Kinsey Hamer’s love for wine began when she took a wine history course at Rosen Hospitality at the University of Central Florida — and she has turned that passion into a career.
Hamer and her mother, Kelly, are the new owners of Tim’s Wine Market in Windermere. They bought the business from longtime owners Craig and Kathy Lopus, who had purchased it from the original owner, Tim Varan.
“This is my absolute dream come true,” Hamer said. “I took the course, and it clicked. I’ve always loved history. … There’s wine weaved through every piece of history, scientifically and through storytelling, so it was a click for me. I think it’s something you could learn every day for the rest of your life and still not know everything.”
A PROFESSIONAL WINE PATH
“I went from an internship to a wine department manager to a wine bar general manager to a fine wine store manager to a fine wine store owner,” Hamer said. “I definitely took the steps. This is my dream.”
To graduate from the Rosen program, students had to have several internships. Her first was in the small wine department — with just a few shelves — at Petty’s Meats in Longwood. When the wine manager retired, Hamer took over the department, buying and selling wines and interacting with distributors.
One of them suggested she take a wine class, so she enrolled in Wine & Spirit Education Trust at the Tim’s Wine Market location in downtown Orlando. This course, considered a Level 2 in the wine world, was the beginning of her relationship with the business she would eventually operate.
Hamer has obtained the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 Award in Wines qualification as well and currently is halfway through Level 4, which will allow her to study for the Master of Wine.
When Varan opened his first wine-bar concept in Avalon Park, he asked Hamer to be the general manager.
“I jumped on it,” she said. “That was a major learning experience. I loved learning that aspect, more of the bar side, of the wine business. It was getting me as close to the wine as I’d like to.”
She accepted a full-time position at the Tim’s market in Windermere when Craig Lopus wanted to spend more time traveling.
“We have a lot of wine-knowledgeable customers here, so it’s a fun challenge to find a new wine for customers and show them new wines,” she said.
After working three-and-one-half years, she knew it was time for her mother and her to take the plunge and make the purchase.
“You cannot beat the reputation that Craig and Kathy created, the customer base they created,” Hamer said. “It’s almost like a family … I fell in love with the love for wine that the community has and their willingness to trust us. That’s a hard thing to do, especially in this day and age. But they’re loyal to us.
“We might not always have the lowest price, we always try our best, but they still come to us. But they want to support us … and they like hanging out here. We’ve become friends with our customers. I know most of their names by their wine.”
Customers recently learned of the death of one of their friends, Jon White, a longtime employee of Tim’s Wine Market. Hamer said she and the customers were saddened by his passing.
Hamer has a few changes in store for the market.
“I’m happy that the brewery is here and this little downtown area is growing,” Hamer said. “(It provides) a little more foot traffic, a little more late-night activity.”
She hopes to add to that atmosphere with some high-top tables and more by-the-glass nights.
The wine market offers a variety of tastings, including educational sit-down events, walk-around food-pairing tastings, and private parties and events. There also are five different clubs customers can join. Two are monthly and offer two bottles of wine per month and a chance to explore different wines from around the world.
“We say those are for the wine curious,” Hamer said.
The other three are reserve clubs, which are more exclusive, and they provide three higher-end bottles quarterly.
Hamer said she was thrilled to have the chance to attend the Premier Napa Valley Auction — which included four days of tasting the finest wines Napa Valley has to offer.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I, of course, am hoping to get over the pond to explore some of the European wine country. But, for now, I have to run the store.”