“We want every customer who visits Wine ConneXtion to feel welcome and special—whether it’s your first time or your 100th, and whether you’re looking for a super-affordable weekday wine or a special occasion wine,” says Steve Ross, whom you’ll find most days passionately working at the shop. “We want our customers to approach wine as something they can get lost in, be it the poetics or the technical facts. The most important thing to us is creating relationships and encouraging conversations around wine.”
Driving to North Andover to visit the team at Wine ConneXtion, I follow the sinews and sweeps of the rolling back roads of the Merrimack Valley, taking a circuitous route to linger in the soon-to-dim afternoon light.
As the rural scene fades behind me, I make my way into the village. I enter the shop, and everywhere are smiling faces. It’s bright and inviting, supremely organized, and, most of all, welcoming. It’s my first visit, but I understand instantly why they are a popular wine destination. Wine ConneXtion is exactly as Ross described it, “Our mission comes from the top,” by way of the owners Sam and Tina Messina.
Siblings Tina and Sam Messina’s grandfather opened Messina’s Liquors in the late 1930s as a grocery store with a separate room in the back in which beer and wine were sold, a room where, as Tina Messina recalls, her grandfather hid the lollipops—a tradition her brother Sam continues to this day. In the 1960s, Tina and Sam’s father took over with a full liquor license and moved the family business to its current location. When the time came for their father to retire in the 1980s, Tina and Sam took over the store. Then, in 2007, they closed for renovations and reopened in 2008 using the new name. They chose the spelling of ConneXtion to emphasize their approach: excellent wines at exceptional prices.
Sam is the wine director, responsible for curating the selections, and Tina is the business manager. David, Sam’s son, spends most of his time on the floor with Ross interacting with customers.
The majority of the wines are standing at the ready and fill the shop in rows organized by grape, region, and country—a virtual world tour of “weekday wines” perfect for everyday drinking, at a variety of price points. For “weekend wines,” a small selection of bottles rest on their sides along the far wall in classic cellar format. And in The Vault, first-growth Bordeaux options rub shoulders with the likes of Super Tuscans and the highly sought after Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There is also a well-stocked liquor room, populated with familiar names as well as smaller production, locally crafted spirits, but the heartbeat of the shop resounds within the panoramic wine selection.
Weekly Saturday wine tastings draw a loyal following, and are not to be missed. As we approach the most traditional American holiday, stop by Wine ConneXtion and ask the staff about their favorite American wines to pair with Thanksgiving fare and ask Ross about the story behind the California Chardonnay from JK Estates. Explore Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes or Long Island, and tiptoe into Rhone varietal territory from Santa Barbara, with Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. Whatever your palate gravitates toward, strike up a conversation with a great group of wine enthusiasts who are ready to make you feel at home as you navigate the world of wine.
117 North Main St., North Andover, 877-469-5025, wineconnextion.com