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Durham Wine Shops

In the spirit of my other topic on cocktail and wine bars, I'll also need a local wine shop that can provide me with interesting bottles. I'm willing to do the Total Wine thing for staples (though the lack of case discounts hurts me because I'm used to 15-20% mixed case discounts at home), but is there anywhere in Durham I can pop into for an interesting bottle or two. Making these cool discoveries is contingent on having a smart buyer/owner and engaged staff, so those are my other two criteria.

I don't really want to have to trek out to Raleigh to check out this Carolina Wine Company place that people like. And even A Southern Season is a bit of a hassle to get to with 15-501 traffic.

A local joint in Durham would be nice. Suggestions now that Fowler's is kaput?

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  1. The Raleigh Earthfare is not so far from Durham. They, at least the Asheville location, give case discounts. Pretty sure it applies on mixed cases too. Some of their locations have periodic wine tastings with a larger discount offered on the items tasted. Pretty good selection & when on sale you can do well!

    1. The place in the old Fowler's space seems to have a decent selection but I didn't really have much time to poke around.

      Also, for an interesting bottle or two, the Durham Foster's Market on 15-501 business (and next to Guglehupf!) would probably do the trick. Their selection isn't huge but it is eclectic.

      1. I haven't been there yet, but I think Wine Authorities on University by Thai Cafe may be what you're looking for.


        1. Stay away from Earthfare if you're looking for a buyer that knows what the hell they're talking about. I'd agree with anne-- Craig and Seth at Wine Authorities, when they open, are gonna have the market cornered on smart, interesting stuff, and they know as much as anyone around. You are psyched that those guys are opening in Durham, Bryan, trust me. That said, until they open, you can take erwin to whitfield, and turn left on 86 at that light, and you'll be a block from Chapel Hill Wine Co. From Duke campus it's 15 minutes, and only a 1/2 a mile on 15-501 (exit at 751, and go around the rotary to the top of Erwin).

          2 Replies
          1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

            I was going to suggest the same. And from there it's only another 10 minutes to Glasshalful in Carrboro.

            1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

              I'd also like to put a plug in for Chapel Hill Wine Company. Yes, it may be a bit far, but they are really very excited about wine, and not snobby, which my limited budget appreciates (and if you go via Erwin Road it's lovely drive). Also, you can pay for a 6-bottle reusable bag (I can't remember how much) which gets you a 10% discount every time you use it, and they track your purchases, which I love because then I often buy a single bottle to try, and then want to go back and buy more.

            2. I am very excited about Wine Authorities. I'll probably just end up hanging out there on my off days. Until then, I'll check out some of these suggestions.

              5 Replies
              1. re: BryanZ

                I've been stoked about Wine Authorities for a few weeks now. Anyone have any news on when they might actually open?

                I'm really fed up with one local place I had been frequenting, and can't hardly wait for Wine Authorities. (As if advertising a champagne's connection to a Jay-Z video wasn't enough to scare me off, recently he was informing customers that Icewine is made from grapes affected with Noble Rot and frozen on the vine. Half right, no?)

                I've been to Parker and Otis twice now for wine, and it seems promising. They're definitely aiming for selections you can't get at the supermarket, and would like to offer wine classes at some point (but that's definitely still in a wishlist state of existance right now).

                There's a continuing ed wine class at Duke starting in October (five Wednesday evenings 6:15-8:15) - I have been so dearly wanting a true class that I bit the bullet and paid for it. I've heard from others who've taken similar classes from this instructor and it looks to be quite promising. (course #11170, if you're interested)

                1. re: abowes

                  Can you give me more info. on that Duke class? For purely selfish interests I may be able to finagle myself in using some kind of discount or something.

                    1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

                      hm... from what I found online, it seemed to be two different things.

                      1. re: abowes

                        actually... i stand corrected. hopefully it'll let me remove my original post... oops!

                2. There are lots of nifty back ways to get to Chapel Hill. It's worth finding them, because A Southern Season and Chapel Hill Wine Company are the two area stores that best fit your needs. You can avoid 15-501 by driving along Erwin.

