You may have heard it on the grapevine that there are some juicy new happenings at all of Tap & Bottles’ locations. It’s true: Since owners Rebecca and Scott Safford hired Arielle DeSoucey as their Wine Director in July 2022, Tap & Bottle has expanded its wine program, now blooming with thoughtfully selected offerings that are ripe for the picking.
Having adroitly navigated pandemic-related challenges and supply chain delays, the team at Tap & Bottle has managed to steadily build community and champion Tucson’s neighborhood beverage culture; they also introduced in-house batched cocktails to their mix in early 2023.
Bustling locations in Northwest Tucson and Downtown, as well as their Westside concept, Westbound, have been bolstered by improving customer service through online ordering, in-town pick-up and delivery, a useful phone app, and a fun rewards program. The time was clearly ripe to harvest their interest in adding “wine destination” to their beer selection accolades.
Wine already had a spotlight at the beginning of Tap & Bottle’s story when the Downtown Warehouse Arts location opened in 2013. While the beer selection was more prominently featured, a welcoming “YAY WINE!” mural highlighted a tightly curated selection of wines.
The Saffords always knew the kinds of wines they wanted to offer. Local Arizona wines held a prominent place on their wishlist, as did family-owned, small-production wines made by low-intervention techniques. To that end, the couple would meet and sip with local wine representatives and winemakers, as well as with visiting importers and international winemakers.
While their wine selections have expanded, their wine mission has not changed.
Bringing Arielle DeSoucey into the mix as a manager and wine director has given Tap & Bottle’s wine program international clout. DeSoucey is a recent transplant to Tucson, moving here from the Czech Republic during the height of the pandemic. Through her private company, Civil Wines, she has collected thousands of wine-loving Instagram followers.
DeSoucey is fluent in French, is an advanced sommelier certified by the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, and has global patches on her well-worn wine backpack.
Before teaming up with the Saffords, DeSoucey brought new dimensions to the wine selection at Time Market, working closely with owner Peter Wilke to research and acquire unique wines at all price points. She was instrumental in Time Market’s winning an honorable mention in a national wine contest sponsored by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.
Why did she leave? The Saffords offered her the job of her dreams.
DeSoucey has always felt called to be a wine educator. The Saffords were ready to add wine education classes to their menu of events with ample space at their Northwest location to host them. Et voila! It was the right time and place for DeSoucey and the Saffords to join forces.
An early victory of Team Safford and DeSoucey was the Sunset Wine Walk hosted by Westbound in collaboration with Arizona Winery Tours in October 2022. This event was the first of its kind to be held at the MSA Annex and also a new type of community engagement for the Tap & Bottle group. The Saffords credited DeSoucey’s leadership and networking skills with drawing together six local wineries and the wine-walk format during which participants could stroll through the property, tasting and learning about wine at different stops.
Sunset Wine Walk’s success and the growing participation in DeSoucey’s wine classes and events is allowing the team to begin dreaming of bigger wine-focused festivals in the future.
DeSoucey also is bringing her expertise in subtler ways. Each Tap & Bottle store has between 100 and 150 unique wine selections based on the neighborhood’s wine vibe. Whether it is more robust domestic reds in the Northwest or funky and fresh amber wines at Westbound, DeSoucey has written a description of each wine based on personal tasting notes, which are always on display.
Personalized tasting notes also are written for Juice Box, Tap & Bottle’s wine club, which features two levels of membership and a monthly wine tasting.
The Saffords have long focused on personal touches, especially within their staff. Even before DeSoucey came on board, the Saffords have hosted Wine Wednesday. “At every location one of the employees opens a wine and they all share it with us on Slack, our shared communication tool. They’ll talk about what they like about it and they’ll pour it for customers,” DeSoucey explained.
This is part of what makes DeSoucey so enamored with her job in Tucson.
“What Rebecca and Scott are really good about doing is hosting education classes for the staff,” said DeSoucey. “Rebecca and Scott know the staff are the people that are going to sell. So, let’s educate! It’s been really helpful. I did staff training for wine and gave each staff member a booklet to take home with bullet points about what you can anticipate being asked about wine.”
The new wine corkage program at Westbound is an example of the benefits of staff empowerment and collaborative thinking. Late last year, DeSoucey suggested that they explore allowing customers to buy wines from the Westbound retail selection to open and drink on-site.
Prior to this, wines were only available from the bar menu and mostly by the glass. Westbound now allows any bottle purchased in the shop to be consumed on the premises. For a modest corkage fee of $15 dollars, you can explore a wider selection of wine and enjoy them with larger parties.
From its sunset yoga sessions and trivia events to its non-alcoholic spirits offerings, Tap & Bottle is clearly focused on building community through its beverage programs. This is a value that inspires DeSoucey. In addition to high workplace morale, she says the employee benefits the Saffords provide are unheard of in an industry with very high turnover. DeSoucey noted that every day, every employee is offered a shift drink when they are done with work.
“I’ve worked in the service industry for 20 years and never once was I offered something like this. It's the most generous thing I think that they can do for not only motivating staff but making everyone feel like they are part of the family,” she said.
Tap & Bottle is bringing wine expertise to every level of the wine curious and including their team every step of the way. YAY WINE! indeed.
Tap & Bottle downtown is located at 403 N. Sixth Ave., Tap & Bottle North is at 7254 N. Oracle Rd., and Westbound can be found over at the MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento #12. For more information, visit thetapandbottle.com.
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Sariya, whose name rhymes with Maria, is a sommelier, writer, educator, public speaker, and epistolarian. A monsoon child, born in Bangkok during the rainiest month of the year, she emigrated to America as a kid and has been a resident...