Archive for the 'wine shops' Category

In-store wine customers: you are chumps

“Greetings in-store customers: You are all chumps.”

I’ve never actually heard a wine store broadcast that message over a loudspeaker. But that’s the message some are sending with their pricing.

The other day, I found a great wine at the sharp price of $18.39 a bottle via a local wine store’s web site. When I dropped by, the wine was on the shelf for $22.99. I mentioned that I had seen it online for the lower price and the staffer, without hesitating, rang me up at the lower price, punching in a 20 percent discount. That’s the equivalent of the fifth bottle free!

We have discussed this issue before. Contrary to some perceptions, New York’s State Liquor Authority does not regulate the prices that retailers charge. Thus the dual pricing phenomenon persists, so consider this a friendly reminder: check the store’s website if you think the price looks high, are making a large purchase or buying an expensive wine. Internet shoppers tend to be more savvy thanks to the price-leveling power of google and wine-specific search tools such as (Full disclosure: I make a tiny amount of money–-pennies, literally–-as an affiliate of

On the one hand, I understand why stores do this: An internet customer is a self-service customer who doesn’t tax the staff’s resources whereas an in-store customer might want to chit chat about which wine goes with chicken and take up the staff’s time. But it somehow feels a little dirty to have the dual price structure. Caveat emptor!

Rosé 2009s: Clos Roche Blanche, Peyrassol, and brightness

It’s sunny with a high of 86 today in New York. Although rosé is food-friendly and refreshing for more months than it is usually given credit for, today is classic rosé weather. I’ve got a couple of good rosés so now all I need is a pool…

Last week I stopped by Crush Wine & Spirits on 57th St (map it). They used to do free tastings weekly in the store but now have switched to larger ones only once a month. A staple in this vein has been their annual “war of the rosés” where they uncork and pour a dozen or more for consumers who think pink.

My favorite of the all-2009 lineup, both foreign and domestic, was the Clos Roche Blanche, a rosé from the pineau d’aunis grape, which usually makes some pretty light reds to begin with. This wine ($18) from the central Loire had great brightness and an alluring subtlety. The other wine that I bought after the tasting was the Commanderie de Peyrassol, a Provencal rosé that is consistently fun and delicious (and a good value, on sale for $14.39 that day–search for these wines).

After tasting the wines, I wondered if 2009 might not be the greatest rosé vintage in Europe? Not that people really give much thought to rosé and vintages. But it seemed to me that some of them were not as bright and snappy as in prior years. What is your experience? While awaiting your reply, I might just uncork one of those bottles pictured above.

Wine tasting at Caves Auge – Tissot and Binner edition [Paris]

Stephane Tissot from the Jura outside Les Caves Augé in Paris.

Les Caves Augé, the excellent Paris wine shop, has fun, free wine tastings that spill on to the sidewalk. The shop is crammed with so many fine and fun wines that they mainly have to do these free tastings outside of the winter months, so the broad pavements of Boulevard Hausmann are at their most hospitable. For anyone traveling to Paris, there are three remaining Saturday tastings this season at Augé, “Wonder women” on June 5, “Loire” on June 19, and “bubbles” on July 10.

Although we’ve never met, Tim Eustis is a friend of a friend. He worked in wine retail in New York City and did wine consulting for seven years. About a year ago, he and his family moved to Paris. Back in March, he dropped by the first of the spring tastings. Over to Tim for photos and comments from his tasting some wines from the Jura and Alsace. I have liked some wines from Tissot (old vine Poulsard) and Binner (notably, the gewurztraminer) in the past so was pleased Tim had the chance to taste them.

By Timothy Eustis Read more…

Thirst Wine Merchants – Fort Greene, Brooklyn

A couple of months ago, we had a discussion about what makes a great, independent wine shop. Here’s a bit more about one of excellent example of a neighborhood shop: Thirst Wine Merchants in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Michael Yarmark, born in New York, moved to San Francisco where he did a Masters in English literature at SF State. While living in the Bay Area, he met Emilia Valencia, who was working front-of-house at a restaurant. Together, they came to know the wines of Steve Edmunds who makes wines from Rhone varieties under the Edmunds St. John label in the East Bay. They eventually discovered the retail shop for the importer Kermit Lynch, which Michael describes as a turning point in their wine journey that led them to seek natural wines from independent winemakers.

Moving back to New York, Michael got a job as a sales manager for a book publisher while Emilia continued working in restaurants, including at Franny’s in Park Slope. Michael says that they liked shopping for wine at many of New York’s independent shops–and a handsome display of the corks they pulled while living in NYC attests to that diversity. Michael says, “it represents our thirst and our quest.” But they wanted something closer to their home in Fort Greene.

