The catalogs from Sherry-Lehmann are the backbone of our recently created, Price the Vintage, an application built to help crowdsource the extraction of historic prices from wine sales catalog. But what, you might ask, is Sherry-Lehmman?
In 1934, legendary Prohibition bootlegger, Jack Aaron took over Sherry Wine and Spirits Co., small wine and liquor store in New York City, at 62nd and Madison in the Louis Sherry building. The building (and later the wine store) was named for Gilded Age hotelier Louis Sherry who had a store and restaurant in the spot (Today, it’s the site of the fashion house Hermes.)
A year after opening the store, Jack was joined in the business by his brother Sam, who had been having trouble finding work in his chosen field of psychology. Through the 1930s and 1940s, the store did brisk business in gin, vodka and whiskey. ”It was just another liquor store at first. Then one day a man walked in and changed the future for the shop and for us,” Sam Aaron recalled to the New York Times.
That man was Frank Schoonmaker, a former New Yorker writer who became a wine importer and an early champion of American wine. In 1937, with Mr. Schoonmaker, Sam Aaron made his first trip to the vineyards of Europe. Then in the 1940s, Sam Aaron made another wine enthusiast friend, famed writer James Beard, who would become a consultant for the store.
James and Sam began taking trips together to France and got interested in wine. (They even wrote a book together). At the store, Sam wanted to highlight the wine offerings, a hard sell when consumer interest was more focused on hard alcohol. With Sam writing much of the copy, the store began publishing catalogs to help promote their offering and educate the wine-buying public. Filled with recipes, pithy advertisements and eye-catching graphics, the catalog quickly became a collectors’ item. And 82 years later, Sherry-Lehmann is still selling wine to New Yorkers.