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Need a really good wine store in SF

We are doing a wedding for my son in San Francisco. Are there any really big wine stores(like Sam's in Chicago) in the Bay area? We live in Chicago.He lives in San Jose but I can travel a bit.

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  1. Not being a "local," I may have missed a ton, but K&L, near China Basin, is very good. They have a Redwood City store, and, I hear, a new LA shop, as well. I've only actually visited it a few times, and it was rather large, with great selections. I've not been to Sam's in Chicago, so I cannot compare. About 95% of my business with them is direct ship to me. URL: www.klwines.com.


    1. Obviously, the 'best" store depends upon what you're looking for . . .

      If you're looking for Champagne, no one has a better selection than D & M -- http://www.dandm.com/ They also have an excellent selection of Cognacs, Armagnacs, Calvodos and single malts.

      K&L is a great store -- well, two actually (Redwood City is the original, and there's one in San Francisco, with a third on its way in LA) -- and has a huge seelction of both California, French and Italian wines -- http://www.klwines.com/

      The Wine Club is three stores (Orange County, San Francisco and Santa Clara) -- mostly French and California, with a smattering of other wines, too, and generally at very good prices -- http://www.thewineclub.com/

      The Wine House in San Francisco has a great selection of Bordeaux, Burgundies and the wines of Bobby Kacher -- http://www.wineaccess.com/store/wines...

      Beverages, and More! area chain of stores -- think large grocery stores with nothing but alcoholic beverages and you pretty much have the idea. Prices are good, but many can be beaten with a dilligent effort. They have a larger California selection than most other stores, and across a broader spectrum of prices, too -- http://www.bevmo.com/

      And then there are dozens of great stores just outside the city, too -- the East Bay, Marin, on the Peninsula . . . as I said, it all depends upon what you're looking for.

      1 Reply
      1. re: zin1953

        The Redwood City K&L is more convenient to San Jose and has the added benefit of being a few blocks north of Beltramo’s Wine & Spirits also on the Camino Real. This is another great wine store, whose new pricing policy was a few dollars less expensive than K&L on the same bottles of various wines when I compared them this summer. I don’t understand K&L’s move into LA, the land of unbelievably low wine prices and great wine stores. Perhaps, the increased volume will allow them to lower their prices further or they see a niche that needs filling.

      2. What a great list. i think one of these should have most of my choices. i used the Wine Spectator list since i thought wine stores would be apt to order these. Thanks to all of you.

        3 Replies
        1. re: BarbaraM48

          "I used the Wine Spectator list since I thought wine stores would be apt to order there."

          Barbara? What list? What does that mean? (I see potential trouble ahead . . . )

          1. re: zin1953

            I know everyone will jump all over me but i downloaded the List of 100 best wines from the Wine Spectator magazine. I felt that since i live in Chicago, highly rated wines would be likely to be ordered by wine stores so I could get them to taste in Chicago and buy in SF. I actually wanted California wines but I could not figure out how to do that.

            1. re: BarbaraM48

              No one will jump all over you, but that is EXACTLY why I was asking . . . a vast majority of these wines are already sold out BEFORE that "Top 100" issue of the Wine Spectator is published! Remember, these are wines released throughout 2006. Many are sold out without ever getting a review. When the magazine comes out with its "Top 100," it's a retrospective year-in-review, and many of the wines -- released in, say, March -- have bee ngone for months.

              Restricting your choices to that list is bound to be an exercise in frustration and futility.

              * * * * *

              You are, in my opinion, much better off selecting wines to go with your menu (whether it's a sit-down dinner or a stand-up reception), plus the Champagne/sparkling wine, based on tasting what's available now -- some of which will be on *next* December's "Top 100" listing.

              If you want to taste the wines in advance . . .

              If I were you, I would go to Sam's and ask for recommendations -- or ask for them here, Provide them (or us) with menu, price range, likes and dislikes. Sam's (and people here) will happily provide some suggestions . . . taste them.

              When is the wedding? When are you arriving in California? Each of the stores mentioned above -- at least those in my original post above, and Beltramo's BUT with the notable exception of BevMo -- are very helpful at making great recommendations . . . you can either buy the same wines you had at Sam's from (most of) these stores, or -- if you have time -- try some new ones. Each store will have a wide selection of wines to fit any budget.

              I'm not sure why you can't have California wines, should you (or the bride and groom) wish to, but clearly there is a world of wine out there from which to choose.

              When I got married, I served a California sparkling wine that (virtually) no one had ever heard of (and better than many Champagnes), and French still wines with the meal . . .

