By Jessica Isaacs
Photos by Ken Ketchie
Looking for the perfect wine pairing for your holiday dinners or a sparkling wine for your New Year’s Eve toast? Are you on the hunt for the perfect last minute gift? Make your way to Banner Elk and check out Erick’s Cheese and Wine, where shop owner Randall Ray will help you find everything you need and more.
Erick’s is conveniently located in the Grandfather Center, this shop features a vast array of wines, imported and domestic cheeses, chocolates, glassware, bar accessories, custom gift baskets and party trays and specialty foods.
“It is a very friendly, nice environment for shopping. We get compliments almost every week from people who tell us that it’s a beautiful store,” Ray said. “We also kind of have a reputation around the country. People who travel here from other places say to others, ‘If you go to Banner Elk, you’ve got to go to Erick’s.’”
Ray and store employee Jessie Dale taste every wine before it goes on the shelf to make sure it’s something they like and something that meets the store’s standards. Their knowledge and expertise translates into an excellent personal shopping experience for customers, who leave with the best choice for their tastes and their price range.
“Jessie and I know a lot about wine. We can help anybody select a wine if they tell us their preferences,” Ray said. “We know what we’re selling and we can answer any of your questions. We can point something out that we think will fit their needs, and that’s the key thing here — personal service.
“We have a selection of wines that are hard to find and that you won’t find in most wine stores. We have wines that you can get at two for $10 or some that go up into the hundreds.”
Ray said the selection of dry rosé wines, which incorporate some degree of color from the skin of the grapes, are trending in popularity in the world of wine today.
“Our dry rosé sales have increased dramatically in the last three years. People have discovered that dry rosé is not like a white zinfandel, and they’re finding out that it’s a pretty nice wine.”
Erick’s offers a variety of champagnes, which hail from the Champagne region of France, and sparkling wines, which can be produced anywhere around the world. The store’s inventory features products for every taste and price range, including five different rosé selections, any of which would make the perfect addition to your holiday plans this year.
The store has wines for you to enjoy any time of year, but its variety of sparkling wines and champagnes may come in handy for you this Christmas and New Year’s.
“Champagne and sparkling wines are effervescent and they are festive. They are wines that some people drink on festive occasions, but you can really enjoy them anytime,” Ray said. “They are very easy to drink and most everybody can enjoy them. Not all of them are dry, and some are sweet, like a prosecco or a sparkling moscato. We have one called Mama Mango right now, which is a mascato and mango blend.”
Ray said it’s also a great place to turn for gifts, and you can even grab a gift certificate to let your friends and loved ones pick something out for themselves.
“We’ve got a selection of cheese-oriented gifts and we also have some Christmas-themed stuff, and lots of glassware and bar and liquor accessories,” Ray said. “We also have specialty chocolates and custom gift baskets for any price range.”
Erick’s will be open on Christmas Eve “until the traffic stops” around 5-6 p.m., so you still have time to grab a few bottles for the holiday weekend, and Ray looks forward to sharing his love for wine with you.
“A lot of people like to drink wine, and it’s a great accompaniment for meals. That’s really kind of how it has evolved,” he said. “Americans do drink wine without food sometimes, but a lot of Italian and French wines are designed around a meal. They’re better with food, and it’s not just the holidays — wine is something you can always enjoy.”
Stop by Erick’s on any Saturday afternoon to enjoy a complimentary wine tasting from 1-5 p.m. A more expensive wine may cost $5 to taste, but the proceeds will support the Avery County Humane Society.
Erick’s operates from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and will also be open on Dec. 27, the last Sunday before New Year’s Eve.
In 2016, store hours will change to 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
The store is located in the Grandfather Center near the junction of N.C. Highways 184 and 105 next door to the ABC Store in Banner Elk.
For more information, call the store at 828-898-9424 or visit erickscheeseandwine.com.