Chuck and Linda Spittel: Leland’s Friendly Wine Merchants
A brown and white mixed-breed dog named Dooley strings along behind Chuck Spittel as he moves about his house. Chuck comes to rest on the couch, and Dooley nudges his big, block-shaped head against Chuck’s chest before licking his chin.
“He’s our rescue,” Chuck says proudly. The dog’s coat is beautiful, with only one blemish: a scar from where a chain once dug into the animal’s neck. But Chuck and his wife, Linda, nurtured the animal back to health, and it is clear from spending time around the dog that he is aware of where he has been and appreciative of his life now.
Chuck and Linda are natural nurturers. They enjoy the company of people, and they enjoy teaching and learning from others. While raising their three daughters, Dori, Kristin and Mandi, in Maryland, the Spittels always put great emphasis on their time with their family.
“We always had dinner together, and we let [the children] talk about their days,” says Chuck. “And they really liked it. They would argue with one another over who would get to tell about their day first.”
Linda worked as a physical therapist, specializing in pediatric physical therapy. Through Linda’s job, the Spittels met some children who were raised in less than desirable situations, and they would often volunteer their weekends to serve as mentors to some of the children. In fact, one such child became part of the Spittel family when they legally adopted her.
The Spittels arrived in Leland, North Carolina, ten years ago when they decided to leave the city for a slower pace at Magnolia Greens, where they built their home. Linda and Chuck are high-school sweethearts with a nearly perfect storybook relationship (“nearly perfect” because, while they did meet at age 16 in high school, their first introduction was made while each of them was on a date with another person).
While the Spittels do miss things about their Maryland home, including hardwood forests and even using a snow blower, overall they deem their lives as being much improved today.
“I just love it here. I really do,” says Linda.
“The traffic and the general attitude are what we don’t miss,” says Chuck.
In Leland the couple frequented a store called House of Wine & Cheese. Their favorite event at the store was the Friday evening wine and cheese tastings, where they had the opportunity to meet other people in the community.
Chuck, a mechanical engineer who has traveled extensively said that “it reminds me of the shops in Europe. We were some of the Tillier’s (former owners) best customers and we decided to buy the business. We didn’t want to see this store disappear from the neighborhood.”
The ideals that were so entrenched in the Spittels’ family life, of helping others and of spending quality time with others, spill over into their place of business. The Spittels still hold the free-of-charge wine and cheese tastings every Friday evening from 4 to 7 pm, and this is their favorite time to be at the store. The Spittels are constantly being exposed to new and different wines, as their distributors routinely allow them to sample new inventory, and they are excited to share their sensory discoveries with their customers.
The tastings usually include six kinds of wine, three white and three red. Lately the Spittels have been substituting one of the bottles of wine for a few of their beers, usually microbrews. With approximately 350 different bottles of wine on hand at the store, the options are bountiful.
“We have wines of all different types and all different price points,” says Chuck. “Martin and Susan Tillier (the store’s former owners) worked hard to find inexpensive wines that are really good, and we’ve tried to continue that.”
Although the best time to enjoy wine while learning about it is Friday night, the store is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am to 7 pm, and there is always a wine enthusiast working behind the counter to guide customers seeking assistance with their selections.
“A lot of our customers will ask about the wine,” says Linda. “That’s why they choose to come to a wine store instead of some place like a grocery store.”
“A lot of times, too, people will be on their way home and they will stop in and say, ‘I’m having this for dinner, what should I get?’” Chuck adds.
In addition to the regular customers, the store also gets vacationers who are just in town for a week or weekend. House of Wine & Cheese has also found a corporate following. The store often supplies local real estate professionals and developers with gift baskets for their customers and prospective clients.
“We use a lot of foods and treats from right here in eastern North Carolina in our baskets, and our clients like them because their customers walk away with something from this area,” says Linda.
Others, including local bankers, have entertained prospective clients or investors at House of Wine & Cheese, as a tasting at the store is a particularly good way to mix business and pleasure.
House of Wine & Cheese is centered on knowledgeable wine enthusiasts, quality wine and, most importantly, camaraderie and conversation.
“I just really enjoy being around people,” says Chuck. “We want everyone who comes in here to have a good experience, so we treat everyone as friends.”
What’s for Dinner?
Chuck and Linda’s Suggested Combos
Food: Grilled Salmon
Wine: Meiomi – A light, very fruity California pinot noir
Cheese: Bella Vitano – Reminiscent of Parmigiano Reggiano, but softer
Food: Flank Steak
Wine: Jam (abbreviation for the winemakers’ names, John and Michelle) – Slightly fruity, medium-bodied blend. Smooth and very easy drinking
Cheese: Barber’s Aged Cheddar (Barber’s has been making cheese since 1833, but the cheddar is not aged quite that long)
Food: Italian Food
Wine: Montepulciano – A smooth wine without a lot of tannins (some recognize this wine due to the fact that the makers tie a little twig onto the front of each bottle)
Cheese: Gouda or Asiago
Food: Grilled Lamb
Wine: Marietta – a full-bodied zinfandel, which is bold, but not overpoweringly so
Cheese: Stilton – a blue cheese made in Britain
Note that all suggested cheeses should be consumed at room temperature for best flavor.
House of Wine & Cheese
The Village Shoppes at Waterford
511 Olde Waterford Way, Unit 103
Leland, NC 28451