A couple of weekends ago, I attended the grand re-opening of Wine Connection in Pound Ridge, NY. Max Marinucci moved his store to a handsome, custom-built facility and it was an amazing tasting by any measure. There were about six Barolos available from producers that ran the modern-traditional axis, E. Pira, G. Mascarello, G. Conterno, and Sandrone among others. They also poured the 2004 Hudelot Noellat Richebourg (about $259; find this wine), and several current release Bordeaux. Then there was the amazing 1985 Leoville Las Cases (about $379; find this wine), whose aroma was so enticing with tannins were smooth as silk.
And the price for this tasting? Free.
In this tough economy, even seeking solace in a wine glass can still cost a lot. But there is one place where you can still taste fine wine for free: New York wine stores. Granted, you’re standing up and the pours are sometimes barely enough to cover the bottom of the glass, but they are a great opportunity for broadening your tasting experience–as well as talking with some interesting people who are usually doing the pouring.
While there are many silly (separate entrances for separate licenses) and annoying (not being able to to sell cheese in a wine shop nor wine in a food shop) aspects of New York wine retail laws, the free tasting is a definite boon for consumers. Stores can’t charge for tasting since that would be profiting from the sale of liquor on-premises, which requires a different license. Other states have different rules about in-store pourings and they are not always free, but are often a good value. (Sadly, one place where free tastings may someday be illegal is the little-known wine country called France.)
And the downturn in the economy means that some shops are eagerly pouring wines (or, technically, having the distributor reps pour the wines) to attract foot traffic. So check out your local retailers and see what’s on the calendar. Here’s my map of my favorite NYC wine shops.
TO: wine shop managers and their webmasters
FROM: Dr. Vino
RE: adding importer information to e-shops
I was surfing the sites of a few online wine retailers today looking for some specific imported wines when I should have been working. Some of the sites generated other imported wines suggestions that sounded good but I hadn’t heard of the producers. Since you already list tons of information about the wine including the producer, region, vintage, possibly grape variety, and a critic’s opinion, how hard would it be to add a field to list the importer as well? I, for one, would be more likely to throw a bottle in my virtual shopping cart if I knew it was from one of my favorite importers. If I am in a shop I can look at the back label, which provides that info, but not online…
Pennsylvania is hardly the first state where you would expect innovation in wine retail. The state’s Liquor Control Board owns all the retail outlets and the distribution in the state. Generally monopolies are known for limited selection and high prices, not innovation.
Yet that is exactly what might be in store for Pennsylvania wine enthusiasts as the state has proposed to allow 100 “wine kiosks” around the state. To the tape:
The kiosks, a type of temperature-controlled vending machine capable of holding 500 bottles of wine, would be placed in grocery stores and other places [malls], according to request on the LCB’s Web site. They would offer about a dozen different types of wine.
Before you think this is where all the minors are going to go before the prom, each kiosk will have “fingerprints and biometric readings” for age verification. Yikes! Retinal scan for retsina.
Making wine more accessible is a good thing. I hope for all wine loving Pennsylvanians that the selection is great! Get a little Bollinger before heading to Borders? Malbec and a movie? I wonder if they will have stemware. Or perhaps TetraPak wine so the bottle doesn’t break while being dispensed.
Would you like to see them in your state?
In 2006, Astor Wine moved from Astor Place. Granted, it didn’t move far–just one long block away. The store’s owner was able to buy space in the handsome De Vinne Press building so they should be there a good, long while.
I visited the store when it first opened (and many times since then), but I recently went where I’d never been before: underground! Through a secret stairway behind the cognac display if you push the wall on the third shelf from the bottom…OK, there’s actually an open staircase with a conveyor belt on the side of it right behind the tasting bar.
The basement storage area is even larger than the store and extends under Lafayette Street! Lesley, my guide, said that the storage space at the previous location was even bigger, extending multiple levels below ground.
A room in the cellar is climate-controlled and they put the good stuff in there. Another walk-in, restaurant-style fridge has the sakés in it.
To power the cooling units as well as the store and portions of the building, Andrew Fisher, the owner, has purchased two Capstone microturbine generators. In short, they are powered by natural gas and produce both electricity and heat, allowing the store to live off the grid. Mayor Mike likes microturbines.
