A pioneer in local wine world, Champion Wine Cellars founder Emile Ninaud, along with a few partners, was the first licensee to run a wine-specialty shop in Washington State. Back then, the caliber of cuisine coming from the Pacific Northwest was nearly devoid of great wine for pairing. Due to high tariffs on out of state product, Seattle retailers were limited in their offerings.
That changed in 1969, when lawmakers eased the regulations on out of state imports, and allowed private wine retailers to come into existence. This was when Emile set out to broaden the spectrum of offerings and opened his first shop location in Downtown Seattle.
With a focus on Old World vines, Emile was the first Washington retailer to curate a wide selection from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire, and wine from the Rhone Valley. The early days also saw California and the first Washington wines on Champion's shelves. Over the years, the store expanded to include wines from Italy, Spain, Germany and additional new world varieties South America, Australia and South Africa.
Informed by a culinary and hospitality background, Emile built a reputation on his ability to seek quality labels, while offering an approachable, budget-conscious selection to his varied clientele. Whether it was sourcing selections for the most discerning palates, or finding the right wine for a special occasion, Emile, his wife Stephanie and his staff were experts in finding the right wine to fit every taste and budget, whether for cellaring or immdediate enjoyment.
After 50 years of operating Champion Wine Cellars with his wife, Stephanie; Emile retired and sold the business to new owners in 2017. To continue the tradition of the shop, the Ninauds choseErin Lyman, a longtime restaurant professional, to curate the bottles in the shop's new location.(click for bio)
The newly remodeled store is in the Greenwood neighborhood in Seattle, Erin continues Emile’s tradition of friendly, expert advice.
- with contributions from Stephanie Ninaud
Erin Lyman continues the tradition ...
Erin Lyman, owner of Champion Wine Cellars
Born in Honolulu, she started working in restaurants in her teens. Inneed of a change of scenery, she relocated to Seattle in 2005, where she put in time at venues such as Purple Café and Wine Bar, RN74, Zig Zag Café and Café Campagne. During her time at Zig Zag Café, she became the second woman to grace the bar. Renowned as Seattle's go-to craft cocktail establishment, Zig Zag gave Erin invaluable experiences in honing her palate, and in concocting sophisticated, yet balancedpotables. She moved from the bar to the linen-tabled world of Café Campagne, where she assumed the role of Wine Director. Mentored by the café's previous sommelier, Cyril Frechier, she continued in the restaurant's tradition of serving the authentic French experience. In curating this experience, she gained a deep reverence for the history and tradition of the French table, especially the craft of wine and its producers.
Along with her industry experience, Erin has earned certifications from both the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and the Wine Scholar Guild. She has passed these exams with distinction and she is a pinned French Wine Scholar.
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