It was an early Tuesday afternoon when I visited Julio’s Liquors at 140 Turnpike Road in Westborough. Toni Deluca had been announced as the store’s new wine director in September. My goal was to ask Toni about the wine industry and gain a better understanding of what a wine director’s role is, but as luck would have it, I experienced a first-hand glimpse into what a busy day she actually has.
As I enter Julio’s and look for Deluca, I notice her assisting a couple of customers, making recommendations based on budget, taste and occasion. Then, I head to Deluca’s office to wait for her, as she is approached by a wine vendor. Within the first five minutes of my visit, I’m starting to get the big picture of what a wine director accomplishes all in a day’s work.
According to Deluca, the wine industry was not a stop on her original career path. In fact, in college she studied criminal justice in Washington, D.C., and had a part-time job organizing and running wine-tasting events in northern Virginia. Later, she worked in the wine cellars of Chrysalis Vineyards, getting hands-on experience in the production of wine. A combination of customer relations experience and knowledge of wine production made her the best candidate for organizing a wine department at a store as large as Julio’s Liquors.
Keeping a diverse inventory well stocked, maintaining customer relations by offering personal recommendations and consistently bringing in new vendors all comes with the territory of being wine director. In addition, Deluca holds special wine-tasting events at Julio’s. From 7-8:30 p.m. every Thursday, there is a formal tasting, and customers can come in and sample from the store’s wide array of wines. On Saturdays, there are often more specific tasting events, some that even benefit nonprofit organizations. On Dec.12, Deluca will host a champagne portfolio tasting in conjunction with Toys for Tots. The event will help the organization provide toys for underprivileged children during the holidays.
The wine tastings take place in the Angel-Share Tasting Room of Julio’s Liquors, a relaxed environment with a unique selection of hard-to-find wines that Deluca curated herself. She is responsible for the aesthetic of the wine department, and it shows in the presentation of marquee brands and overall organization of the wine racks. There are even brands of wine that are exclusively retailed at Julio’s.
When a store like Julio’s has so many departments, including beer, hot sauce, specialty food, spirits and a smoke shop, it’s difficult to create a unique experience that fits into the bigger picture. And it’s Deluca’s job to do just that.
For more information, visit juliosliquors.com
By Samuel Schonning