Talking Wine at Home with Boston Sommelier Chelsea Bell
Q&A: Alex Saenz of BISq
Q&A: Alex Saenz of BISq
Sommelier Chelsea Bell is the Director of Marketing and Events for Gordon’s Fine Wine & Liquors, a premier purveyor of booze in Boston. In 2020, she co-founded CruBox Wine Club to share her expertise with us at home. CruBox delivers four bottles of top-tier wines to its members each month, along with everything you need to know about the producers and regions, tasting notes, and even suggested food pairings. We caught up with Chelsea to learn more about her experience in the wine world—and talk about how this wild last year has changed our drinking habits for the better.
The Food Lens: Can you tell us how the idea for CruBox started?
Chelsea Bell: With the help of Gordon’s wine director Ian Halbert and owner David Gordon, our idea was to create a monthly curated wine club focused on fine wine discovery through exploring some of the world’s top regions and vineyard sites. “Cru,” in French, translates roughly to a vineyard, or group of vineyards, of designated quality and/or historical significance. While there were a lot of wine clubs developed in 2020, we noticed many of them featured wines that were pretty underwhelming or very niche. CruBox was created to be a wine club focused on quality wines selected through the curated lens of Gordon’s Wine team.
TFL: Explain how you got started in wine.
CB: While I was at Northeastern University studying communications, I got a part-time job at Best Cellars, an innovative shop focused on wines organized by flavor profile. It was such a great way to get into wine since all the wines were affordable and I got the chance to try new styles of wines since the layout was organized non-traditionally. I was hooked and this job started me on my path of about a decade now working in wine retail.
TFL: How do you build relationships with these top-tier wineries?
CB: Since Gordon’s has been around since 1934, the family has cemented long-standing relationships with our local distributors, importers, and wineries—both large and small—that are built off of mutual support, which gives us unparalleled access to some of the world’s top wines. In return, these partners support our fine wine team through sponsoring wine travel opportunities, giving exclusive access to certain wines, and providing us with resources and education to help sell the wines.
TFL: Traveling the world to find the best wines seems like a pretty sweet job, especially right now when we are dreaming about traveling again. Tell us what that’s like!
CB: Traveling to vineyards is the best possible experience as it opens your mind to new experiences, culture, and tastes, and makes wine so much more relatable. I always try whenever possible to stay at vineyards that offer agrotourism so you can get the full experience. When I’m able to share wines from wineries I have traveled to, it really helps tell the story of the grape, producer, vineyard and/or region. It paints a more complete picture. It also helps put in perspective that some of the best vineyard sites are really just parcels of land, and getting your bearings geographically always helps you better understand the wines.
TFL: What is your favorite wine memory?
CB: While traveling through the Rhone Valley in 2015, my boyfriend and I were driving from Avignon to Lyon. We stopped on the way to Cornas, an appellation in the Northern Rhone that is known for Syrah wines, to visit notable producer Vincent Paris. Usually when I book an appointment, I never have expectations of who I am going to meet to show us around, so I was really surprised and elated to meet Vincent Paris himself, alone in his warehouse hand-labeling bottles. This drove home to me how much a labor or love wine is and how truly amazing, humble, and hospitable most of the wine producers I’ve met are.
TFL: What wine trends are you excited about?
CB: While I am not a big fan of trends in wine as I like to think more long-term, I love that wine drinkers are now more focused on supporting small-production wineries, the same way they support their local farmers. It is really wonderful to see consumers who are passionate supporters of small-production wineries, as they are vital to keeping some of our industry’s long-standing traditions alive and they favor sustainable practices in the vineyards and the cellars.
TFL: Do you think people have been more interested in wine education since the pandemic started? Tell us about that.
CB: Yes! I think that during 2020 and beyond, many people have had some disposable income from not going out as much, which they have invested in some higher price-point wines. Once you experience great wine it’s hard to go back! It has also been a year where many have tried to educate themselves on a wide variety of topics, including wine. It is really fun to see the curiosity and openness to trying new wines and the desire to discover more about the world of wine by our CruBox members. It’s an ongoing journey for us all and you have to start somewhere!