When Pia Hiotis opened her wine shop in 1997, she didn't feel like she was taking much of a risk.

When Pia Hiotis opened her wine shop in 1997, she didn't feel like she was taking much of a risk.

Sure, she was investing all of her savings and, admittedly, knew nothing about wine. But Hiotis had lived in the Short North for eight years by then-- through what she calls its "sketchy" phase-- and felt that the burgeoning arts district was ready for her eclectic take on entertaining.

Hiotis' shop, Europia, now supplies one of the city's most successful retail and residential areas with its wine, beer, liquor, cigar and gourmet snack-food needs.

"I looked at the neighborhood, and I wanted to put what didn't exist," Hiotis said. "That was my inspiration. I didn't know very much at all about wine."

Hiotis, 50, calls her staff family and her customers friends. She is a hands-on owner and manager who credits her business' success to a blessing her grandfather, a Greek Orthodox priest, gave the shop at its grand opening.

"I came from a family that started and owned their own businesses," Hiotis said. "I'm not college-educated. I learned from just working, and my staff and I can relate to how people feel when they don't know a lot about wine."


How do you suggest people explore wine?

It's good to taste and read at the same time to learn what different flavors are, like "buttery" or "oaky." We have a wine-of-the-month club and regular wine tasting classes that are great for that.

Why did you add liquor?

It truly made Europia an upscale, one-stop shop. And when you make your business from scratch, you have to keep constantly reinventing yourself.

What do you enjoy doing on your own time?

I love animals. I have a Schnoodle; her name's Zoe. I have a cabin in Hideaway Hills, south of Lancaster. It's really cool, and I go every chance I get, all year round. And my family's in Florida, so I visit there when it's cold here.

PIA'S SUGGESTIONSElio Perrone Moscato d' Asti (2008)
Region: Asti, Italy
Tasting notes: A sparkling white with tastes of stone fruits, honeysuckle and other florals
Pair with: A cheese course or light,
fruity dessert
Why Pia likes it: "It's sweet, but it's effervescent. It's definitely a crowd-pleaser."
Cost: $20
Duxoup Charbono (2003)
Region: Napa Valley, California
Tasting notes: Fruit-forward and full-bodied, with soft tannins and a smooth finish
Pair with: Hearty foods like grilled lamb chops or any dish featuring mushrooms and olives
Why Pia likes it: "It's a handcrafted wine from a husband-and-wife team with very limited production."
Cost: $23

Europia Wine & Spirits is located at 672 N. High St. in the Short North and can be contacted at 614-460-3000 or www.europiagourmet.com .