The first thing you notice when you enter in Chester is not the clean lines of the design or the place, or the large racks of wine in various stages of development. It isn’t the soft music piping through the speakers or the goods available for purchase or even the smile of owner Michelle Ziesse.
The first thing you notice when is a sense of familiarity. It is a welcoming feeling, not unlike coming home and it is something that Ziesse has tried to cultivate in the shop, which .
“We really love our customers,” Ziesse said. “They become our friends.”
Vintner’s Circle is not a liquor store but rather a place for people who love wine to make their own wine from juice, not from grapes.
“I often send people to the liquor store around the corner,” said Ziesse, along with her husband Ray and their children live in Chester. “We may not have what they are looking for this time, but maybe they will come back next time.”
Vintner’s Circle is a teaching facility where wine is made in three half-hour visits in a seven-week period. There is a high level of customization to the wines, allowing for a variety of flavors and even more so when it comes to bottling. Customers can choose a label from the options available or they can have a custom label put together by their design team. Those personalized products don't only end up going home with the customer who designed them, some go further.
"We have bottles back here on our wine swap board," Vintner said. "And when you finish a batch, you can swap out a bottle of your wine for a bottle someone else has made that is up on the board."
The personalization and the interaction with members of her community is what drove Ziesse to give up the long hours and high stress of her job and start the Vintner’s Circle franchise in Chester.
It was when she wasn’t working when she happened the franchise in Hackettstown. Or rather—her father and brother did.
“They called me when they were peaking in the windows there,” Ziesse said. “And they said ‘Michelle you have to come see this place.’”
Soon, Ziesse was making wine in the Hackettstown store and it wasn’t long after that the idea to open her own franchise came to mind.
“I do a lot of research,” Ziesse said. “I read over all that I could. I learned about the business and found a location I knew would work well.”
That location, a few stores down from the Shop Rite, opened in December of 2011.
Customers who come to Vintner’s Circle have fun with the various mixing and additive processes, but according to Ziesse there is a clear winner for.
“The power tools,” Ziesse said. “We use power tools as part of the de-gassing process.”
Aside from the wine making in the store, Ziesse keeps the shelves stocked with equipment for customer’s to make their own wine and beer at home. Vintner’s Circle is also committed to partnering with other local businesses, and assisting in fundraisers.
“I got a call the other day about a fundraiser,” said Ziesse who donated a portion of her grand opening proceeds charity. “I am happy to put together a basket for that or to work with other businesses.”
Thus far, Vintner’s Circle has hosted a wine and chocolate evening among other events and on March 30 is hosting a spring wine tasting to help pair the right wine for the upcoming spring holiday meals.
So maybe it is the array of wine-making products and accessories, or the labels for the finished products or the décor all adding to the atmosphere at Vinter’s Circle.
But for Ziesse, it can be summed up rather easily.
“I love what I do,” Ziesse said. “And I have a fantastic staff that supports me and allows me to do it.”