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Do you know Vinomania?

The owner of downtown wine shop, Vinomania, isn't worried about state proposals to sell wine in grocery stores. Gary Decker personally helps customers choose the wines they serve at meals and parties from the wide selection offered at his "unique wine store," located in the Nettleton Commons on Pearl Street.

"Ninety percent of customers want me to pick out the wines," he said.

After 30 years of working in the food and wine business in Syracuse, Decker is qualified to help match wines with menus and plan quantities for parties. He formerly owned and operated two restaurants: Deckers Veal and Vintage located at Holly and Crouse Streets and Deckers at the Plaza, located in the Presidential Plaza downtown. He has sold wines at Vinomania for nine years.

The shop sells bottles that are good with good value, said Decker. He doesn't buy big lots because he likes to keep his stock fresh and this also helps him keep up a lively variety of wines for his customers.

Illustrating the personal service given at Vinomania, Josephine Kern breezed into the shop with a market basket on her arm. As she quickly described upcoming menus: lamb chops with Belgian endive and scallops saut (c)ed with root vegetables, Decker placed bottles in her basket. Her husband, Steven Kern, is the director of the Everson Museum and they frequently entertain guests related to museum events, she said.

Decker really helps, she said. He suggests the quantities of wine necessary for the number of guests and, as she likes to serve food based on the art exhibits, he also helps her match a region's wines with the cuisine on her menu.

"Pairing food and wine is an art," Kern said.

Oddly comforting atmosphere

The brick walls of the shop give a well-lit cellar feel and are crowded with a campy collection of stuffed animals, a large plastic Elvis bust, celebrity and family pictures and science fiction posters. Racks and open wooden boxes display the many bottles of wine. On Valentine's Day about a dozen customers were chatting, tasting and buying wines while soulful rhythm and blues music played in the background.

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