        2. Many of the wines on the WS TOP100 are unattainable in any significant quantity. Even so, if you got a hold of some of them, remember the criteria for being on the Top 100. The criteria takes many things into consideration and current drinkability is generally not one of them.

          For example, 01 Casanova di Neri is the number one wine. I have not had the opportunity to taste, but most brunello are best in 10-15 years. You've got 03 Bordeaux on the list like Leoville Barton, Ducru, Pichon Baron, Leoville Poyferre. Shouldn't really touch those for another 10+ years. You won't be able to find more than a bottle or two of Kosta Browne, Sea Smoke, Alban, Quilceda Creek. Even something like #67 $12 Tres Picos Garnacha, you will have difficulty finding.

          If you are supplying a wedding, think flavor profile more than "name". Something easy on the palate that all guests will find appealing and drinkable. If you agree with me here, then Costco will do you right. If you want something less common, check out Vintage Wine Merchants in San Jose.

          2 Replies
          1. re: waffleman

            I agree completely with the above. If you are interested in the "name," and the rating aspects, you might want to look at some of the past "Top 100," or similar. Pick wines that will match the flavors/textures of the food, then look for the same producers' products in a previous year, that might well be approachable.

            Recently, we did a tasting that featured 2 "Wine of the Year" (WS), though not the exact vintage. There were 3 others, that were very high in the "Top 100" (WS), though, again, not the exact vintage. For most folk, it was about the wines and how they showed. For some others, it was about collecting numbers attributed to wines by a critic, or two.

            There is nothing wrong with chosing wineries, or wine makers, that/who have produced very high-scoring wines. So long as the food and wine work, you have a winner. You will then score a few extra points, with those who keep track of the ratings.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              There's nothing wrong with buying wines by the numbers if your taste is similar to that of the people rating the wines.

          2. If staying in San Jose, you should visit:

            K&L in Redwood City
            Beltramo's in Menlo Park
            Wine Club in Sunnyvale


            1. I guess after listening to all of you I have changed my plan. I just about know what we will be eating. I did manage to get quite a selection from Sam's and we enjoyed tasting them as did our neighbors. The winner of three wines we tasted was the Tres Picos, the cheapest. We were amazed. No one liked the Avignonisi and the Benton Lane Pinot was judged OK but nothing special.
              I may just order the Robert Sinsky Merlot which everyone loves and is not on the hotel's wine list.I would like to know the name of the sparkling wine that Zin served. Thanks.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BarbaraM48


                Even if *all* you do is order Sinsky Merlot, stores like K&L and/or The Wine Club will beat the winery-direct price.

                The sparkling wine we served at our wedding was Equinox n.v. "Harmony Cuvee" Brut. It's a methode champenoise sparkling wine that spends four years en tirage and is produced solely from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown within the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. If you're interested in more information, you can check out their website: http://www.equinoxwine.com/

                (Note: I have no commercial interest in the wine or winery. However, I willingly admit that the owner/winemaker has been a friend for close to 20 years.)

                1. re: BarbaraM48

                  I think the Tres Picos is a nice choice and will appeal to just about anybody. And I agree with everyone who recommended K&L and Wine Club. Great selection, very helpful and good prices, too. I would personally choose these over BevMo.

                2. Sounds great but I think I will need a winery that produces more than 44 cases of a wine. I will check the prices on the Merlot. Thanks for the advice.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: BarbaraM48

                    FWIW, Barry typically makes 300 cases of each wine he produces -- not very much, I agree, but more than enough for a wedding. OTOH, it's probably too expensive for most weddings , , , I certainly never seriously suggest it for weddings.

                    I cannot explain -- not that it matters -- the "44 cases" on the order form, but if you look at the wine descriptions (rather than the order form), Barry lists his production figures as 300 cases, not 44. I *suspect* the 44 cases were of a reserve cuvée that is no longer avaiable and sold for about $60/btl., and it's still there due to the classic "cut-and-paste" error.

                  2. Checked some of the wine stores. it is the same price as the winery.

                    1. What a wonderful world it would be if there were a Sam's in northern California.

                      1. That would make it so-o easy. I am still looking for a CA wine $20 or under for the wedding, white,red and sparkling. Hope someone can help.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: BarbaraM48

                          If you are in San Jose, drive up the Peninsula to Redwood City and go to K&L, as Maya suggests. There is a link to the store's website in my original post.

