Open since March, Uptown Wine Merchant is one of the newest businesses in Yucaipa. Though its quiet location on Yucaipa Boulevard suggests a kind of rustic local vibe, those who enter are immediately greeted with the world in bottles. Featuring an expansive array of wines from all over the globe, Uptown prides itself on its ability to bring constant variety and novelty to its offerings. Its owner, however, is a native of Southern California.
Ben Mozaffari grew up in Santa Monica and graduated from California State University, Northridge in 2012 with a degree in business management. After interning for a marketing firm in Austin, Texas, Mozaffari moved back to Southern California to work for his father’s real estate business in the Inland Empire. He says he wanted to start his own business, but didn’t know what kind until he looked at Yucaipa. “Looking around the area and not seeing a wine shop, and having been to so many wine places in LA, and thinking it was cool and different and doable, I saw an opportunity.”
Because Mozaffari didn’t know a whole lot about wine, he enlisted the help of Nicole Blankenship, a certified sommelier who owns a tasting room called Little Black Glass in Redlands. Blankenship first got interested in wine, interestingly enough, when she was pregnant with her daughter. She suffered from gestational anemia due to a lack of iron in her blood and was told by her doctor that one glass of wine a day could help. “There was a little liquor store by where I lived, and they had a little tasting area, and it really started from there.”
Blankenship says that her favorite wine at Uptown is the Cru de Beaujolais from Burgundy, France. However, Uptown carries wines from all across Europe and the world. There are varieties from India, Israel, South Africa, Romania, Argentina, and other locales. One of the most prominently displayed wines today is the Morse Code Shiraz from Australia.
Peggy Smith, a Yucaipa resident and Uptown customer, enjoys the sparkling Florinda Cava Brut from the Catalonia region in Spain. She says the experience at Uptown is “wonderful” and “intimate.”
“We rotate our list constantly,” says Blankenship. “Once we run out of something, we replenish it with something completely different.”
Blankenship also says that Uptown strives to provide options for guests that can expand their palettes. “Our goal is to introduce a world of wine to people … and expand people’s horizons. My biggest pet peeve is when someone says ‘I don’t like (a certain type of wine.)’ You can have 10 different Cabernet Sauvignons and they all can be different depending on where they’re grown.”
One way Uptown tries to achieve this is by offering affordable wines to customers. “We pride ourselves on not having bottles over $30. For the most part, we want to be a bottle shop that’s affordable. People can come in and try new wines every week,” said Blankenship.
Because Blankenship got interested in wine for health reasons, she says the shop also tries to find varieties that are healthy. “California has the least stringent wine laws. You could put anything in wine, like food coloring and additives. I try to showcase wines that are good for you.”
Uptown will hold a “Yay Rosé” event on May 31 where they will offer different brands of the popular pink variety.
Uptown Wine Merchant is located at 35018 Yucaipa Blvd. in Yucaipa.