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Oct 29, 2001 10:49 PM

Wine Shop????

  • s

I have had it with Sam's, their clerks are either ill informed or popmpous jerks and sometimes both. Binny's is no great shakes either. Does anyone know of a decent wine shop in town with a good selection and decent sales people?

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  1. It's the salespeople that alway blow it for me. I've rarely found someone that just wasn't "pushing the old stuff, the new stuff, or the more expensive stuff". I tend to take a note in the restaurant or from these boards, magazines, etc. and go in armed. I send the salespeople to the cooler and look around myself. If I do ask them a question it's usually something along the lines of "Where are your German wines? Stop following me, leave me alone." The only exception I'll make is Whole Foods, I've actually had good luck with several salespeople who didn't even look old enough to sell the stuff.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bryan

      You mean the Whole Foods by Sam's with the skylight right over there wine department????

      1. re: Ron G,

        I shop at the one on Ashland/Lincoln.

        1. re: bryan

          i'm very fond of the randolph st. wine cellar, and their wine bar next door, 'the tasting room'. its at 1415 w. randolph. they carefully select a few wines in each category, with a good range of prices. if you like to feel anonymous, you might feel uncomfortable, as its a small place. but the salespeople, including the very charming perry and brenda, the owners, are very helpful and knowledgeable.'the tasting room', next door and with an upstairs loft with great views of the skyline is one of my favorite places to relax. the wines by the glass arent as cheap as they could be. but the bottle prices are ok. and they serve wonderful platters of cheese flights (sheep, goat, cow), and a charcuterie platter. i find i'll happily overpay (a little), for a glass of wine here, as i mellow out on a huge leather couch, looking 2 miles east to the michigan ave. lights. also, monday nights, downstairs bar only, the glasses of wine are half off.

    2. I like this little non-descript store on a barren stretch of Elston. It's small-- and so is their selection-- but what they sell is very well chosen. The owners are knowledgeable, helpful, and pleasant.

      Wine Discount Center
      1826 1/2 N Elston Ave
      Chicago, IL 60622-1216
      Phone: (773)489-3454


      4 Replies
      1. re: joel

        I second the recommendation for Wine Discount Center. It must be emphasized that their selection is, indeed, highly selective - they do not take the warehouse approach of a Sam's or Binny's. It is also small, crowded, and has no evening hours. But it is impossible to walk out of there with a bad wine, or with a good wine at a bad price. Their floor help is quite knowledgable, but won't bug you unless you ask them.

        1. re: joel
          Michael S. (formerly just Michael)

          Thanks for this recommendation--I've always wondered about this place.

          There's another place I like to go--Buy Low liquors on Foster and Clark. The main reason I go there is because I can walk there, and it's not fabulous, but it's decent. They have your typical cheap pedestrian wine, but they also have some very nice finds (including a wine I had once that Sams and Binny's said that nobody stocked in Chicago. My eyes bugged out when I saw it at the neighborhood liquor store). The owner is surprisingly knowledgeable about wine, and is really non-chalant about the whole thing. He never asks you if he can help you--you'll need to approach him.

          1. re: Michael S. (formerly just Michael)

            I agree about the surprisingly good selection at Buy Low, and like you I go there from time to time because it's in my neighborhood. However, their prices are absurdly high - often three, four, five or more dollars per bottle higher than Sam's or (especially) WDC. Of course they can charge those prices because there's nothing else remotely as good anywhere in the vicinity.

          2. v
            Vital Information

            I'm surprised. Except for occasionally waiting for the "expert" to help me, I have never had a bad experience. I especially like the geezers that deal with the whyskeys, cognacs and related stuff.

            that said, i often have doubts about what they are actually promoting to me. with several bottles within a particular price point, i think they often just pick one to pick one, with no underlying reason but to look authoritative. on the other hand, are the differences between wines in similar price points so broad that it really makes any difference. can we not simply buy the prettiest label?

            obviously, there are many sources out there for wine data. wine spectator comes out each month with so many ratings, who can keep track of them. their web site is pretty handy as well. i have always been partial to hugh johnson's slim guide since reading it while hiding from the customers at sutton place gourmet. you may disagree with the tastes of these sources, but maybe you'd like robert parker or the new york times.

            use binny's or sams or any place for their inventory. play them off of each other to find the best prices. otherwise, it seems to me that wine is just too complicated, too vast, to rely just on good salesmen.


