Updated: Aug 10, 2020
Cork and Cap's Wine Guy.
Husband and wife team Erin and James created the concept for Cork and Cap on their first date. Since then, James, a seasoned wine professional, and Erin, a marketing and local food advocate, have always dreamed of opening their own neighborhood bottle shop—a space to offer the handcrafted wine, beer, and artisan products they've spent a lifetime loving and learning about.
James Alford has spent the sum total of his professional life immersed in the world of fine wine and food.
From crafting award-winning wine lists at historic restaurant properties, to managing the diverse needs of a multimillion dollar retail program, James has had a chance to develop a deep and dynamic knowledge of how to find the best of what's out there, and find it at a great price.
After a budding infatuation with wine developed during his travels to Europe in his early 20s, James began working part-time at Motor Supply Bistro in Columbia while finishing grad school. Motor's General Manager at the time noticed James's enthusiasm for wine, and offered to apprentice him in the nuts and bolts of building a restaurant list, and making it profitable. It was here that James learned the valuable lesson that creating a successful wine program involves far more than simply accruing a lot of wine knowledge, and then carrying every wine that one likes. As in writing, editing is key, and a list with 100 great selections that still make money is far better than a list with 1,000 great selections that eats up all the profit. As he began to realize that he may be interested in wine as more than just a hobby or side hustle, he was offered his first wine-centric job opportunity.
Grassroots Wine Wholesalers was where James spent the next several years, learning the intricacies of importing, wholesaling, and opening difficult markets to then-unheard of varieties. Numerous trips abroad and newly forged friendships with important wine industry personalities helped to broaden the appeal of wine for James, and helped him refine and focus his own goals within that community. Among the many appealing facets of working with wine, James began to feel more and more that he wanted the reins of a program where he could personally shepherd people towards the excellent wines that go unnoticed by the larger public. And the first opportunity to do that would come when Morganelli's made their offer.
The next several years brought trips back into both restaurants and wine wholesale, both of which added valuable knowledge, experience, and relationship building. But James (and his indomitable wife Erin) still wanted something that was theirs, where they didn't have to consult anyone on the direction of the project. After spending a weekend in Aiken--where Erin grew up, and where James had two tours as a wine rep--they both realized that while Aiken had several places to buy wine, they didn't have an actual wine store. They didn't have a bottle shop that was focused chiefly on the retailing of fine wine. And the more the two of them thought about it, the more they asked, "Why not us?"
And so with some help from friends and family—and not a little trepidation—they signed a lease and got to work. James is very excited to introduce you to the culmination of his life's work this Fall, and he couldn't think of anywhere better to do it than Aiken.
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