Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 52
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

TEMPTING TASTINGS: Mark Censits, owner of CoolVines, the new wine shop in town, holds a bottle of Petite Rousse, a Syrah from California. “It’s medium-bodied, with a slightly spicy flavor,” he explains. “Also, the owner of the winery plays music in the vineyard when the grapes are growing, and he only picks and prunes during certain phases of the moon!”

New CoolVines Specialty Wine Shop Recently Opened on Nassau Street

“There are people with a low or high interest in wine, or low or high knowledge of wine. We particularly enjoy working with customers who have a high interest and low knowledge. They are interested in learning about new wines and trying them. We attract people who are exploring. Young people especially are interested in trying different wines and learning about their own personal preferences.”

Mark Censits, owner of the new CoolVines wine shop at 344 Nassau Street (corner of Harrison Street), looks forward to introducing customers to his intriguing selection of wine. “We have wine from countries all over the world, including Uruguay and South Africa, as well as France, Italy, Germany, and the U.S. We emphasize small producers and family wineries.”

Opening CoolVines represents a career change for Mr. Censits, who holds an MBA and whose background is in the corporate world, especially working to revive troubled businesses.

“I had to travel a lot,” he explains, “and I decided I wanted a change. I wanted to have my own business, and I love wine. I was inspired to be a part of the local community. I’m from Princeton, and I wanted to open here.”

Other Towns

Once he got the license for a liquor store in 2006, he began to scout locations. There was nothing appropriate available in Princeton at the time, and his search took him to other towns. “I began to scope out other areas, and Westfield came up first. We opened there in 2007.”

Then, this past August, the location at 234 Nassau Street opened up, and Mr. Censits was happy to introduce CoolVines to Princeton.

“We chose the name because it had a nice contemporary feeling,” he says. “I came at this as a wine enthusiast, and I wanted to create a retail environment more conducive to friendly customer service and where customers can feel comfortable finding new wines. I recruited a team of wine experts to work with me, and our goal is to make sure all of the wine on the shelf is good wine. We taste everything, and taste blind to price. I’m getting a lot of information from the importers and distributors.”

Mr. Censits had definite ideas about the design of the shop and how he wanted to present the wine. Wines are organized by type, color, and body (light, medium, full), in straight-forward groupings. Descriptive signs (light, medium, full) are immediately visible to advise customers.

Best Selections

As Mr. Censits points out, “Wines are arranged by how they taste rather than by country or grapes. This offers even wine novices ease in finding the best selections for their needs and taste in a friendly, non-intimidating atmosphere. This is a real help to people. We’ll give descriptions, such as ‘a full-bodied traditional red, with a lot of character’ or ‘a crisp, refreshing white’ to help them out.

“We offer a very diverse array of wine, each of which is a good example of its type.” he continues. “I wanted to stay away from hype and big wine factories. Quality wines are hand-selected from around the world, focusing on authentically made wines, often from smaller wineries that offer the best value possible for CoolVines customers.

“Also, we work directly with producers and importers, eliminating the middle man. In addition, we offer special burgundy from France, and wines from Austria and Germany that are exclusively for us.”

Mr. Censits believes the timing is just right for his foray into the wine business. “Americans are continuing to drink more wine and enjoying it with a meal,” he reports. “The kind of customer we cultivate, whether a wine expert or beginner, will make a special trip to get wine. We’re a destination.”

He is very pleased to have a group of regular customers already, some of whom come in twice a week to check out the latest wines and take time to browse. They are from all over the Princeton area and beyond.

Taste in wine can be seasonal, with the exception of sparkling wine, he adds. “Winter tends to move toward reds, although sparkling wines are popular all the time, and we have a good selection of those.”


CoolVines offers a wide price range, with many choices under $10, especially at $8 and $9. “Our typical range is moderately priced wine in the $10-$20 range,” he points out. “These are well-priced and very popular. There are higher priced wines as well.”

The store also features a selection of hand-crafted beers, and small-batch spirits. “Beer continues to be popular, and we have beer from 300-year-old micro breweries, including from Trappist monks in Belgium. The trend in spirits is to smaller production companies, such as Hudson River Rum. It’s not big brand names. People are trying something different, like our organic gin.”

Wine accessories include a variety of glasses, such as unusual unstemmed champagne flutes, also martini, shakers, and cheese spreaders. An assortment of gift wine cooler “baskets”, which include one or three bottles of wine, special chocolate, and cookies, will be a great holiday item.

CoolVines offers complimentary weekly wine tastings Wednesday at 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m., as well as off-site special wine events, such as those recently held at Nick Hilton Princeton and Camillo’s Cafe. An upcoming dinner event is scheduled at Gennaro’s Restaurant, including wines from CoolVines, on November 19. Further information is available on CoolVines’ website at

Mr. Censits is very happy with the response to his shop — as one customer said: “CoolVines is cool!” — and with the location, which offers parking behind the shop. He is also pleased with the results of his career change.

“I like being part of the local business community. I like to collaborate with the local businesses, and the thing I’ve really enjoyed in Princeton is that people are so excited to try new things.”

CoolVines is open Sunday through Wednesday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 to 10. (609) 924-0039.

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