Many local AVA readers have probably enjoyed a glass of wine and possibly a tasty snack or two at Disco Ranch in downtown Boonville. It is the perfect setting for relaxation and a chat. It is kind of like renting a comfortable patio to visit with your friends and drink an excellent glass of wine — no tidying up the house required. Recently Wendy’s business got a boost when internationally known business magazine Forbes published an article titled, “Disco Ranch is Nor-Cal’s one stop shop for affordable local wine gems” by Kim Westerman.
I went online to see what all the excitement was about and found the first sentence to be quite true, “Wendy Lamer is the most unpretentious wine genius you’ll ever meet.”
I don’t actually know if Wendy is a genius but she definitely is knowledgeable and she’s right here in Anderson Valley. She features French, Italian and Spanish wines as well as local wines with a special emphasis on small wineries with no tasting rooms.
I sat down with Wendy to talk about Disco Ranch. Be sure to read the Forbes article available online and check out her website (discoranch.com) where you’ll not only find information but where you can also shop for her wines. If you are a real wine lover it is also interesting to know that Disco Ranch won an Award for Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine in 2021 with her “meaningful balance of local and imported wines and artisan crafted food items.”
Why Anderson Valley?
Wendy’s brother Gregg Lamer is the hospitality director at Roederer Vineyards. Wendy visited her brother in the Valley several times and really liked it here. On one visit she noticed the property her shop now occupies and set about researching the owner. She said it took six months but eventually she struck a deal to rent and was ready to roll. Long time residents will remember the Horn of Zeese and Aquarelle two restaurants that preceded the Disco Ranch in the same building.
Where were you before?
Wendy and her brother come from Georgia and originally had plans to create a wine bar there. Wendy also worked in the wine business in Scottsdale and Chandler Arizona for 20 of her 40 wine selling years.
What is your background in wine?
Wendy has 40 years experience selling wine for wine distributors. She has tasted wine all over Europe searching for wine to purchase for these distributors. She and her brother always wanted to open a wine bar either in Georgia or Arizona but California turned out to be the spot. Her introduction to wines was working for Tim Hanni at his delicatessen and specialty food business “Happy Hermans.” He had 3000 wines and was the first person to be awarded “Master of Wine” certification in America. Tim Hanni was her mentor and the person who launched her career.
Why the name Disco Ranch?
In Georgia she lived in a farmhouse on an old horse ranch. The neighborhood took turns hosting dinner and dancing parties. When it was her turn to host, the party spilled out of the ranch house and into the carport where someone rigged a mirrored disco ball. The neighbors christened it “Disco Ranch” and as a symbol of good people and good times Wendy brought the name with her to California.
How did you get your business through Covid without folding?
Wendy asked people for advice and the advice she got was to pump up the items that could be described as “cheap and delicious.” She expanded her specialty foods section. Customers who were already loyal remained so. She told me she did almost as well during Covid as before. I think this is probably a testament to the fact that her loyal customers rely on her expert wine advice and they order wine by the case.
What do you think of Anderson Valley?
“Best people I ever met; beyond helpful. I feel a real sense of the community’”
What really rings your bell?
Wendy told me that she loves hosting dinner parties, a hobby that was crimped by the Covid years but she has glowing plans for the future. She loves to cook. Also very outdoorsy, she loves to hike especially along the coast. Champagne is her first love.
My personal experience at Disco Ranch usually involves a glass of sparkling rose champagne with a bag of truffle potato chips prompting equally sparkling conversation with one or more friends. It is a place where laughter is often heard over the tinkling patio fountain. Cheese, charcuterie and all the things that go with wine are on hand. You can eat in or grab and go. Hours are Thursday-Sunday 11-6 and Monday 11-3. The address is 14025 Highway 128 and the phone is 707-901-5002. If you are looking to expand your wine horizons Wendy is a great and very willing teacher.