Tuesday, January 31, 2006
WBW 18: Wine Shops That Feel the Love
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.
The incomparable Dr. Vino is hosting this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday - and he's mixing it up a little, much to my delight. The topic is wine shops that feel the love. Considering how much joy buying food and wine gives me, I couldn't be happier about the subject.
Baltimore is full of wine shops, with new ones cropping up all the time. For this challenge, though, I decided to stick close to home and to give a little love to my old faithful(s).
But which one to choose? I could pick Beltway Fine Wine, the warehouse of wine sandwiched, appropriately enough, in between the Baltimore Beltway and the Bel-Loc Diner. My go-to in times of major need (i.e. when we're having a party), Beltway offers thousands upon thousands of bottles of wine, all neatly organized by region and often labeled with cards including loving - and helpful - staff descriptions. Beltway is pretty awesome.
But. It's warehouse feel is more "Sam's Club" than "feel the love." And though I know that management does invest in the staff, they're not as knowledgable as they could be. They obviously haven't tasted everything they sell...and I have, in fact, been led astray by their direction. One particularly horrendous (though outrageously cheap) Rioja comes to mind...
So it's not Beltway.
Then what about Grand Cru? The wine bar - my home away from home - also functions as a cute, funky, intimate wine shop. It opens into the Italian butcher and Belvedere Market, so it's a natural stop during one of my tres francais food shopping trips. Everybody in the place has tasted pretty much everything and, while the staff is young, they totally know what they're talking about.
Plus, it is so fun to hang out there. They totally feel the love.
But for today, they're not my first choice. Because while the store has a diverse selection, it's not exactly exhaustive. Plus, every time I'm there, I wish for little descriptive labels. Even the by-the-glass menu lacks them. I like to read about a wine before I buy it (even before I ask about it), and the lack of label seriously cuts down on my spending at Grand Cru.
So, finally, this brings me to my real favorite wine shop: Wells Discount Liquors. As the name suggests, Wells is a full-on liquor store, not just a wine shop, and the clientele runs the gamut from Loyola kids stocking up for parties to serious wine collectors. But the diversity of selection shouldn't fool you - Wells is serious about wine.
The selection is impressive and the staff is more than happy to help you track down obscure bottles or to call you when your favorite wine comes in stock. (This is the place where we got the 2003 Bordeaux futures I'm all excited about.) The store hosts open tastings most Saturdays and is a great place to learn about something new. The staff have tasted everything and they really know what they're talking about.
And yes, many of the bottles on the shelf include descriptions - either a Robert Parker rating and overview or one written by the staff. I could spend all day just browsing and reading.
So there it is - the north Baltimore wine shop that, in my opinion, really shows the love. And, for it's effort, earns a ton of my business.