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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Noble Writ's St. Louis Grand Crus: Paul Hayden, the Wine & Cheese Place

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2009 at 11:30 AM

From time to time, I dedicate a post to someone doing remarkable work in the St. Louis area. In this edition, it's Paul Hayden, who has the enormous job of managing the Clayton location of the Wine & Cheese Place and buying wine (and other non-Noble Writ beverages) for the store's other locations as well as Provisions market.

Hayden started with the store as a cashier at the age of eighteen and gradually worked his way up the ladder of responsibility as his passion for wine grew. Like me, Hayden had no family tradition of wine drinking but got interested through his work in the store. There were always wines open for the staff (the over-twenty-one portion!) to taste, and Hayden quickly grew fascinated by the diversity and complexity of wine. When the wine buyer position became vacant, Hayden was ready to step in and hasn't looked back.

Paul Hayden of the Wine & Cheese Place - DAVE NELSON
  • Dave Nelson
  • Paul Hayden of the Wine & Cheese Place
                                     Three Questions for Paul Hayden

Wine Epiphany? 1982 Lynch Bages.

Most Interesting Recent Wine? 1995 Dom. De Pegau Cuvée Maxim (a one-off bottling commemorating the birth of Laurence Féraud's son tasted at the property with Mme Féraud).

Holy Grail Bottle? An old, well-stored bottle of Ch. Yquem from a great year.
Hayden describes the selection he has built at the Clayton Wine & Cheese Place as being two separate stores. First, he has carefully selected bottles from around the world that he loves and believes represents high-quality examples of their regions or grape varieties. Second, he brings in loads of critically acclaimed wines due to the high demand these wines generate. This allows the store to move sufficient volume to support stocking slower-moving esoteric and high-end selections.

In practice, this dual-pronged approach makes the store a very appealing destination. Just about every region is represented by high-quality bottlings at all price levels, with particular strength in Bordeaux, the Rhone, Italy, Australia, Germany, Spain and the United States. In these areas you will find rare high-end offerings on the shelf (as opposed to hiding in the back room for "special" customers) as well as value wines that give a fair impression of the region at a reasonable price. This egalitarian approach, along with Hayden's laid-back personality, make the Clayton location of the Wine & Cheese Place one of the least intimidating places to shop for wine in St. Louis.

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