Nelsonville dealer specializes in rare vintages

If you’re looking for a nice gift for a wine lover this holiday season, you might visit Blacksmith Wines in Nelsonville, where you can buy a case of three bottles of red burgundy from the Rominée-Conti vineyard in France.

The price: $87,500.

The pricey bottles reside in the old H.D. Champlin & Son Horseshoeing and Wagonmaking shop on Main Street. The weathered red brick building is on the National Register of Historic Places but passersby will see nothing indicating that it houses a wine shop.

Inside is an intriguing place — more musty warehouse than store. Wine cases are stacked in the back. A dusty old forge sits near the front counter. Most business is conducted by appointment or online. While some bottles go for under $50, the average is $250.

Mark Mancinelli owns Blacksmith Wines on Main Street in Nelsonville.
Mark Mancinelli owns Blacksmith Wines on Main Street in Nelsonville.

Blacksmith is “hiding in plain sight,” said Mark Mancinelli, the former Garrison resident who owns and runs the store from his home in Bologna, Italy.

“It may sound ludicrous that we have wines that cost $30,000 a bottle,” he said. “But that’s a function of the market. We have this enormous trove of rare back-vintage wines that are priced less than almost anybody in the United States.”

Blacksmith’s clients represent a broad range of wine lovers, but many of them view buying fine wines as “asset allocation,” said Mancinelli. “Am I going to allocate money to this, to the stock market, the art market or to something else?” he said.

Those clients often allot $40,000 to $80,000 a year for “buy programs” with a long-term goal of building a million-dollar cellar, Mancinelli said.

One client, Carl Nelson, of Garrison, sees Mancinelli as both friend and consultant. Mancinelli enrolled him in a program with Bordeauxes and Burgundies, said Nelson, who typically spends $100 to $200 a bottle and buys 150 to 200 bottles a year to stock his 2,000-bottle cellar.

Mancinelli has “helped me buy great vintages of cabs [cabernets], and we’ve gone after some really great old-school Italian and French wines,” said Nelson.

Mancinelli caught the bug while attending the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he drank lots of “cheap” wine, he said. “Then I had some Syrah [a variety of grape] called Qupe from California and I thought: ‘This is much better than the other stuff. Why is that?’”

To find the answers, he attended classes, organized tastings and even attended an online course in enology [winemaking] from the University of California at Davis.

The obsession grew with his career. As an attorney and investment banker, he lived for a time in Europe, where he visited vineyards. As a real estate developer, he renovated a Manhattan loft building and designed the penthouse for himself with a 2,000-bottle, walk-in cellar.

“The pathology of the collector is totally out of control,” said Mancinelli, who now runs an investment fund. “You become obsessed with having the most accurate representative wine from every region.”

For example, he once became fixated on a 1978 Barolo called Collina Riondo de Serralunga Speciale, which goes for $3,500. “Does anybody need that? No,” he said. “But if you’re obsessed?”

After moving to Garrison in 2010, his wife wondered “how I could ever need another expensive bottle of wine when you have a collection of over 3,000 bottles,” said Mancinelli. So, in 2013, he stopped collecting, only to feel like “I had lost a good friend.”

To fill the void, in 2016 he started Blacksmith, buying from distributors, dealers and private collectors. As the son of a Newburgh postman, Mancinelli knows many see wine collecting as elitist.

“If people want to pursue the greatest wines in the world at any cost, that’s their business,” said Mancinelli, who moved to Bologna with his family last year. “But I never forget the simple things. It’s just fermented grape juice.”

Blacksmith Wines is open by appointment from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at 286 Main St. in Nelsonville. Call 845-666-7260 or visit blacksmithfinewines.com.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Joey Asher is a freelance writer and former reporter for The Journal News.

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4 Comments

  1. I walked past the Champlin & Son shop, now Blacksmith Wines, on the way to school in the 1960s. There was much clanking of old iron and hammering and busyness. [via Facebook]

  2. In the 1950s, I used to ride my horse, The Baron, from my family’s Fair Oaks Farm on Route 9D along the road past the cemetery to Nelsonville. At his forge, Norm Champlin hammered hot horseshoes to order. He knew a lot about horses and keeping them sound. He often repaired our farm machines and implements, too; and was a valued family friend.

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