Despite the mayor’s enthusiasm, city bureaucracy has kept the microturbines unhooked for over year since they were installed. The gas meter has not been connected and the gas turned on. “Every time we ask ‘when,’ we get an answer of 2 weeks,” Fisher wrote me via email. Do turbines improve with age? Doubtful.
More photos after the jump. Read more…
First up, Moore Brothers. The chill-hounds at Mo Bro keep the entire store at 56 degrees. So how cold is their basement storage? I asked them if I could see it–and…wait for it…it’s 56 degrees too!
Bill, an employee of the store who happened to work in refrigeration for 16 years before getting into wine, explained that they have four cooling units split into several zones to cool the three stories.
Does it cost Mo’ money? Yes, to the tune of 50 cents a bottle, Bill said.
The basement storage area consisted of cardboard shipping boxes ready to go be filled. Shipping is hard for these folks given their cold fetish. Bill said they basically don’t ship during the summer.
They also had, as you would imagine, cases of wines imported more or less directly from boutique producers in France, Italy and Germany. They get all of their wine from one importer, Fleet Street, who is as fanatical about 56 degrees as they are.
Are you in Paris today during the 24-hr public sector strike and wondering what to do? Why, set up a wine-drenched itinerary of local wine shops! Check out my brand new map of Paris wine stores–and wine bars that sell wines to go!
I give you the scoop on over 40 places including my faves, ranging from neighborhood places to super-luxury stops. If you’re a local looking for “natural” wines or a tourist looking for wines you can’t find at home, click through to start setting up your own itinerary for your next visit!
Is one of yours not on the map? Drop me a line with the address and why you think it should be included.
Academic researchers Alan Wiseman and Jerry Ellig studied wine retail prices in Virginia before and after the Supreme Court decision. Care to guess which period had the higher prices? Indeed, prices fell 26 – 40 percent with greater interstate trade in wine. [Journal of Politics, pdf]
SIPPED and SPIT: wine discounts in France
The annual “foires aux vins” are taking place in hypermarkets around France. Consumers rejoice when markups can fall to as low as zero – five percent. Meanwhile, those in the trade grumble about other retailers scooping up the fine wine and reselling it for more later. In all, a quarter of French wine sells during these Foires according to the AFP story.
SIPPED: Pinot Noir. Go Ca-na-da!
The quest for North American pinot noir has moved north–1,100 miles north of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley to British Columbia. Hotter summers and milder winters have brought better grapes such as pinot noir to places like the Okanagan Valley, half way between Calgary and Vancouver. Now it’s a race against the frost to harvest. [WSJ]
SIPPED: late sampling
The 100 wines available by the glass at Artisanal will be half-priced after 10 PM. Starts next week. [Grub Street]
SPIT: Brunello di wha?!?
Author of historical fiction, Ken Follett, has a new 1,000+ page doorstop out. Let’s hope he gets his wine references right this time (we’re all up on our 14th century English wine, right?) since he admits that he erroneously invented the “Brunello Di Moltepulciano” in his last book.
SPIT: Claridges in London
The next time they go to London (by sailboat?), Treehugger admits a boycott of the Claridges hotel in London. Why? Because of the carbon footprint of the bottled water, now with over 30 choices including a liter from NZ for £50. Claridges’ Renaud Gregoire told the Evening Standard that “water is becoming like wine. Every guest has an opinion, and asks for a particular brand.” What the heck, given my earlier bottled water ban, I think I’ll boycott Claridges too! Feel the pain of my non-visit, Claridges! [Treehugger]
With a theme of Portuguese table wines, WBW 38 has been wrapped up with 30 contributors around the web. Great map! [Catavino]
Have you ever had a question for me? Hit the “contact” button above! Tom Wark had twenty questions for me that I answered in a Q&A. Check out my answers at his blog. [Fermentation]
The venerable wine retailer Sherry-Lehmann moved and I couldn’t wait to check out the new digs. After all, with so much innovation in New York City wine shops, I was eager to see how the management of this patrician shop capitalized on the opportunity to do something different with their new space at Park Avenue at 59th Street.
They didn’t. It’s lighter, with windows on two sides now. But it’s still compact, now with less friendly displays.
On my visit, two things caught my eye as I browsed. Read more…