Name: Coly Den Haan
Hometown: Santa Barbara
Official Title: Boss
Years in the industry: 26
- How did you get involved with wine?
I sort of fell into it. I was a bartender for many years and back in around 2006 I was all about the cocktail revolution that was just hitting LA from NYC. I was working on opening my own cocktail bar when the manager at the restaurant I was working at offered to sponsor me to take a Sommelier course. It was the first time the Italian association was offering it in English. I had enjoyed wine from time to time but overall I really didn’t think it was for me but I figured what do I have to lose? Almost immediately during that first class, my preconceived notions of wine not being edgy and too pretentious flew out the window and I was hooked! Then I had to open a wine bar and spread the word about how cool and passion-based wine is!
2. What do you love about LA?
Everything! I moved here by myself when I was seventeen and was totally in love. Especially back then LA had a reputation for being superficial and vapid and yes there are some aspects of that but really only in Beverly Hills or other such places and I did not hang out there. I find LA to be very inclusive, we love other cities even when they hate on us! I found it ironic that there’s been a flood of New Yorkers moving here the last few years, they were always so mean to us Angelenos but still we are happy to have them. I love that Los Angeles has a bit of a multi personality disorder too. Every pocket tends to feel like its own universe with shopping dining and culture from the beach to the mountains there is so much to explore. I still discover new gems all the time, it’s the best!
4. What movie do you watch repeatedly?
5. What is the last book you read?
Station Eleven, because I’m a glutton for punishment.
6. What inspired you to have Vinovore be a female winemaker only wine shop?
I knew there were already some great wine shops in LA, so I wanted to do something different, something that felt personal to me and my previous ten years in the wine business. This was around the last presidential election when we all thought we were going to have our first female president. When the idea came to mind and I did some research that it didn’t already exist I decided to go for it! When we didn’t get our first female president and that was followed me the #metoo movement the choice became if more timely.
7. How do you measure your success?
8. How did the pandemic impact Vinovore?
I feel a bit guilty saying this but it has impacted us positively as far as sales are concerned. People can’t go out as much but they still love to drink, some even more during these stressful times. The transition when the quarantine first went into effect was very stressful though. I felt like I opened a whole new business in the span of a few days. So much had to change in order to work and on top of that it felt very scary and uncertain being out in the world everyday when nearly no one else was. I definitely had a few meltdowns. I’m so grateful for my amazing supporting staff, my business partner and girlfriend for helping us get through it!
9. What would you like to see happen in the wine world in the next five years?
I’m a huge champion for Natural wine and I love that it’s having a moment. I just hope that it doesn’t become exclusive and pretentious like I felt the wine world was when I first started. Sometimes these days Natural wine can feel like a whole new kind of boys club. Natural wine is for everyone. So let’s see more female winemakers and industry professionals!
10. First time you got drunk?
Ha! I don’t remember so that should say something…
11. Your hangover cure?
Another drink of course! B-12 helps too.
12. We love the wine window! How did you come up with that?
As things started to settle in to a “new normal,” so to speak, a few months in I noticed more people started asking to come inside the shop. Myself and staff didn’t feel comfortable, for many reasons but especially since the shop is so small inside. I could tell my customers were craving that browsing and one on one shopping experience though so I thought why don’t I bring the wine and staff to them? It took a lot of logistics to figure it out but I’m so happy we made it happen. We finished it right before that NY Times Italian wine window article came out too, so that was fun timing. The staff and customers seem to love it so it will definitely be around for a while!
13. Best meal you’ve ever had?
That is so hard, I feel lucky to have had so many. Well I went out on a mussel fishing boat in Italy. On the way out to the under the sea wine cellar they picked up mussels on the way. When we got to the sea cellar they pulled out a huge put with white wine and garlic and cooked the mussels with some crusty bread and sea aged wine. Insane!
14. The soundtrack of your life would include what three songs?
15. What wine trends do you think should disappear?
Big, buttery, high alcohol and oaked-to-death Chardonnay, please leave that poor grape alone!
16. Tell us about VANessa.
I had actually had the idea to do a Vinovan for a few years, it just didn’t come together but during these times it made totally sense. We didn’t do our own delivery pre-covid but implemented almost right away when the lockdown hit. At first it was more of an amenity for my customers and a way for the staff to make extra money since most of them lost their second or third jobs. So, over the months delivery had grown and it seemed we could afford to have a dedicated driver and system. Delivery is just a part of what VANessa will be up to though! We are putting together collaborations with other likeminded businesses where we can pop up with the van and sell wine or deliver wine with other specialty goods. Hopefully at some point she can help us do distancing events as well. She really is a dream, now I want a whole fleet!
17. What was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced?
Wow, to be honest there’s times when I feel like I’ve known more failure than success. Every failure has hurt deep but I never stop, something inside me just won’t let me no matter how hard it has been to claw my way back up again. I mean, I hate to say it but being a woman in business is a pretty big obstacle on its own.
18. What did you want to be when you grew up?
19. Last photo you took?
A new wine bottle for the website!
20. Favorite quote?
“Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” – Betty White