                  1. Total Wine & More on 15-501 is still the absolute best place ... exceptionally diverse selection with both great everyday staples, new and interesting discoveries from tons of small family/grower-producers, and more cellar-worthy wines (Cru Classe' Bordeaux, Brunellos, Boutique Cali wines) than any other source. Chapel Hill Wine Co. is nice but the selection is limited and the prices are consistently high. The same goes for Southern Season although the selection is slightly improved. Don't stress on the whole case discount thing, the prices as consistently 10-20% lower at Total Wine than anywhere else. Total Wine always gives me that "kid in a candy store" feeling when I stop by the store.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: BogTarheel

                      do you get that feeling when you shop at wal-mart, too? judging from the content of his original post, i think that bryan was looking for somewhere where the salespeople have a modicum of wine knowledge (not to be found at Total), as well as a bit more esoteric selection. the reason total's prices are so low is because they buy a great deal of their wine from huge producers that want to "move boxes" as opposed to smaller, independent producers. As a matter of fact, in the department of independent wineries, total often can't compete because the wineries won't give them the low wholesale prices that their markup demands.

                      1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

                        Honestly, Wine Authorities owns. Grand opening tomorrow. Lots of fun goodies and stuff per the mailing list email. Also the Enomatic, the auto-wine dispenser just got in. Very cool. I'll be there tomorrow, just like I was there last weekend, just like I was there the week before that.

                          1. re: BryanZ

                            Adding a Places link (and an URL: http://wineauthorities.com/


                            Wine Authorities
                            2501 University Dr, Durham, NC 27707

                      2. I was a big fan of The Wine Merchant in Raleigh in the 70s (all the way to present day), a big fan of Fowlers in the 80s & 90s, I've been particularly a big fan of Jay Murray and A Southern Season's Wine department since he got there (prices dropped and quality went up).

                        I can't abide Total Wine, and find all the other wine stores in this area mediocre, at best.

                        I drove over to Wine Authorities today knowing in my bones that it just was going to be a disappointment. So first I have to apologize to Messers Gross & Heffley there, because I was wrong.

                        In fact, I hope they can make it, because their store is everything a wine store should be, and therefore it is likely to be unappreciated by the vast unwashed.

                        They have a lovely wine selection, at good prices, and not just while they're on sale for the grand opening.

                        There is no "california chardonnay section", no section for bordeaux, burgandy, no "italian reds" section, in fact, no sections at all. Apparently they are buying wines they like that are ready to drink that come at a reasonable cost. Color me shocked at this down to earth practical approach. Combine this with long term accessibility to the wholesale market (these guys have been around the block), and very in-ter-est-ing palates, and we have a winna', folks.

                        There is one of almost everything, and everything I stopped and examined closely looked to be an excellent representative of that kind of wine. They have organic wine, biodynamic wine, traditional wine, new wine, wine from France & Germany & South Africa and Australia and ye gods and little fishes, they have a wine from Tasmania.

                        Furthermore, they aren't in the position of having to compete with why I frequent Southern Season or Wine Merchant, they're adding to my local options in a very nice way, so hopefully other folks will feel the same.

                        I went a little crazy buying some wine, I confess. It's 2 hours later and I'm still thrilled, so I decided to come and let ya'll know.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: fussycouple

                          We must have crossed paths. I was there about 1:30. I too "went a little crazy" and have some interesting bottles to try out over the next week ot two.

                          I'm not particularly knowledgable about wine, despite the name, and tend to focus on past successful choices. For that reason, I'm a great fan of whites of the Alsace, and Wine Authorities has a wonderful collection, some at prices much better than I usually find. Once upon a time I depended on Fowlers for celebratory Alsatians, and I am so pleased to have a source again.

                          I noticed the Pinot Noir from Tasmania as well and experienced some temptation. In that case, however, I managed to resist.

                          In addition to wine, they also sell a few baked goods and gourmet chocolate (you pick the locale where the cocoa beans were grown). There was also someone selling sausage ihn back. The place was pretty much abuzz, which I think bodes well.

                          1. re: fussycouple

                            You might consider posting your impressions (or a condensed version thereof) in the main Wine Authorities thread.