A Yale friend forwarded today the New Haven Independent obituary for Elliot Brause, the genial owner of the long-time Yale community institution Quality Wine Store.
I know a good bit about wine, and I was recently reflecting just how much I learned, back in my student days, from Elliot’s selections. Really, I found myself ruefully noting, when you come right down to it, I’ve never known a better, more knowledgeable, more discerning, and more sophisticated wine merchant.
Kermit Lynch is pretty darn good, but he operates at a much more Olympian price level than Elliott used to, and Kermit (the toad!) won’t ship to Pennsylvania. There are, of course, good wine stores in New York City, but… again, for them, too, price is no particular object.
Elliott knew his audience and recognized that Yale undergraduates had lean purses and he skillfully filled his shelves with amazing bargains. Back then, German Rieslings were just as out of fashion as they are today, and Elliott made a point of laying in superb vintages of QualitÃ¤tsweins mit PrÃ¤dikat with Spatleses and Ausleses offered for peanuts. I used to drink Schloss Eltz routinely, it was so cheap.
Even less expensive were hocks from the less prestigious Rheinpfalz region. Their prices were derisive.
I remember, too, a particular “Quinta de Something” Port Vintage of 1940, which cost something like a piddling $7.50 a bottle back in the early 1970s. It was ambrosial.
I wish I could shop at Quality Wine today.
It was always a pleasure to do business with Elliott. He was cordial and avuncular and surrounded always by his enthusiastic corgis. If you were short of cash, Elliott would have no problem taking a check for $10 or $20 dollars over your purchase. He was essentially a member of the family and Quality Wine was a key and basic institution of Yale student life.
All that, of course, cut no mustard with the reptiles and invertebrates who operate the Yale Administration. When the greasy pols in Hartford raised back the drinking age to 21, Yale didn’t like its underclassmen having such convenient access to wine. And, in later years, Yale began making a point of micromanaging its retail rentals so as to grind out every minimal iota of higher income and status advantage.
A key part of Yale’s new strategy required wiping out all the old-time cherished and familiar retail institutions and replacing them with upmarket, high prestige, international brands whose shops would be required to remain open until 10 PM to help deter the street crime Yale had inadvertently invited via its own liberal politics.
An old news story, describes the fatal moment.
Yaleâ€™s Vice President for New Haven Affairs Bruce Alexander… gives us [the rationale behind] the act Yale has performed upon Broadway. From the article:
â€œAlexander said he was walking on York Street near Broadway and noticing litter and storefronts such as barbershops and liquor stores. Since Yalies went through the area on their way to the Yale Co-op, he thought it needed an upgrade.â€
Yalies, you see, did not need haircuts, used books (from Whitlock’s), music (from Cutler’s), or wine (from Elliot Brause). They needed Patagonia, J. Crew, Urban Outfiteers, and Apple.
So perished our beloved Quality Wine. Elliott gracefully retired. He is remembered with affection by all who knew him.