Favorite Wine Shops in MSP?
So I love wine and ever since going to a few wine stores this summer in SF and Berkeley I have been trying to find "my" wine store. Yes, I realize I am setting the bar a little high, but I really loved the wine buying experience out there where the sales person really took the time to figure out what I liked and didnt like and what I was looking to spend (very important).
I do like Sam's Wines quite a bit. I went in and told him what I liked and what I wanted to spend and to pick out some wines for me. Pretty much all winners. But wondering if people have some secret neighborhood store that they love or has no idea what they are selling and have some great stuff at crazy low prices.
I will give my pick for St. Anthony Liquors just because they have some weird stuff in there once in a while at some great low prices. Like all the Three Thieves wine (Joel Gott's low price wine in jugs and tetrapacks, all great table wines) and some Bonny Doon stuff at great prices.
It's quite small -- only about 150 wines, I think -- but I really like the Wine Thief on St. Clair Ave. in St. Paul. I've found some great things there and the owners are super-friendly.
Solo Vino on Selby, also in St. Paul, is bigger, and always has interesting Spanish, South American and French choices.
I have become a big fan of Big Discount Liquor on Concord St. in South St. Paul. It's run by a couple of 20-sometings who on first glance, don't look like wine guys but they really know their stuff. They've got a great selection and are just as likely to recommend the $6 bottle as the $30 bottle.
There are 4 BDL locations, I can only vouch for the one on SSP. If you go, ask for Zach.
The thing about the wine stores in the Twin Cities is that each one carries a different bunch of wines (not counting the stuff that everyone has to have). I've been to lots of stores while shopping for my wine tasting group; each one has a different feel. I recommend trying a bunch to see which one works for you.
The ones that click with me are:
Solo Vino: Smallish stock, but wines are chosen well, and the staff is extremely helpful. They usually have a better selection of Spanish wines than other places. (I'm a BIG fan of Spanish wine.) But prices tend to be high - that is, higher than the sale prices at other stores - so this is my special-occasion place.
Zipp's: Prices are high (unless they're having a sale, in which case they're quite low), but they've got an excellent array of inexpensive, unusual wines, plus the cities' best selection of organic wines (one of my current interests - try Les Heretiques or Yorkville Cellars!). And the wine people are great. They work hard at matching a wine to your tastes; I've never been disappointed by something they recommend. If you like St. Anthony Liquors, give Zipp's a try.
Surdyk's: Big, mainstream, and often too busy to get much attention, but if you catch a wine guy/gal when they have time, they're a wonderful resource. I've learned over time which ones have similar tastebuds to mine, so I go when they're available. I was weaned at Surdyk's (so to speak), so this is my regular store. They have a lot of nice wines, but their rose' selection really sucks (I'm a rose' fan, obviously...).
Hennepin-Lake Liquors: I hate this place, because it's hard to park, they don't take credit cards, and the staff smokes in the back (making the store stinky), but I go there because they've got great sales and the wine guys really know their stuff. Plus they always have a few bottles open for tasting. And there's often a distributor or wine expert wandering around who will chime in with advice (like Jason Kallsen, who was my favorite wine guy when he worked at Surdyk's). City Pages picked H-L for best of 2006.
Enjoy your research!
I like South Lyndale Liquors (S. Lyndale at 53rd). It's close to us and there's a decent selection of reasonably priced Spanish, S. American, Italian and Aussie/Kiwi wines. Their discounted wines are generally quite good -- this isn't the case at many stores. Just a general observation: California wines are way overpriced everywhere; Spain is my main man when it comes to vino.
Spain, Argentina, Portugal and Chile are inexpensive and well worth getting familiar with on a regular basis. I have pretty much quit buying CA wines as I just find them to be boring against all the southern hemisphere counterparts. There is so much to explore from that area of the world.