When my friends recommend wine shops in their respective environs, I pay attention — even when their recommendations are geographically distant. And, as much as the product and the prices, what friends like about their local wine stores typically revolves around the proprietors and how they make their stores distinctive.
As I’ve said before, discovering and exploring independent bookstores can be similar to the experience of browsing and buying from delightful local wine shops.
Here are a few more favorites to note, courtesy of friends in different places. NOTE: the websites of Keife & Co. and The Wine Shop do not provide comprehensive search engines for their inventories; that is, you have to visit in person!
Finewine.com – in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This store is a recent find of my friend Marsha. The layout of the not-huge space – “very cool,” she said, without traditional shelves and racks – impressed her, as did the broad and interesting selection.
Scrolling through Finewine’s summer specials on their website, I note many labels, even some varietals, that I rarely, or never, see in my go-to retailers in the metro NY area. Calder Charbono from Napa, for instance. Several wines from California’s Tres Sabores winery – including their Por que no red blend and Sauvignon Blanc VYD. Mt. Monster Limestone Coast Chardonnay from Australia. Syrah and Chardonnay from South Africa’s DeMorgenzon.
Marsha reports that Finewine’s staff is excellent and makes “spot-on”suggestions.
Keife & Co. – Long-time New Orleanian Eleanor and her husband Jay give a shout out to this relative newcomer to the city’s downtown/warehouse district. They love the store’s unusual choices from, for instance, the Basque region and Croatia.
“We have found several reasonably priced wines of quality that we would not have found at any other wine store here,” Eleanor writes. “It is a family-run business of two married couples who travel together to find and import their wine selections.” In fact, the store closes up in August for a scouting trip to Europe.
Need snacks with those bottles you’re buying? Keife & Co. also offers an exclusive assortment of charcuterie, cheese, olives and, Eleanor adds, “of course, chocolate.”
The Wine Shop – Sandy sings the praises of Charleston wine merchant Debbie Marlowe. She’s been in the wine biz for more than 25 years, and has owned this store since 1995. According to Sandy, Marlowe “has a gift for finding great values in wine, and also for knowing what her customers like and what they typically spend.”
Marlowe’s personal touch extends to leading winery tours for clients. My friend was the beneficiary of one such tour in Santa Barbara in 2011, which included a private visit to Dierberg Vineyard.