Etty Lewensztain sells plonk. On its face, that fact seems a little light on ambition, a kind of “aim low” approach. But there’s more to it. Acting on the desire to become a food writer, Lewensztain accepted a job with the publicity firm RF|Binder in New York, which had just taken on Wines of Chile as a client. She was thrust into the wine orbit, assisting journalists on wine tours from Maipo to Maule and on her nights in New York, studying wine toward a WSET Diploma.
In 2008 she moved back to her hometown of Los Angeles and jumped in feet first with her own online wine shop— plonkwinemerchants.com, where QPR is at the heart of every buying decision and every wine comes in under $30.
Despite the virtual address, Lewensztain, 29, has fashioned her site to deliver a more concrete feel: “I was looking to personalize the experience, take a brick-and-mortar approach,” she says.
To this end, she produces a brief video blog on each wine in her portfolio, so you’ll have a firsthand sense of what to expect in the bottle—a personal interaction without the face to face. “I want it to be personalized,” she says. “I want it just as if you walked into your local wine store and your guy was there telling you what you should drink next.” With all that video, Plonk’s website is heavy on education, which allows Lewensztain the opportunity to be fairly adventurous. “She’s always got an interesting collection of wines to sell,” says Adam Zuckert, who handles the Plonk account for Kermit Lynch. “She doesn’t shy away from things that are difficult to pronounce or not easy to understand.”