The upcoming holidays are marked by a variety of gatherings with family, friends, and co-workers. Following the rule to never show up to a party empty-handed, a bottle of wine, accessory, or gift basket makes for an easy, personalized gift. Vino Mas in West Omaha not only carries a wide selection of these, but owner Deanna Albertson helps every person who comes into the store with their own personal “wine walk.”
Albertson spent most of her adult life drinking beer and martinis instead of wine. But when a group of her friends drank wine every time they got together, she finally adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy. To her surprise, she not only enjoyed drinking wine, but she realized she had a palate for it. Albertson also discovered she had a “wine memory.” She could easily remember flavors, varietals, brands, and even what people liked to drink. “I can’t remember much else, but I can remember wine,” Albertson quipped.
In 2013, she found herself at a pivotal point in her career when the small tech firm she worked for closed its doors. Albertson explored the possibility of opening some type of franchise, but she really wanted to start her own business. She wrote a business plan for a wine bar, but it was too high risk for banks to invest in. That’s when her friends John Langwith and Laurel Prestridge stepped in. “They decided to invest in me and we became business partners, along with my husband, Greg,” Albertson said. “I started working on this idea in May of 2013, we signed a lease on the store in August of 2013, and we opened in November of 2013.”
The name “Vino Mas” is a combination of a few languages. “Vino” means wine in Italian and Spanish. “Mas” means more in Spanish, and in French it means a traditional farmhouse found in the Provence and Midi regions of France overlooking a vineyard. Albertson wants everyone who comes into the store to feel comfortable and at home. One of the ways she fosters that is by finding out what customers are comfortable drinking and then encouraging them to try other varietals that she thinks they’d enjoy based on that. She also likes to take some people outside of their comfort zone and open their eyes to new flavors. “People who say they only drink chardonnay or pinot noir are usually the most surprised when I have them try something different and they actually like it,” she said.
The loyalty that Vino Mas has earned over the past six years is not only due to the store’s personalized customer service but is also attributed to its wine club. With every grocery store, gas station, and even pharmacy selling wine, it’s difficult to generate and keep new customers. But the wine club is what draws new customers in and a reason that they stay. “Our wine club members receive good wines every month for an inexpensive price, plus they get free wine tastings,” Albertson explained. Even if you’re not a wine club member, Vino Mas has a majority of its wines priced under $25 and a section of six or more wines for $10. They also have more expensive bottles for special occasions and gifts.
A consistent staff, sharing her passion for wine and educating others, and giving back to the community are additional elements that make Vino Mas unique. Albertson considers the entire staff to be family and they in turn treat all their customers like family. The store also supports many local non-profits—that spirit of service has long been part of the Albertson’s value system, with Deanna and Greg having spent 10 ½ years as foster parents, seven as live-in parents at Boys Town after Greg served 12 years in the Navy.
Another unique feature of Vino Mas is that there are always 30 wines on tap to taste, and if you just want a beer, they offer that as well as bourbon. Gift certificates are always available, there is a gift registry for weddings, and they offer free corporate delivery. No matter where you are in your “wine walk,” Albertson said Vino Mas can help you along your path. “Whether you want to become a high-end or casual wine drinker, we can help teach you and develop your palate so that you are comfortable with wine.”