Exiting Highway 101 onto Carpinteria Avenue takes drivers past a strip of businesses that have transferred the once stark industrial area called Carpinteria Business Park into a lively version of Main Street. Carpinteria Wine Company is one such place helping to anchor the row, and owners Jane and Frank Dambach raise a glass to the unusual space that sets them apart from other wine shops in the county: “We operate from a business warehouse environment, allowing us more shelf space at lower operating costs.” Less money spent on rent means more access to high quality wines.
The husband and wife team have owned Carpinteria Wine Shop since 2013, though Jane already had a foot in the door, quite literally. After moving to Carpinteria in 2005, she was hired as sales associate by the former owners Nick Fisher and Nicole Valdivia. Seven years later, she had worked as an employee then as manager of the shop before Fisher and Valdivia offered her first dibs on the business. Jane and her husband Frank gladly bought it, and the Carpinteria Wine Shop went from a father/daughter team in Fisher and Valdivia to the now husband and wife dynamic of the Dambachs. Having almost a decade in the family-run business before purchasing has been priceless—it’s hard to beat knowing the inner workings of a company from the ground up. The Dambachs suggest that would-be entrepreneurs analyze any potential business venture by forecasting whether or not it can potentially break even within five years.
The Dambachs’ location has been a big part of their success, with the warehouse setting allowing Carpinteria Wine Company to bring in a wide selection of top international wines in addition to California’s best. Prices are competitive with Trader Joe’s, Costco and Cost Plus. While they don’t offer sales, their vast knowledge helps customers select the best wines for casual or formal dinners, and cases for special events. Carpinteria Wine Company also offers regular tastings. (The next is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m., featuring a holiday wine tasting for $10.) Other tastings and events are posted on the Carpinteria Wine Company’s Facebook page.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Not all wines benefit from aging—some bottles can be opened immediately (Beaujolais Nouveau comes to mind) while others, if not uncorked after bottling, can turn brown and loose their intentional, fruit-forward characteristics if they are placed in a cellar. The trick for wine shop owners is figuring out where to invest. When buying higher-end red wines, the Dambachs suggest that customers ask themselves if they’re willing to store a wine for a few years in order to realize its full potential. There may not be an immediate return on investment, but the integrity of the wine will be worth a happy customer’s first sip.
The Dambachs also say their key to success is superb customer and vendor relationships, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the shop and the staff’s knowledge not only of wines but also the each unique growing region. Jane says they are living their dream, happy with how the business is running. But when it comes to the advice they’d tell themselves just starting the business they say, “Take time to enjoy a glass of wine, but don’t drink all the profits!”
Carpinteria Wine Company is located at 4193 Carpinteria Ave.