                        2. We got everything for our wedding at K&L. It was fantastic, wonderful & knowledgeable service, great suggestions, and cheaper than BevMo. They special ordered anything we wanted that they didn't already carry. And we returned some of it afterwards less a very small restocking fee.

                          Just got to K&L, tell them your parameters, and they will set you right up. They have a great selection of under $20 bottles (even under $10) and love helping people discover them.

                          Their website is also very user-friendly and you can call them and consult over the phone, too. I love sending people to them because everyone is so thankful!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Maya

                            Caveat: you have to talk to the "champagne guy" for the best info on sparkling, for instance. They are all very easy to get hold of.

                          2. I've had a couple of friends that have used the Jug Shop:

                            Don't have too much experience with them myself, but I hear good things about their service.

                            1. You also might try some of the smaller stores; the variation in expertise at places like K&L and especially, the wine club can be enormous. For that price range, my favorite store is Weimax Wines in Burlingame, www.weimax.com . Make sure you talk to the owner, Gerald Weisl, who has been in the business forever and even gets a mention in the Robert Parker "biography". He specializes in California Wines & champagnes, especially in producers who are not well-distributed elsewhere. Prices are slightly above K&L but he also offers case discounts. I think if you go to him with your criteria, he will do a good job for you. I took my little brother , who has a nice cellar in FLA, in to visit a couple of years ago; he was thrilled at Gerald's recommendation and now simply calls him 3 or 4 times a year & asks him to ship him a few cases per his recommendations.

                              1. I don't feel the bay area's exactly lacking in wine shops.

                                And, frankly, I've given up on trying to keep up with wine vintages. In the early 90's I made the rounds of Napa a few times, developed my palate a bit, and for a while could generally keep up with California vintages and wineries. No longer. Between globalization and the rise of "blenders" (folks with no grapes and more expertise actually making wines --- who might put out 10 excellent blends a year), I rely more and more on waiters and wine shops.

                                I don't have great experience with K&L, but have used the very similar Kermit Lynch in Berkeley the same way. It was for a funeral, so we didn't have much in the way of sparkling wine, but did some heavy drinking, and they hit a very nice quality/value point.

                                With those stores, you're a fool if you walk in with a list and say "get me these, cheap". As Maya said, you walk in expecting to spend an hour, give them the menu and # of people, have them talk you through (and hopefully taste) a number of bottles. They know their market, and $10, $15, $20 is huge volume. Doc's certainly right about variability of the "help" - if you're making a big enough buy, you might consider calling in and making an appointment.

                                I'd put K&L way above BevMo / TJ / Safeway and such, which tend to have good-looking shelf prices but it would take a long time (and hundreds of dollars) to find the right wine. BevMo, in particular, doesn't have particularly good prices.

                                Unfortunately, my concrete suggestions are all in Berkeley. I really like the looks of Solano Cellars, who also has tastings every Friday. I've had one mixed result at Vino, a small local chain. I went in looking for 2 excellent bottles for a family dinner, under $100/each, and got something very good --- I wanted excellent. For everyday wine, I loved the special selections at Andronico's on Solano - they occasionally have $10/bottle special buys, stacked up near the register, and every one was a massive hit - someone there has great taste and an eye for bargains. Kermit Lynch is on San Pablo near Solano.

                                Someone mentioned Beltramos. I always think of them for their specialization in Scotch, as I bought my first good bottle there (I think it was a '62 Ardbeg, single-cask, yum city), and it wouldn't be the first place I'd go for wine. Isn't there a K&L right next door?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Solano Cellars and Vintage Berkeley have the same owners. Stock is slightly different as the old customers at Solano Cellars have certain expectations.

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    Have you ever been to The Cellar in El Sobrante?

                                    It looks like a BevMo type of place, but has a nice selection of wine.Raj Ghuman was the previous owner of Solano Cellars (and IMO did a better job with that place).

                                    The staff has been around the wine scene for decades and listening to some of the stories about the old days can be amusing. They are also very helpful in terms of wine. Haven't ordered in bulk though.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      The Cellar's a great shop.


                                      Solano Cellars was owned by Craig Sandler for 25 years. Raj Ghuman owned it for just a couple of years before selling to the Vintage Berkeley guys.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        And thank god for it!

                                        Craig was a royal PITA! Peter & Maya, on the other hand, are young, knowledgable and enthusiastic.

                                  2. Barbara sounds as if you have the red wine picked. For sparkling I'd suggest the Roederer Anderson Valley NV Brut. It's widely available and usually cost around $16/bottle. You should be able to get a bottle at Sam's to try. If you like it most of the larger stores mentioned above would carry it.