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Offering fine wine and a fine time

World Class Wines is a little shop that keeps growing


Photo Credit: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Rick Baldwin and Susan Olson get a highly diverse clientele at World Class Wines. They will soon be moving their shop to another location in Lake Oswego.

When Rick Baldwin decided to get out of the mortgage banking business after 36 years, he wondered if he should do something about his overflowing wine cellar.

The result has been World Class Wines, a Lake Oswego wine shop that has achieved rising success and is about to move into a bigger, better location.

Along with his business partner Susan Olson, Baldwin has been able to transform his expertise and love of wine into a thriving business. One reason it has been a success is that Baldwin is so adept at helping customers who don’t have a clue about what wine they should buy.

As Olson puts it, “Rick is the guy people come to with questions about wine.”

“Wine can be intimidating,” Baldwin said. “I try to take the intimidation factor out of it and make buying wine a pleasant experienced. For the first customer who came through my door I recommended a buttery, oaky chardonnay. Within two times of a customer coming here I can tell what they really like.”

Starting a wine shop five years ago was a tough decision for Baldwin, whose expertise was in mortgages not selling wine. But at the time “the whole real estate industry had imploded.” For inspiration for new direction in life he could look to the 5,000 bottles of wine in his wine cellar.

“Wine was something else that was my passion,” Baldwin said.

In addition, opening World Class Wines was an opportunity to go into business with Olson, something he had long been considering. Olson does not pretend to be a wine expert.

“I like wine,” she said. “I drink what tastes good.”

But her business expertise and energy were big factors in helping World Class Wines catch on in a very competitive market for wine in Lake Oswego.

“We started a wine club that was very different,” Olson said. “It’s driven by our customers on how much they spend and what wines they like. We have a lot of special events. We host business gatherings, birthday parties, charities and school supporters. We’ve developed really good relationships with our customers. It’s very personal.

“The really interesting thing is that on any given Friday night we might get 20-somethings, 50-somethings or 70-somethings. They all stand around this table talking about wine. They form great friendships between generations. That’s what I love about this place.”

“Lake Oswego is a very eclectic place,” Baldwin said. “There are a lot of singles who come in, organic people and hippies.”

And more than a few eccentrics.

“Some people pick wine if there’s a picture of a dog on the label,” Olson said. “There was one lady who wouldn’t get a bottle of wine unless there was a chateau on the label.”

“We’re the ‘Cheers’ of wine shops,” Baldwin said. “We’ve even got Kramers. But we’re not cliquey or clubby. We get new people all the time.”

This joy of wine will only get stronger, because in early March the little old wine shop will be moving across the intersection on Second Street and into the building where Scratch Restaurant used to be at 149 A Ave.

“The shop will be all on one story,” Olson said. “It will be better for wine tastings. We’ll have a wine bar that is open six nights a week.”

World Class Wines is located at 269 A Ave. in downtown Lake Oswego. For more information, go to worldclasswinesoregon.com or call 503-974-9841.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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