Shopping at Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique is not for the rushed -- or the reticent. Owner Christophe Lhopitault said: "People don't come here and choose a bottle. We talk, and then I give them a bottle."
Lhopitault has tasted every one of the thousand-plus wines he offers in this sprawling shop at the Stony Brook Village Center. But he doesn't play favorites. "It's not about what I like," he said. "It's about what you like."
Regular customer Bill Arloff of Stony Brook regards Lhopitault as a sort of wine therapist. "Christophe has really helped me move away from cabernet sauvignon," he said. "He's helped me find a vocabulary -- I like bold and fruity -- and expanded my palate." Arloff's homework is to report back to Lhopitault after he's drunk each bottle. "By this point," said the student, "he knows better than I do what I'll like."
Lhopitault was born in the French Alps and came to New York in 1992 to work in the dining room of Daniel. After a stint at La Côte Basque, he opened three restaurants of his own. Eventually, he moved to Smithtown and traded the restaurant business for wine wholesaling. In July 2011, he opened Lake Side Emotions, named for what he said was Long Island's first winery, located at the Stony Brook Grist Mill in the early 1800s.
For a man who has made wine the center of his life, he regards it with a distinct lack of awe, rejecting the current trend of matching wines to specific foods. "This whole pairing thing is just a way for restaurants to increase the price of the tasting menu," he said. "Eat what you like, drink what you like -- that's my advice.
Lake Side Emotions Wine Boutique
113 Main St., Stony Brook, 631-675-2750