So in December 2006, they opened Thirst Wine Merchant. The 500 sq ft store stocks about 500 different wines, all with a natural bent, onto curved shelves made of biofiber (wheat) and sustainably harvested birch. The well-curated selection, strong in wines from the Loire, Burgundy and Italy, features many wines from Kermit Lynch as well as other importers and some domestic wines.

If you stop by the store, you’re likely to meet Michael or Emilia since they only have one full-time employee. When I stopped by last month, Michael was there and a $13 natural chardonnay from the Languedoc was being poured in the store. Prices are reasonable, especially with 5% off six bottles and 15% off case purchases. They also ship but don’t have inventory on their website. You can check it out in person or on my map of NYC wine shops.

Store info and photos after the jump: Read more…

New proposal offers NY wine stores a transition period

Key players in Albany are seeking to break the impasse over wine retailing reform in New York State according to one retailer who was contacted.

Daniel Posner, managing partner at Grapes the Wine Company in White Plains, NY, tweeted about the new proposal. Reached for comment, he says that he received a call today from legislative negotiators floating these new proposals. Two calls to Albany were not returned.

According to Posner, the new proposal would offer existing retailers two “medallions,” requisite to maintain or obtain a license for wine retailing. The first medallion would be for their existing store. Shop owners could do what they wish with the second, including use it to obtain a license on a second store as the current ban on owning multiple licenses would be lifted. They could also sell it to another party, including a supermarket, to apply for a wine retail license.

This would effectively cap the number of new licenses to only double the amount of existing stores, currently 2,400 in the state. This medallion period would be a transition of three years before the market was further liberalized, phasing out the medallions.

“I think it’s hard for current shop owners to refuse this,” said Posner.

“The new proposal gives three years when a retailer could (a) open another store, (b) sell it to a supermarket and profit or (c) sit on it and wait,” he said. “They’re giving plenty of time for stores to react.”

Related: “Wine shops in states with supermarket sales – three views

When small wine shops are great–and when they disappoint

Eric Asimov has a long piece in today’s NYT about small wine shops. He highlights a number of local, independent shops mostly around New York City. If you are familiar with our map of NYC wine shops, then you knew about virtually every store in his story already! I’d also highlight Le Vigne, which is a good, new shop that didn’t get mentioned. I’ve also recently discovered UVA Wines in Brooklyn, which has an excellent selection of wines from the Loire and Burgundy. Thirst Merchants in Fort Greene also merits a shout-out since they have a lot of the hard-to-find wines from the portfolio of importer Kermit Lynch. Hit the comments with faves in your area.

I love a good, small wine shop. When people ask me to recommend a wine, I often tell them that the best practical advice I can give them is to find a great, small shop near them. Read more…

Astor Wines says no to Styro, yes to plastic sleeves

I got a few wines from Astor Wine & Spirits in Greenwich Village via UPS the other day. When I opened the box, there was no Styrofoam. There weren’t any cardboard inserts. Instead, each bottle was wrapped in an inflatable plastic sleeve. It was the first time I’d seen this.

Styrofoam is popular with retailers and wineries shipping wine because it cradles and insulates the bottles. While it is ultralight, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the shipment, it essentially never biodegrades. I always try to bring my Styro shippers back to a store so that they can be used again before their life taking up space in a landfill. One store, Grapes the Wine Company, actually includes a pre-paid label so consumers can return the empty box back to the store via Fedex for reuse and a store credit. Corrugated cardboard inserts are recyclable but they are quite heavy, increasing the carbon footprint. Pulp inserts are light and biodegradable.

The plastic sleeves that Astor uses, branded as Air-Paq, are both light and recyclable (though they are resin code 7, which many municipalities don’t recycle). Their staff inserts the bottles in the sleeve, then use a gizmo to inject the air and seal the sleeve (you can see a scintillating demo video here).

Reached via email, Andrew Fisher, owner of Astor, pointed out that it is much more space-efficient in their shipping area than Styrofoam, since there is just a plastic roll and a compressor. He elaborated, “Since Astor produces its own electricity and recaptures the waste heat to provide heating and cooling for our space, it seemed both incongruous and inconsistent to cling to Styrofoam shipping materials.”

Each bottle rests in an independent sleeve from the others so it can also be separated and used again for your wine travel needs. Or, if you have two boys like us, they each can put them on a hand and have a sword fight!

Related: “Poll: Styrofoam or cardboard for your wine shipping?

Wine shops in states with supermarket sales – three views

New York legislators are considering a shift to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets–and wine stores to sell gourmet cheese, cigars, beer and even have ATMs. To find out how small shops can even exist in such an environment, we turn to three “mom & pop” shops in three of the 35 states that currently allow such competition. Click through for tales from The Bottle Shop in Wilmette, IL, Wine Authorities in Durham, NC, and Wine Expo in Santa Monica, CA. To their thoughts, after the jump! Read more…


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