It’s just a little past 10 a.m., and already, it’s a full house brimming with buoyant conversation. At the center of it all is the cordial host, Ralph Lim Joseph, who hops from one table to the other, making sure everyone is feeling good that day.
It’s literally a haven for wine lovers and connoisseurs as Joseph successfully encourages guests to drink some wine. It is, after all, the very point why everyone is here – to appreciate the world’s finest wines and the important process and history that went into their creation.
“Aside from a place where you can dine and drink, it’s most of all a place for those who want to learn more about the legendary drink.” Joseph adds: “The Wine Museum is the nonprofit aspect of the business in general. We don’t expect to sell that much here, but it’s more of an entertainment and education center. Ralph’s has around 450 employees spread through our various branches. The Wine Museum is our training center; we train our staff every week because it’s important that they know what they’re selling.”
“And most importantly, we only carry superior brands. We don’t waste time bringing in the inferior ones.”
If the man says it with such audacity, it’s because he speaks the truth. Ralph’s Wines and Spirits, founded in 1975, is the biggest family-owned retail company selling wines and spirits. It also has the widest portfolio of brands that Joseph meticulously screens and selects to this day.
The 2,000-square-meter storage facility in the area has been temperature-controlled since 1978, ensuring that stocks are taken care of and kept fresh for drinkers to properly enjoy. To date, there are about 30 Ralph’s Wines and Spirits across the country.
And so, as long-time friends and business partners know, the casual yet endearing way in which Joseph deals with his clients belies the seriousness and exactness he pours into his enterprise. But whether one is having a rare Glendronach spirit or enjoying a more accessible Montes Chardonnay from Chile, Joseph isn’t much of a preacher when it comes to telling new wine aficionados what the rules are.
“The rules?” he raises his voice a bit. “I can tell you how to taste wine, you pucker your mouth, cheeks full, feeling the wine in your taste buds. Next, open your mouth a little to let some air in so you can start to really sense the wine’s aroma. Exhale through your nose.”
But it’s all about personal preferences, figuring out what one really wants from a glass of wine. Joseph observes, “Some drinkers will look at the label and the origin of the wine, but most people nowadays look at value for money. I think each wine has its own market.”
By noontime, the Wine Museum can’t suppress its vibrant energy any longer. More people are coming in and more glasses are being passed around to discover and taste the next exciting wine or revere a classic label.
Upstairs, on the second floor, is the multi-purpose training center. The third and fourth floors also include standard, deluxe, and superior rooms for transient guests, or those who simply want to stay put and relax after too many drinks at the wine bar. Just outside, a Thai spa is ready to take in customers, who want to unwind after an inebriating session.
Somehow, one is sure that the little touches, like an inviting hotel bed and a soothing foot massage are all part of Joseph’s well-curated scheme for clients to purely appreciate wine drinking – no pretenses attached – and the good life.