Wine shopping for the traveler

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If you’re in the habit of shopping at local wine retailers while you’re away from home – on vacation or traveling for other reasons – be prepared to investigate your options in advance, as they can be limited in some places.

Indianapolis, for one.

I spent a week this summer in Indiana’s capitol, my hometown and where I visit often to see family. So I’ve learned that fine-wine retailers are in short supply there.

In this city or anywhere away from home you may find yourself, supermarkets can be the best bet for mainstream selections, but it may still be worth seeking out the more-discriminating retailers.

Online searches are easy – but look at several “best” lists to confirm that you’re not merely getting a biased promotional recommendation. And if you have friends who know the locale you’ll be visiting, ask them for ideas as well.

I discovered Kahn’s Fine Wines some years ago by repeatedly passing its 53rd and Keystone store in my drives around town. In business since 1979, these folks now operate from three locations, the newest being a “superstore” on the city’s booming northside.

Delightfully, Kahn’s also has a store in the heart of the city’s downtown, arguably today’s trendiest residential neighborhood for young professionals. The downtown location is a terrific resource for that captive audience, and a great find for visitors at the area’s many hotels (among them, JW Marriott, Omni Severin, The Canterbury and, the newest, The Alexander) who need to pick up wine gifts or a bottle or two for aperitifs in their rooms.

The downtown store, at 25 N. Pennsylvania, was once a bank and so boasts a cellar readymade for tastings. The vault has been repurposed for vintage Bordeaux and Burgundies and other higher-end bottles.

On my latest trip I shopped at Kahn’s Keystone Avenue store, where the racks seemed oddly depleted and the range of selections, in the California aisles anyway, more limited than my previous visit in December. But I’ve discovered some small producers on the racks before (Branham Estate Wines, for one – loved their 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Russian River Chardonnay) and will be back next time I’m in town.

Wishing you serendipitous wine store finds on your summer vacation!

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