In memorium: Ruth Bassin, age 89, of MacArthur Beverages
On August 21, 2016, Ruth Bassin, age 89, owner of MacArthur Beverages passed away. It was in 1957 that Ruth Bassin and her late husband Addy Bassin founded MacArthur Beverages. Originally known as MacArthur Liquors, Ruth and Addy Bassin helped foster the transition of Washington, DC, to a wine loving city. The store opened with the promise of “neighborly service”. Over the past 25 years of my frequent visits, Mrs. B, as she was affectionately called, was always there.
At the passing of her husband Addy Bassin in 1986 and her son Bruce Bassin in 1998, Ruth Bassin founded two charity events. Both the California Barrel Tasting and the Hearts Delight events continue to this day and will remain her legacy. However, it is through my research into the rise of American wine journalism and the American wine boom of the 1970s, that I came across a forgotten legacy of Ruth Bassin.
Liquor sales dominated the American market in the 1960s. With a rising population of well-traveled, baby boomers, interest began to turn to wine by 1970. Washington, DC, was home to two of the wealthiest counties in America which created a customer base driving massive sales at MacArthur Beverages. Ruth and Addy Bassin met and shaped this demand by purchasing on an international basis. During purchasing trips in London, the couple would maintain a suite where they met with brokers every two hours over three day periods. Both were involved in the selection of the wines as Ruth Bassin noted, “If I don’t like them, he won’t buy them.”
Without the Bassin’s contributions, the demand for such a diverse selection of wine would not exist today.