Bon voyage, keepers of fine wines

STOCKTON – Gail and Dr. George Herron hosted their final wine tasting at their shop on Thursday.

Fittingly, the evening consisted of a blind tasting of “unusual” varietals. Over the years, they have encouraged their customers to widen their wine horizons.

For 39 years, the Herrons have owned and operated Fine Wines of Stockton in Lincoln Center. They have offered beautiful wines from around the world, with an emphasis on Bordeaux. The Thursday night tastings garnered a loyal following.

“Keep investigating,” George said to his guests Thursday night. “Expand your outlook.”

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Owners George and Gail Herron of Fine Wines of Stockton in Lincoln Center are closing after 39 years in business. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

Sadly, Gail and George will close their cozy wine shop at the end of this month. It’s time, they said.

“It’s been a fun run,” Gail Herron said. “You just can’t keep doing it forever. I think we’re looking to do other things.”

The Herrons look forward to spending more time with their three grown children, who reside in different states. They might even play some golf and travel a bit. They will miss hosting the tastings, which featured a different theme each week, and their customers will miss them.

Some close friendships were forged.

“This is my social group now,” said Stephanie Candini, a regular taster for 14 years. “I’ve even met people here that I’ve traveled with, like 12 times to the Okanagan wine region in Canada, and are really good friends of mine.”

Candini, who is retired from the auto finance business and works as a substitute teacher, said she started attending the Thursday night tastings to learn more about wine.

“And everyone I met educated me more,” she said.

Dr. Neil Lark, a retired physics professor at University of the Pacific, said he and his wife regularly attended the tastings for many years.

“We have a nice feeling here getting to know the people who enjoy wine as much as I do,” Lark said.

David Donley, a resident of Valley Springs, found Fine Wines of Stockton on the internet and attended his first tasting Thursday. He didn’t realize the shop was closing and that his first tasting would be his last.

“It’s phenomenal,” Donley said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Though Gail and George are retiring, the Thursday tasters plan to continue meeting, perhaps at Larry Johansen’s Wine Wizards on Grand Canal Boulevard and Paul Marsh’s Mile Wine Company on Pacific Avenue in Stockton. Gail and George likely will join in when they can.

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Gail and George Herron plan to spend more time with their family after closing their wine shop. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD

George Herron, 80, laughs about his entry into the world of wine. Back when he was a sophomore in medical school in Philadelphia and Gail was a chemist working in Delaware, they shared a bottle of Taylor’s Tawny Port over a plate of spaghetti.

“We had never had any wine. We had never had anything,” George said. “I thought it was wonderful stuff.”

Thus, the Herrons’ wine journey began. Their interest picked up steam through friends while George was interning in Seattle. When Gail and George moved to the Bay Area, they frequented Napa wineries and expanded their knowledge and appreciation.

“Then one thing led to another and when we got to Stockton (in 1970), there weren’t any wine stores,” said Herron, a nephrologist, who’s had a private practice in Stockton for 45 years. “We used to buy stuff in the Bay Area. After a while I said, ‘No one knows anything about wine here. Maybe we can turn that to our advantage.’”

Gail and George opened Fine Wines of Stockton in 1978. George also taught wine classes at Pacific and wrote a wine and food column for the Stockton Record.

“It was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of work, too,” George said. “Now it’s time to hang it up.”

The Herrons are selling their inventory of wines and merchandise at deep discounts. The shop at 866 W. Benjamin Holt Drive is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The shop is closed Sunday and Monday.

 

 

 

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