DON WAARA

About the Owner

I got my introduction to the fine wine business during a three year stint back between 1976 and 1979 when as a student in northern California I worked part-time at a fine wine shop in Berkeley and, of course, toured the wine country.  Following that experience I returned to Chicago and my brief career in social work before interviewing and accepting a similar position in Atlanta.  Looking back, I consider myself lucky that job fell through because I then walked into Ansley Wine & Cheese, lied about my background, and was soon managing that fine wine and cheese establishment…and having a ball in the wine biz!

I went on to work at other boutique wine shops and volume package stores in Atlanta, even recommending wines at fine dining establishments before signing on with Big Star Foods which proceeded to place me here in Gainesville back in 1986. Big Star was a progressive chain that introduced the “wine shop within a grocery store” concept to Atlanta.  In 1993 I was approached by three gentlemen who wanted to open a liquor store here in town.  Knowing the business, I persuaded them to think small with wine and cheese instead.  Our new location at 1290 Thompson Bridge Road is our third venue over the course of twenty-two years and it’s a homecoming of sorts since we now reside mere yards from the Publix store now in place where my Big Star was.

 

So how does one get started with wine appreciation much less a career in this business?  There are basically two ways, which really work well together: find a group of tasting buddies and find a mentor.  For me my buddies were my colleagues in the business; my mentor was Jim Sanders the “father of the fine wine business in Atlanta”.  Back in the late ‘60s, Jim actually started the first fine wine shop in Atlanta which also just so happened to be the same Ansley Wine & Cheese shop I happened to walk into in 1981!  I worked for Jim at his Paces Ferry store where I sat at the feet of the master and tried to soak in whatever he shared.  Jim was recognized by the French government for his promotion of French culture, he wrote the AJC wine column, led tours of the French wine country, and taught fine wine classes.  To say my experience with him was indispensable would be to understate it.

So that’s who I am.  Stop in the store and let’s start your wine and cheese journey!

OI000038-1-1024x768.jpg