Q+A: Lena Olson, Blanc & Rouge
Founded in 2000, Blanc & Rouge is a wine and spirits boutique that focuses on delicious wines at every price point. From inexpensive wines for gallery openings, through everyday dinner wines, right up to the world's greatest collectibles, they have a bottle for you. Blanc & Rouge emphasizes small growers with organic, biodynamic, natural and lute raisonée practice. They’ve been very excited to support local wineries and distilleries as the Brooklyn Boom in food and drink has exploded, and continue to take pride in representing local producers.
From the beginning, they've been one of the few "community centers" in the neighborhood—and they continue to be a neighborhood focal point, with free tastings and other events, bringing people in to share and learn, as well as to pick up a bottle (or twelve).
We met with Lena to talk about wine and spirits, and get some ideas for bottle choices for the upcoming holidays.
"We are definitely a neighborhood fixture."
What is the Blanc & Rouge origin story, and how long have you been in DUMBO?
Blanc & Rouge has been around for about eighteen years. We were either the second or third business in DUMBO, we don’t quite know yet whether it was us or Superfine who were here first. But yeah, we were here before anything else really, other than Peas and Pickles. We were opened by a French man named Laurence; he built these beautifully rustic shelves. He had the desire to open a wine shop, before anything else was happening in DUMBO. Since then, we’ve become a destination for special, hard-to-get wines, as well as values from around the world. We are definitely a neighborhood fixture.
Can we find any local spirits or wines here at Blanc & Rouge?
We have a number of local spirits! Our favorite palate is King’s County, because they’re our neighbors of course–we do a number of their different whiskeys, and their Moonshine too. We also have the Hill Rock from upstate. There is definitely a New York presence in the wine world too, one that will grow throughout the fall.
What seems to be the DUMBO favorite?
We call the Vrac Rosé DUMBO water :) That’s somewhat seasonal, but it’s pretty amazing how much of it DUMBO consumes. The fun thing about DUMBO is that the customer drinks lots of different things, their tastes are so varied, just like the neighborhood is.
What is one of this fall’s bestsellers?
I think probably Beaujolais is the most popular for the fall. It’s something that does well year round. There’s also a lot of young wine-makers doing exciting things, which fits in with the experimentation of the neighborhood.
Are there any upcoming exciting developments for Blanc & Rouge?
Well, I’m new to the shop and with that I believe have brought us to be a lot more wine-focused than before. We’ve got some serious wine people all contributing, the quality of the experience is a new and exciting thing. We’ve also taken a lot of time trying to expand the top ten/under $10, knowing that everyone also needs a value option. But of course with the holidays coming, we’re going to see lots of different specialty items as well.
Have you got any very special bottles here, that you can’t easily find elsewhere?
There are literally hundreds of rare bottles on the shelf, wines you wouldn’t find in your average shop–but you know we only get a few bottles of them a year! But, because we feel like the customer deserves to taste these wines, they just rotate onto the shelf. Especially this season, because this is when the wine is released. There will be a lot of special wines!
Do you have any personal favorites at the moment?
I have a lot of personal favorites. It kind of depends on the day. I’m a champagne lover so we’ve got some new bottles in from Marie Courtin and Agrapart that have got me very excited. There's lots of new things from the Northern part of Italy, where the Alps meet the North. It's stunning stuff! So no one favorite I'm afraid.
Finally, what is your favorite place in DUMBO?
Great question! I mean, I think I’m probably Foragers’ best customer. Yeah, I don’t know if I have a favorite - I like the variety of DUMBO. We get treated really well at Front St and Westville because they are our neighbors; I love Gran Eléctrica because of the interesting mezcal; and you know we even spend a lot of time in the park, as a staff, we do staff trainings there.
Thank you Lena!