Cigar aficionado’s Richland store offers nearly 600 varieties

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Owner of The Educated Cigar & Wine can be found at festivals around region

Local entrepreneur Rick Ornstein enjoys the simple things life has to offer, especially sitting down and puffing a premium cigar with friends.

His enthusiasm for cigars, believed to date back to the ancient Mayans, is more than evident at The Educated Cigar & Wine in Richland, which opened for business 19 years ago.

The taste range of cigars is larger than the taste range of apples.

Rick Ornstein, owner of The Educated Cigar

The shop recently was featured in the August edition of Smokeshop, a national trade magazine about tobacco retailing.

“It’s my hobby business. I love it and I’m my own best customer,” the 67-year-old said. “Cigars are enormously more complex than most people realize. The differences in the aging of tobacco is like a five-year-old Scotch and a 25-year-old Scotch.”

The business owner is happy to share a wealth of information with customers, and explains how Cuban cigars are still illegal to sell in the United States. Some misinterpret Cuban cigars as “the best,” but Ornstein said this isn’t the case.

“Before the year 2000, Cuban cigars had the highest reputation as being the best; that’s where the mystique developed and rightly so. Then, all these people were leaving Cuba and the world changed. Virtually all of the great cigar growers and fermenters are no longer in Cuba,” Ornstein said. “They’ve gone elsewhere in the world and have started a following.”

The cigar enthusiast said the top three cigar-producing countries are the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua. Of 30 cigars that have been rated a 95 or higher on a scale of 100 since 2000, only six are Cuban. Ornstein carries every non-Cuban cigar ever rated 96 or 97 by Cigar Aficionado magazine, which he calls the Consumer Reports of cigars.

Ornstein’s emphasis on top-of-the-line cigars has earned him a local following, although most of his customer base consists of people in the Tri-Cities on business and vacation, he said. The ease of online searches and trending positive reviews has boosted business, he said.

“A lot of people visiting over the past three or four years have found me on Google, Yelp and Facebook, which has dramatically increased the number of customers. We’re the only real, legitimate cigar shop with no chew or cigarettes – only premium and ultra-premium cigars and high-rated wines,” Ornstein said.

“The taste range of cigars is larger than the taste range of apples,” Ornstein said. “With cigars, there are three components of tobacco blended together. Master blenders take different tobaccos and mix them together, kind of like baking.”

Between 500 and 600 varieties are in stock at the Richland store, with thousands of individual cigars available for purchase, said Ornstein, who previously worked as a biophysics scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories.

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Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno

Audra Distifeno has been in the “news” business for more than 20 years. She is passionate about writing, and is also an educator with the goal of igniting young minds so they might discover their potentials. She lives in the Yakima Valley with her children, two mini schnauzers, two lizards and multitudes of fish. She enjoys camping, kayaking and breathing in the ocean air. She hopes to one day be a published novelist and see her work being read by the masses … or even by just one who is moved by her story.

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