NORTH SALEM - Shortly before Christmas 2003, Tom Christopher saw an intriguing ad for an old train station. The Croton Falls Train Station was over 100 years old, and showing its age. The interior walls were lined with plywood shelving, the floor was carpeted and stained. There was a dingy drop acoustical tile ceiling with gloomy fluorescent fixtures.
On an impulse, Christopher and his wife, Dawn, bought it. Then they wondered, what do you do with an old train station?
Dawn Christopher had lived in Northern California, so it was almost instinctive for her to think of selling wine. While renovations to the building were being planned, she took a course at the Sommelier Society of America and earned Sommeliers Certification.
Once the work got under way a magical transformation took place. The original woodwork was revealed along with old documents tacked to the walls: instructions for the railroad staff, ticket information, lists of telephone numbers.
The old wood was refinished, the drop ceiling removed, the lighting and heating modernized. The old documents were framed and are now displayed in the shop. Its as close as we could get it to the original, said Dawn Christopher.
The Front Street Cellar is now in its seventh year and Christopher feels confident about their decision. I taste everything I bring into the store. I can do it because the store is small.
I stay away from the big names and try to carry wines from the smaller distributors. The great majority of the stock is less that $20, but I do carry some Reserve and collectible wines.
The Front Street Cellar offers wine classes from fall to spring. Themed wine tastings occur about every two weeks and attract at least fifty people every time. The shop has a handsome separate room as well, which is available for private wine tasting parties.
What wine is popular right now? Christopher says it is Prosecco. It is the new value champagne. For $12 you get a wonderful sparkling wine. Its light and refreshing -- a nice aperitif and wonderful when its warm outside.
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