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Posted on Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 6 a.m.

With Hollywood as its customer, the Wine Seller moves to expand

By Janet Miller

When a Hollywood production company wanted to deliver a bottle of 2003 Silver Oak Cabernet to crew members working on a film in the Ann Arbor area last summer, they called The Wine Seller. The store wrapped the $113 bottle of California wine in a gift bag and hand delivered it. 

That’s the kind of reputation Swetang Patel wants to continue to build as his family expands their north side Ann Arbor wine shop. Swetang owns The Wine Seller with his father, Vipin.


Swetang Patel, along with his father Vipin Patel, owns The Wine Seller on Plymouth Road, in the back of the Plymouth Road Mall.

Janet Miller | For

Located in the rear of the Plymouth Road Mall, The Wine Seller has gone from a neighborhood mom and pop convenience store with a cave-like interior to a destination wine shop since the Patels purchased it nearly 5 years ago. They offer starter wines as low as $6 a bottle up to premium wines that ring in at $280.

Other than enjoying an occasional glass of wine at dinner, no one in the family knew anything about wine, said Swetang Patel, who joined his father in the business after he graduated from the University of Michigan in 2008. “I didn’t know the difference between a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet. I had no idea.” 

Patel became a student of “The World Atlas of Wine” and a fan of a wine video blog called the Wine Library. “I’m finding new things every day,” Patel said.

After slowly upgrading the interior over the past 5 years, the Patels are ready to take a giant step: They will more than double their 1,200-square foot shop, expanding into the former Ann Arbor District Library North Branch, and adding an adjacent Indian grocery, Om Market, in another 1,400 square feet.

The expansion of The Wine Seller should be completed in two months, with Om Market opening in the spring, Patel said. The market will carry Indian groceries such as flour and spices along with carryout such as samosas and Indian sweets. They will also offer catering.

The poor economy gave his family some pause about expanding, Patel said. “We could stay as we are, keeping our business going. But our client base is growing and we’re struggling for space…. If you take the risk, people will come.”

The expansion will allow them to increase their wine offerings to 2,000 bottles and expand their crafted beer selection. The expansion will also include a new computer system to track inventory.

“Until now, we’ve done it by paper and memory,” Patel said. The new system will help manage the Wine Seller’s 1,700 different wines and a large selection of craft beer along with domestic beer, 

While he was new to wine in the beginning, Patel said he’s been on a fast track to learn.

“Getting passionate about the business has helped it grow,” he said. The trick, he said, is to offer customer service, searching for hard-to-find wines and making recommendations to adventurous customers eager to try something new. “I like to have my customers venture out,” Patel said. 

Take, for example, the Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir. No one was carrying it locally, but Patel found a local distributor for the $60 bottle and was able to offer it to his customer. 

After a year of fast-track learning, Patel has mastered wine vocabulary. He talks about a 2006 Vertente Douro from Portugal, which he recommended to a regular customer drawn to California Cabernets: “The fruit stands out, the tannins are not great, so it’s an easy drinking wine. It’s fruit forward with a good frit balance.”



Mon, Jan 4, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

I am happy to see any retail success, and there is no doubt that this is a great addition to a specific part of town. Let us not forget, however, that there are also other wine stores in Ann Arbor that not only have great selections, but also have more experience with wine, staffed by people who have been involved with the grape for more than a year or two. Perhaps it would be nice to do a story on these as well, without a Hollywood "hook."


Mon, Jan 4, 2010 : 6:49 a.m.

Hilarious how any article on here immediately becomes an outlet for all sorts of whinging and moaning. The Wine Seller is a fantastic shop, the service is friendly and extremely helpful. It's great to hear they are expanding, there has been a pretty big void since Bello Vino left about a year ago.


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 5:10 p.m.

