December 8, 2019
Rhonda Black stocks the Catherine Store with a unique wine selection.
Rhonda Black curates a coveted wine collection for anyone to consume.
It’s a typical Tuesday at the “gas station,” as Rhonda Black refers to her quirky wine emporium known to others as Catherine Store. A laborer lines up with a six pack of beer to end the day. Behind him is a River Valley Ranch golfer who has selected a bottle of chardonnay for a dinner party. A master sommelier candidate with a half-case of assorted Austrian and German rieslings chats with a second-homeowning Texan holding a black Amex as he patiently waits to pay for the cases of highly allocated French Burgundy he can’t find anywhere else. Yes, the line at this unlikely outpost is the Roaring Fork Valley’s ultimate wine-world melting pot.
“We cater to anyone who loves great wine and appreciates a value,” says Black, about the eclectic nature of her clientele. “I don’t care if it is someone looking to buy cult cabernet or get a bargain on a $15 malbec, as long as they have an appreciation for it, we love ‘em.”
Black, a former derivatives trader, left the world of finance to follow her nose. In 2003, she bought the gas station on the corner of Highway 82 and Catherine Store Road, about 4 miles from Carbondale. The acquisition included a liquor and convenience store, and she opened for business selling a collection of the world’s most-sought-after wines. In a warehouse less than 2 miles from Catherine Store lies a motherlode of the best juice on Earth, available to anyone with the desire—and the money—to buy it. “I was a collector myself,” she says of her inspiration. “And I run the store the way I would want to be treated if I was a customer. This, I do my way.”
Walking through the warehouse filled with racks and boxes of many of the most prestigious labels from the finest vintages is a collector’s dream. Looking for a Volnay that sings of silk? How about a 2011 Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs? Prefer a pinot from California? Name the year and vineyard of Williams Selyem, and she likely has it. The Northern Rhone more your style? There are a number of hard-to-find JL Chave offerings. Maybe a new-to-you bargain? How about a Bierzo Tinto, Ultreia, Bodegas y Viñedos Raúl Pérez from a bearded wine genius in northwest Spain?
“The business of fine wine is all about allocation,” Black declares. “When great wines become available, we beg for them and then buy them for our customers. I sit up at night studying this stuff,” she says with a shake of the head. “It’s like a drug, you know?”
And it is not just the most expensive bottles. In fact, it is the value that counts. Step into the store and, on your left, is a bin of wines that Black says “punch above their weight.” It is here that wine lovers on a budget can get interesting wines from around the world for about $15. It is an intoxicating mix.
“I didn’t know I could do this here. I still don’t,” she says with a laugh, about her wine experiment down the road from Aspen. “But it’s almost 17 years later, and here we are.” 15783 CO-82, catherinestore.com
Photography by: Megan Wynn; Illustration by Margaret Gribbell McLain