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Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention

France Comes to Stanfordville
March 27, 2024

Le Caviste: Delighting the Neighborhood, Sip By Sip

By ML Ball

Photos by Sabrina Eberhard

In France, a “caviste” is the person in charge of a wine cellar. It also refers to a wine store owner who sells wines which he/she has individually curated. Such is the case with Antoine Lefort, owner of Le Caviste in Stanfordville. “Everything here I’ve personally picked,” he says. “There is at least one of every type of wine that I find interesting. I would say Le Caviste is definitely like a French wine store except that I carry wines from all over the world, whereas in France they usually only have French wines, or from Europe.”

Take a Bordeaux, for instance. “I have probably 30 different Bordeaux wines, because they each have very different profiles,” he notes. “There’s at least one of each profile that I like and that you would drink with certain food. In France we are taught that the wine and the food always go hand in hand.”

Growing up in the north of France, in Dunkirk, Lefort was born into, then married into, a wine family. His father had a top-class wine cellar, but his father-in-law “had a really, really big cellar,” he says. “Very prestigious, maybe 2,000 bottles.”

It was during weekly family Sunday lunches with his father-in-law that Lefort had his first exposure to high-end wines. “He would tell us about the particular wine we had just tasted, what vintage, from which region,” he explains. “I had friends who were also interested in wine, and the summer I was 18, I had a car and we just took off and drove through most of the wine regions in France, meeting with winemakers and tasting their wines with them. When I started this wine store, I chose my wines based mostly on the wines I tried during those tastings.”

When he turned 25, Lefort left France and moved to New York City with his wife for a career in finance, eventually buying a weekend house in Stanfordville. Then COVID hit, and like so many others, they decided to stay in the country full time. Not loving working from home, Lefort looked for office space, and when the white clapboard house on Route 82 became available for rent, he grabbed it. “Then one day, I said, ‘You know what, I think it should be a wine store,’” he recalls. “That was supposed to be purely on the side.” 


Before long, Lefort’s side business was doing rather well. “I was not expecting this to be as successful as it is,” he admits. “I thought it would just be paying the rent, but I had to hire someone to help me because people became really interested. Wine enthusiasts found me right away who spread the word quickly in the community, attracting local people as well as weekenders. Even though we’re in this small town, people find us because I think we are different from other wine and liquor stores.”

Lefort offers public wine tastings every Saturday afternoon, as well as private tastings in people’s homes and at local events. —