            7 Replies
            1. re: Vital Information

              Vital sez:
              "It seems to me that wine is just too complicated, too vast, to rely just on good salesmen"

              But on the other hand, it is too vast for me to learn everything myself, and I like to try new things :) So I would like to say (pardon my spelling) "I like Vieux Telegraphe, Sanford Pinot and Rosso de Montalcino, I am not a fan of Woodbridge Merlot or Big Tannic Napa Cabernets, I'm serving grilled steak for dinner and want to spend no more than $15 for a wine, what can you recommend" and know that they are going to suggest something that works and that I have hope of liking :)

              I want to go into a store and even if they don't sell Marc de Bourgougne, they should know what it is (or at least, what Marc is). I don't want to see Wine Spectator recommendations for the 1996 vintage on a bin of 1998.

              If I ask for wine to cook with, I don't want to automatically be sent over to the Gallo Hearty Burgundy or given an over-oaked California Chardonnay.

              Sam's is good if you know what you want (I got some great small producer champagne at Sam's while everyone else was pawing over the piles of Veuve :) Binny's and Sam's are good for determining price, but no one store will be what everyone wants. I go to Sam's, but I much prefer a smaller store where I may not get exactly what I want, but I might just get what I need ;)

              1. re: Vital Information

                Well, if you like Vieux T., then you like southern Rhone wines which means there's a whole corner of the world to explore with a high probability of satisfaction. Try some Gigondas and play around with some Cotes du Rhone-Villages. There are also a lot of rhone-style wines coming out of Australia and other countries that are well worth looking into.

                If you like Rosso di Montalcino, then you like Sangiovese based wine. Explore the rest of Tuscany (Chianti country). Maybe branch out into Spanish Rioja. Some good values and some great wines there.

                Ask Howard. Enjoy.

                1. re: Mark

                  That was just an example, though, of what I'd want to go into a wine store and be able to say. Which, in general, is kind of hard to do at some larger wine stores, which was my point.

                  But, thanks :)

                  In fact, we do drink a lot of Rhone and Rhone-style wines, and I do like Gigondas (actually, I really prefer Loire reds, but finding them is terribly difficult)

                  1. re: lee

                    I really don't know Loire reds at all. What do you like? I'll run out and try to find some. Always looking to branch out - if you have any tips.


                    1. re: mark

                      I am not certain about producers, but I have had and enjoyed Red wines from Chinon, Bourguille (sp?) and Saumur-Champigny (I think that's Loire :)

                      1. re: mark
                        Frank Givens

                        Try Joguet Chinon, he makes there are several but all are great. Also there is an American guy who makes really nice Loire Reds- David Leger.

                        1. re: mark

                          Anjou Rouge,Samur-Champigny,Chinon and Bourgueil are all Loire Cabernet Francs.These are all very food friendly wines with a herbal or green edge to them. I prefer Chinon or Samur-Champigny.Joguet makes Chinon at different price points. The less expensive is usually lighter and ready to drink,the most expensive sometimes need aging.It's a very good producer. Domaine Des Roches Neuves make good Samur Champigny at at least two price points. Look for their Terres Chaudes.Cab Franc matches with fish,red sauce with basil, and many vegetable dishes.Stuff with oil,citrus,tomato or green. Sancerre Rouge is Loire Pinot Noir,light, good with fish,very hard to find a good one.Better off with an Oregon Pinot.

                  2. there is a wine shop in Lincoln Square, on the west side of Lincoln a little south of (I think) Eastwood. That I've heard is very good. I'm not a big wine shopper, so I wouldn't know. This information comes from friends who really like that place and are more knowledgeable about wine than I am. The place looks really nice.

                    1. For God's sake get over to Howard's Wine Cellar on Belmont. (I forget the cross street but it's just east of Southport, about 1250 west, on the north side of the street in a short strip of stores.)

                      It's a smallish space so you probably won't get the absolute last penny's worth of discount, but Howard knows everything and has longstanding relationships with the growers and shippers around the world. Rather than stock every bottle made and overwhelm you, the store reflects careful selection in all price ranges and geographies.

                      He's just as happy to find you a delicious $7 bottle for every day as to delve into the finer points of $100 burgundies. If you want to expand your horizons, he's always ready with an interesting alternative to what you've already had, but in a similar style.

                      Go, at once.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Mark

                        Second on Howard's on Belmont, he's really good!

                        ALSO - just under new management, The Wine Cellar in Palatine - good knowledgeable guy named Larry runs the place. This is his dream (he quit his job and bought the store) and he is really excited to meet new people. It's worth the trip.
                        Wine Cellar 361 W Northwest Hwy Palatine, IL 847-776-1000 - he will deliver, also.

                        Take 290 north (also called road 53) past Woodfield to the Palatine Road exit. Go west on Palatine Road past 2 stoplights at Winston and Rohlwing. At the third stoplight turn right onto Northwest Highway. Follow the road around a curve to the left. After a big shopping center there is a stoplight at Smith Rd. On the left there's a Mcdonald's, then Stevens Point shopping strip, just after that is Century Plaza, and that's where the Wine Cellar is.