Eric Hsu of Brooklyn’s Coast & Valley on California Alternatives - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Eric Hsu of Brooklyn’s Coast & Valley on California Alternatives

Eric Hsu got his start in the tech industry in New York, where he founded WineDirect, the e-commerce company, in 2001. Many of his customers were based in Napa Valley which led Hsu to move to the West Coast, visiting wineries and attending tastings. Back in Greenpoint, he began to miss the California wine scene, so he and his girlfriend, Stephanie Watanabe, decided to open Coast & Valley. He says they hope to “disrupt the market” by bringing an extensive California wine list to a neighborhood where Old-World wines rule in most of the restaurants. And they offer all the wines by the glass.

Eric Hsu and Stephanie Watanabe

A lot of your top-selling wines are pét-nats and rosés, rather than big cabernets or chardonnays.
Overall, Brooklynites are drawn to things that are being talked about on social media. Now, it’s pét-nat, orange wine, natural wine, so you have a lot of people coming in and asking for that. We listen to what customers want in terms of flavor and body. Those who know California wine well will ask for a big cabernet, and we’ll give them that. But we want to play an educational role, to be a place where guests can experiment and grow their vocabulary and palate. We want to help them be adventurous and spontaneous.

How is it that your biggest new success this year was with Stolpman Vineyards Para Maria Rosé.
Every month, we pick a theme and do our happy hour that way. In November, it was mission-driven. Stolpman Family makes sure that no one in their organization is a seasonal worker—everyone is full-time and has a path to citizenship. One thing that they do is give their workers acres of land and ownership over that land. Maria is a vineyard worker—and it’s her story that sells.

How does a Dry Hop Pet Nat (from Field Recordings) end up among your best-selling wines?
Greenpoint is a beer-driven community. We wanted to be focused solely on wine; we didn’t want to sell beer. So, when we saw an opportunity to sell something with hops, we gave it a try. People really love it. The nose is litchi and it’s phenomenal. It’s a pét-nat, it tastes like beer, and it’s a well-made wine. It’s a triple threat.

Your menu has a key, marking wines as organic, mission-driven, sustainability-focused, natural and “P” (made by people of color, LGBTQ+ or by women). What is the reasoning for that?
I’m Asian-American and my girlfriend (and co-owner), Stephanie Watanabe, is half-Japanese. We also spent twenty years in California—a super progressive state that cares about people and the environment. We definitely wanted to start with the People section. As we travel around wine country and meet the winemakers and wine owners, it’s common sense. There are very few female winemakers, and people of color. We were actively seeking them out. Once we find them, we don’t want to carry them without telling the story. You’re helping the cause. We care about the environment and health in general and people want things that are more organic. We want all of that to be highlighted and for people to understand that. You can vote with your wallet. You can put your money with your belief system and we give people the opportunity to do that.

is the former W&S Tasting Director turned freelance writer for the Vintner Project.

This is a W&S web exclusive. Get access to all of our feature stories by signing up today.