‘A Perfect Pairing’

The Zuckers expand into Porters Neck

Imgl9301 2 2 Web

For SUSAN and DOUG ZUCKER, co-owners of Bridgewater Wines + Dines, wine is more than a beverage for special occasions. It is an integral part of a meal, as essential as a protein or vegetable. 

“Wine ties everything together and brings that social piece to a meal,” says DOUG ZUCKER. “We want people to think of wine as part of their life.”

It’s this philosophy the couple is spreading throughout the Wilmington area, first with their Leland wine shop, 1132 New Pointe Boulevard, and now with their second one in Porters Neck, 178 Porters Neck Road.

The wine shops are more than second careers for the Zuckers. They are the culmination of a dream, one the Zuckers have long prepared for.

Doug Zucker has more than twenty years of experience in the wine business, having served as the director of operations for Stew Leonard’s, the well-known wine and food emporium, in three states. While there, he met with winemakers the world over, which makes it easy for him to stock his stores with wines that have wide appeal. He also has a master’s degree in business administration from the Bordeaux School of Management in Bordeaux, France.

SUSAN ZUCKER, who heads up the food part of the shops, also has a wealth of knowledge and experience. She has worked in numerous restaurants, and she taught culinary arts at CUNY Queens College and at the high school level.

“We are the perfect pairing,” Susan Zucker says. “He does the wine, and I do the food.”

The Zuckers’ wine shops serve everyone from the wine novice to the connoisseur. Doug Zucker stocks wines from around the globe, but he specializes in wines from regions such as Argentina, Slovenia, and the Pacific Northwest that are not as widely known for wine. Though the Zuckers carry high-priced wines, they pride themselves on offering their customers gems – wines in the $13- $15 range that taste like $30-$40 wines.

Another thing that makes Bridgewater Wines + Dines so special is Doug Zucker’s intimate knowledge of the wines. As customers sample the wines, he often shares stories about them and the winemakers.

Add in outstanding food and a casual, inviting atmosphere, and the Zuckers’ wine shops constantly attract new customers and turn them into regulars.

“The wine shops are like a Cheers bar,” Susan Zucker says. “It’s people’s third place where they feel comfortable. There’s home, office, and the wine shop. We know all our customers, and our staff develops relationships with all our customers.”

The Zuckers first developed this model for their wine shop in Leland, opening in late 2018. When they saw how well it worked, they felt comfortable opening a second shop in Porters Neck this summer.

“We saw success in Leland, and Porters Neck has a similar demographic,” Doug Zucker says. “The Porters Neck location will be similar. The model works.”

The Porters Neck shop is twice the size as the one in Leland and offers 900 different wines, giving customers more opportunities to sample new and exciting wines Doug Zucker discovers.

The menu, too, has been expanded to include tapas-style dishes as well as favorites from the Leland site. Diners will find the charcuterie boards, which feature artisanal meats and cheeses, as well as traditional dishes such as entrée-size salads and sandwiches.

Also, at Porters Neck, patrons can spread out in the larger dining area and bar or enjoy dining on the patio while listening to live music when offered.

In addition, the Zuckers hold free wine tastings four days a week as well as more formal wine pairings at the Porters Neck shop. The wine pairings, which are themed, consist of a five-course meal and appropriate wines. Susan Zucker crafts the menus to go with the wines her husband has picked, and diners can expect flavorful dishes they’ve rarely, or never, tasted. For example, for the Australian wine pairing, Susan Zucker treated the attendees to kangaroo stew.

As in Leland, the Zuckers support the local community by holding fundraisers for nonprofits and hosting events for other area organizations.

“We can and do anything from wine tastings to full wine pairings as fundraisers,” Susan Zucker says. “We do fundraisers for any organization, and we’re already booking fundraisers and other events at the Porters Neck shop into January.”

For the Zuckers, opening a second wine shop further expresses their love for their work and their community and is proof that they have developed a business model that their customers enjoy.

“Our model works great because our shop has dining and retail,” Doug Zucker says. “One plays off the other.”

To view more of photographer Megan Deitz’s work, go to megandeitz.com.

Want more WILMA? Click here to sign up for WILMA newsletters and announcements.

Categories: Taste