LARSON: Snellville wine expert knows his chemistry

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

Even after 30 years of marriage, it's still nice to go out on a date. And it doesn't have to be expensive. If fact, some of our most romantic dates have been free.

Our latest find is the Thursday night wine tasting event at Niko's Wine Corner in Snellville. The first time we went it was mostly couples our age, but with the economy the way it is, it seems younger couples are catching on. The last week we were there we met Kristin and Trent Spake of Snellville.

"My sister is watching our kids for a four-day weekend so we're starting out with wine tonight and tomorrow we'll use a restaurant gift certificate we've had for two years," Trent said.

"It's a stay-cation," Kristin said. "Even baby-sitting can be expensive, so it's nice having both free baby-sitting and free wine."

But it's not just any old free wine. Owner Niko Patel has a degree in chemistry. In his native India he was in the chemical business with his father. When he moved to the United States he started helping a friend in the liquor business and was soon operating his own store. But he eventually started to specialize in wine.

"I always liked wine, the complexity of it. I can find something new in wine every day," Niko said. "Besides, wine is more a part of a meal. There are so many different foods and different tastes."

Niko also offers meal entrees to go with his wines. He stocks his shelves with kosher kits and imported delights like gnocchi from Italy.

Since Valentine's Day is approaching, I looked around to see if there were any other heartwarming gifts I might come back to buy. The variety of chocolate was totally awesome, like Rosa Pfeffer (pink pepper chocolate) and Woolloomooloo (Indonesian coconut), just to name a few.

And for those who find beer to be more romantic than wine -- yeah, there are guys like that -- Niko offers beers with names like Lips of Faith and Double Chocolate Oatmeal.

Niko's wife, Binita, who has a degree in fines arts, adds a woman's touch to the store with organic health products, jeweled purses and cool accessories like wine socks made by Snellville designer Carla McDougall.

Niko's latest offering for the romantic at heart is his new place on the square in Lawrenceville where couples can meet for wine and hors d'oeuvres any time of day and any time of year.

It's not that his everyday wares weren't enough to spark romance in anybody, but I just had to ask Niko if he was featuring anything special for Valentine's Day.

"Of course," he said, pointing to a display of Chocolate Vine. "Right there. Chocolate and wine all in the same bottle. Everything you need for romance."

Well, I think it's obvious this man knows his chemistry.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.