Every Wine Has a Story

Liz Rubin, Bi-Rite’s new Wine, Beer, and Spirits Category Manager, shares her vision for the future of the category and reveals exciting developments for the Bi-Rite label program.

You recently assumed the role of Wine, Beer, and Spirits Category Sales Manager for the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses. Tell us a little about your career journey including how you came to join the Bi-Rite Family.

In graduate school I studied the connection between eating and experience. I was particularly excited by spaces that generate social interaction and activism and the ways in which food can be a catalyst for change and community development. I always loved the din of a restaurant and the interworking of a grocery store, I just wanted to dig into how these spaces could be the most generative for magical transformations. My food career began in trades, particularly butchery and cheese. For a short time I worked at Avedano’s Meats and then was lucky enough to be part of the opening crew at Mission Cheese. These two environments instilled in me the importance of story. Sharing stories of product provenance is an element of good salesmanship, but more than that, it’s the main way to inspire support for the maker and elicit actions which extend beyond a one-time transaction. I realized I wasn’t the only one who believed in the power of stories when I joined the Bi-Rite Family in 2013.

Bi-Rite applies a rigorous Product Mission and Sourcing Guidelines to all departments. How do you use these guidelines to evaluate new potential products?

The Bi-Rite Product Mission focuses on sourcing products that will enrich our culture, have a positive impact on our environment, create memories for our guests, and fortify our relationships with producers and vendors. It’s the backbone for all my buying decisions. In alcohol, like any industry, there is a need to stay on top of new processes and ideas. The Product Mission provides my compass to stay on course when navigating newness and determining if an upcoming trend could become meaningful experiences for our guests.

An example of this is organic certification. It’s important to many Bi-Rite guests that all agricultural products be certified organic. But we’re starting to see negative and unsustainable effects of copper spraying (an “organic” method to vineyard management) so now we’re talking to farmers about how they’re planning for the future health of our environment. The price of certification is also a barrier for smaller producers as they’re incredibly expensive. We don’t give up on them simply because they don’t have the seal. We work with them—to learn about their practices and help them. Our Product Mission encourages us to think beyond a sales goal because it’s more important that we’re ambassadors for responsible sourcing.

The wine department includes the special Bi-Rite label program, a series of exclusive partnerships with celebrated winemakers. What is your vision for evolving not just that program, but the entire wine department?

Trac Le was an amazing steward of Bi-Rite’s wine program for 9 years, and I’m going to continue offering well-made, delicious wines, and promoting the work of our fantastic producers and vendors. I want to work with more grower-producers because I believe the connection to the land and the story of place is integral to the experience of drinking the wine. I want to continue having a selection that is balanced in both interest and price. We’re Bi-Rite so we’ll always have the “cool stuff.”

{Ed. Note: NEWS ALERT!} I’m excited to announce we’re bringing in a new Bi-Rite label wine in early 2020. In partnership with Long Meadow Ranch, we’ll have a stunning 2019 Sauvignon Blanc. It’s lean and crisp, and beautifully high toned with amazing salinity. It was important to me to bring in a local wine that is well-priced and great paired with food. The Bi-Rite Sauvignon Blanc will be $14.99 and brilliant alongside vegetarian and meat-based dishes, as well as cheese.

What producers are you especially excited about right now? Any interesting trends that guests can expect to see hitting Bi-Rite’s shelves in the near future?

Wow, what a question! I am excited for so much. Like being able to promote the amazing work of young winemakers like Chad Hinds and Claire Hill (both Bi-Rite alums that I worked with)! And I am excited about some amazing wines from South America, like Ver Sacrum and Rogue Vine. Oh, and I’m loving the influx of biodynamic Champagne. There’s just so much – it’s a great time to love wine!

*The Bi-Rite Wine Sale runs from 11/15-11/17/2019 and 12/13-12/15/2019. Buy 12 bottles or more and score 20% off!*

Have wine questions for Liz? Send us a DM on Instagram at @biritesf.

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