?Can?t We Be Friends.? And then there?s the boss. Defries said the shop is named after his spaniel, Sophie, joking that he?s just her employee. Most of all the appeal is its high-profile wines, often in limited supply.
?Huge amounts of wine get sent into the camp directly, so when they buy from us they?re almost always buying 100 percent small-production wines from Sonoma County, bottlings they know they can?t get elsewhere," Defries said. ?For example, there are 40 wines that I can?t put online that will only be available from the wineries during this three-week window."
Bohemian Grover members? intrigue with boutique wines began about four years ago with a tasting at the grove.
?Several tier-1 wines priced at $1,000 were tasted against some Sonoma County wines at $50 to $70 and two to three of our Sonoma wines were picked as best,? said Defries.
Most popular are pinot noirs from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, including Rochioli, Williams Selyem, Flowers and Woodenhead. The shop?s priciest pinot noir to date is the magnum of Williams Selyem, 2002 Rochioli River Block, Russian River Valley, priced at $400.
In addition to wine, Defries also supplies baguettes from Raymond?s Bakery in Cazadero, as well as Mom's Apple Pies from Sebastopol.
?I had no idea when we bought this building in June of 2005 that the Bohemian Grove would be such a great part of our business," said Defries, explaining it accounts for 5 to 10 percent of his annual business.