I think the film tax breaks are good. It brings in an industry that is attractive to young/creative folks. While we are more generous to Hollywood than other states, I'm not sure why we're always so eager to continue the manufacturing-type tax breaks. Those are such capital-intensive industries that we are often giving a company a 1,000,000 tax break for 200 jobs. We might as well just give folks pick-up trucks and turn them all into snow removal/lawn care folks. You can buy a lot of trucks for a $1,000,000. Michigan needs to be a "cooler" state; attract young people. This is one route.

dading dont delete me bro

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 3:54 p.m.

hope this business doesn't grow too fast...with jenny trying to cut the tax breaks on filming here in michigan, the film crews will leave and this business will be too big for his regular clientel...all thanks to the economy. why didn't he suggest a comparable wine from the great state of michigan?!?!? hunh?


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 3:19 p.m.

Have gone there a couple times and received very friendly, helpful service.

Kent Hatcher

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 1:44 p.m.

They also have a great selection of hard-to-find beers, like all the ones from Rogue (Oregon). Nice friendly shop to have in the neighborhood.

The Picker

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 11:48 a.m.

Huh? Tax cuts are tax breaks, but without the accounting, commissions, panels, office space, utilities ect. ect. What is the cost to administer these breaks? Wouldn't Hollywood be attracted to a low cost environment to do business? I think so!


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

"You may be surprised to find out that Michigan has one of the best tax deals in the U.S. for retired people. Largely this is due to Michigans state-income-tax exemption of up to $90,240 of private pension income per couple. Many types of government pensions are totally tax-exempt named Michigan one of its seven best (unknown) retirement tax havens."- The 2010 State Business Tax Climate Index ranks Michigan #17 on overall tax climate. Sales tax rate puts MI 22nd out of 50. Published tax policy is not always the best way to look at the System...see: "Augusta Township officials made deal that cost the utility department at least $400,000, documents show" for an example of how these "tax breaks" and deals sometimes come back to bite communities in the rear end. Certainly some tweaking could be done to our tax codes, but the constant refrain that the tax code is the cause of our economic woes is akin to worrying about Obamas death panels.


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 11:34 a.m.

It is the best wine store in ann arbor.


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 11:22 a.m.

"Reduce taxes for private enterprise and we will see many for profit business' flock here and we won't be burdened with some expensive paper shuffling beauracy that will never go away" "So that's what Hollywood is doing with their tax breaks!" Maybe this was not sarcasm after all?


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 11:13 a.m.

Yes, "Hollyweird" is indeed using the tax breaks as intended, spending money in our state. Yes,maybe a MI wine would have been a better return, but if no tax sale. What we don;t have is a Pfizer type break, a long term break given with the reward of a Sir Robin-like retreat from the community. As is often the case in, the closing of one business opens the way for another. I don't think the WS would be doing as well had Bella Vino not closed.I for one miss the massive selection of beer that was available from BV. I wish the Patels the best of luck in their expansion. They are friendly, knowledgeable and carry a decent selection of ales and lagers. I would like to see some expansion in that area along with the increased wine varietals. I will be returning often to the WS to watch the expansion and enjoy the growth of this business. Now if I could only get some mimosa ingredients Sunday morning!

The Picker

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

No,I don't think everyone should be poor. Michigan has one of the highest tax burdens in the country and thats whats driving business away and having existing ones leave this state. Reduce taxes for private enterprise and we will see many for profit business' flock here and we won't be burdened with some expensive paper shuffling beauracy that will never go away

The Picker

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 10:15 a.m.

While I buy wine at this shop, I do so without tax break assistance from the state. Perhaps a Michigan wine would have been more sensitive to the host state, and kept the extra $100 dollars here instead of California.

The Picker

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.

Yes let us eat cake! while we write our tax checks.


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 9:54 a.m.

@ The Picker: yes, that's what Hollywood is doing with their tax breaks. Spending money at our locally-owned stores, which employ local people and pay local taxes.

Bubble world west

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 9:52 a.m.

this place is a hidden gem to shop for wine.


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

I didn't know of it either, tend to stay in my own neighborhood I guess. Will be sure to stop in.

The Picker

Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 9:05 a.m.

So that's what Hollywood is doing with their tax breaks!


Sun, Jan 3, 2010 : 8:23 a.m.

That's great to know. I wasn't aware of the Wine Seller until reading this article. I'll make a point of checking this place out.