The Heights of Jersey City is a burgeoning community atop the New Jersey Palisades. Once regarded as merely the cheaper residential neighbor to Hoboken, The Heights is now a destination of its own but with a distant familiarity. It has the culture of NYC, the positive energy of LA, and ‘all the grit, salt, and earthiness of New Jersey.’
Over the course of only a few years, this Jersey City sub-sector has grown into a diversified locale boasting farmers markets, a trendy food scene, and a redesigned landscape. Along with the wave of new business, and influx in population, comes an era of reinvention.
Many local residents recall 43 Bowers Street as the long-time home to Mahnke’s Deli. So, when Riverview Wine and Spirits took over the space in 2019 owner Laura Marchetti opted to keep a piece of the buildings history by adding the original signage to the store’s decor— an integration of the past into the present and, hopeful, future.
“Wine is quite literally in my blood,” Laura Marchetti, owner of Riverview Wine and Spirits said. She is an Italian expat from the central, eastern coast of Italy in Le Marche, who moved to The Heights in 2018. “We grew up drinking it at every meal. Many of the people around me were directly involved with growing grapes and making wine.” When Marchetti came to to New York for the summer of 2006, a Parisian fashion career in her pocket, she ached for change.
A few years later she met friends who lived in The Heights and fell in love with the areas up and coming feel. At her partners suggestion, she decided to apply her intricate knowledge of the wine industry into a business endeavor. That’s when she opened her own store. “I had a head start with an Italian agrarian basic understanding of it all. Wine taps into a primitive part of the brain where language often comes up short. Sharing that with people means they are also sharing that with you, which I think leads to deep connections.”
Riverview’s selection is niche, curated based on Marchetti’s taste but rooted in diversity. While another store might decline ‘some disheveled’ salesperson that ‘walks in the door with a portfolio of obscure wine,’ it’s that unique personality that captures Riverview’s attention most. Labels as distinctive in their name as the artwork that grace the bottle, matchmaking in both taste and character for consumers. But the majority of the selection has one thing in common— it’s regional. Including the mural on the exteriors New York Avenue wall, a painting by Asbury Park’s Neil O’Brien.
Artisanal, farmer made wine is an agricultural product and, like other products, sometimes they run out, especially if they are a small business. As a result, the inventory at Riverview rotates, which makes browsing the shelves all the more exciting. Customers never know exactly what they’ll be getting, which opens up possibility to a new discovery. Further, it maintains a dialogue between the staff and the community— sharing desires, offering expertise, and learning about one another. Each bottle on the shelf has a story and the employees understand the intricate details of the products they carry.
Despite the pandemic forcing early closures or social distancing regulations (for a while they were only doing walk-up orders), Riverview has seen business soar, on both a financial and a personal level. Wine, beer, and spirit sales have all gone up but, in addition, the average customer has become more knowledgeable in their purchasing power. It isn’t just a bottle of wine, it’s a thought out decision based on learned taste and availability.
“It’s about loving what I do, passing that love to my customers, and being able to pay the bills as a result. It takes passion, knowledge, and an ear to the pavement,” Marchetti explained of her success. Beyond bottles, there’s a sector of carefully selected foods, typically crafted or sold locally, to go along those wine and cheese nights. In essence, Riverview Wine and Spirits is more than the local liquor store. It’s the first stop towards creating a communal experience.
“If they fictionalize this place it would fall short,” Marchetti described the personality palate of The Heights. “Everyone has something to say and they will give it to you unsolicited. There’s a certain faith in that. I came to love it. People assume that if they go too far you’ll tell them and forgive them. It’s insane, but it works. They support me, they push me, they’re honest with me, and they roll with me. I couldn’t have asked for a better community.”
To get into the spirit of things, whether it be the holidays or to simply cure the COVID crazies, Marchetti shared some of her recommendations. A Dufaitre ‘Premices’ Gamay 2018 is a crowd pleasure for those who enjoy a full body red; Les Vins Pirouettes orange wine is a fruity alternative to the overly sought after white or rose; Forthave amaro Marseille is a digestif with old forged ingredients suitable to commence or conclude any meal; Breucklen New York Wheat Whiskey is a young, smooth but complex whiskey with a peppery flavor; and The Referend This Is Just to Say sour beer is brewed in New Jersey but inspired by Belgium craftsmanship.
“Considering this is an endless Groundhog’s Day we’re living in, the ‘season’ I’m in is the one I can be in 365 days a year. Not to sound too hyperbolic, but don’t most of the important exchanges in the world take place at the table or the bar?”
Riverview Wine and Spirits is located at 43 Bowers Street, Jersey City.