The U.S. wine industry produces over 836 million bulk gallons of wine annually and the Syracuse area has its fair share of wine shops, discount liquor stores and even a few wine producers. That’s not unique to an area of our size. What is perhaps unique, though, is that two brothers own and operate separate, similarly sized wine shops imprinted with their distinct antithetical personalities.
The Decker boys (Dana and Gary) were raised with 3 other siblings in Galeville, NY. Gary, the younger of the two, recalls the typical competition between brothers, “We mixed it up quite a bit. Things got physical from time-to-time but we had a lot of fun.” All of the Decker siblings worked, at one time or another, in the restaurant business from service to ownership. So it isn’t difficult to understand how Dana and Gary both ended up in the same business selling the same product. But that’s where the similarities end.
Gary is a funny guy. A walking joke factory, really. Vinomania (314 Pearl St. in Syracuse for the past 15 years) is an eclectic place much like it’s owner. Walk through the door of Vinomania and you are likely to hear James Brown, George Clinton or some other master of funk music pulsating through the house speakers.
The shop is adorned with novelties ranging from classic radios and floating airplanes to old toys and a mounted deer head. It’s a part of who he is. In addition to collecting things, Gary also collects people. There’s a usual cast of characters that can be found hanging around on a Friday afternoon or at the monthly wine tastings. “It’s a bit of a frat house,” he says. “A group of guys that share a passion for wine and spirits and a good laugh or two.”
Gary’s approach to the wine merchant business is to “get a deal that I can pass on to the customer.” Vinomania has a mix of old and new world wine and, most recently, an assortment of imported and domestic high-end spirits. He gets to know his customers, and in so doing, learns their likes and dislikes. It helps him in assisting his regulars. It truly is a mix of passion for the grape and providing a unique, fun shopping experience for his patrons. His energy really picks up when you talk about the people and the Vinomania community.
How does his shop differ from his brother’s? “Dana’s customers drink with their pinky fingers extended. My customers grip the glass because they can’t afford to drop it.” I relay that quote to Dana who chuckles and says, “that’s about right.”
Conversely, Decker’s Fine Wines & Spirits (112 Brooklea Dr in Fayetteville for 25 years) is the Dean Martin to Vinomania’s Jerry Lewis. Dana is a pretty serious guy. Not without humor, just serious about the business of wine.
Walk through Decker’s doors and you’re met with classical music. The interior is elegant and minimalist in design. Bright colors and wall-to-wall wine.
Dana sells more than wine. He sells a lifestyle. “I have a deep understanding of food and wine and I like to pass that on to my customers,” he says.
I bumped into one of those customers on my way in. Communications Consultant, Mike Fish, told me that he relies on Dana’s expertise. “He really know’s what he’s doing,” Mike said. And he does. Dana travels annually to Europe to experience Old World wines at the source.
While you can find some good New World wine at Decker’s, Dana almost exclusively deals in the Old World grape. In fact, he has an entire room dedicated to Italian wine, cordials and spirits.
You can see the passion in Dana’s face when he talks about wine and food. He subscribes to the belief that “if it grows together, it goes together.” For him, it is that simple. “People are hobbyist by nature,” Dana adds. “Wine and food is a fast growing hobby for many people and that’s who Decker’s attracts.”
Two brothers, two wine shops, two totally different experiences. Both equally passionate about what they do and who they serve. You only need to decide which experience is right for you.
The brothers Decker are sharing their four holiday picks with us. Dana recommends 3 Old World wines and 1 New World wine for you:
Gary recommends one Old World and one New World wine and a couple of spirits:
I’d love to know if you have a favorite wine, spirit or a particular region that you are passionate about.