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Mar 10, 2008 06:28 PM

Best Wine Shops in the US

When I travel I often find myself wondering if there's a good wine shop in, say, Memphis. I thought it might be helpful to get a thread going on your 2 or 3 candidates for the best wine shops you've been to in the US, either in your hometown or away from home.

I offer up Kermit Lynch in Berkeley and PJ Wine in NYC.

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  1. K&L Wine Merchants - Redwood City (HQ), San Francisco, & Hollywood, CA- Nice selection from wineries around the world with great service & prices too.

    Beltramo's - Menlo Park, CA. Big family owned store with great selection of wine & spirits. DH says their liquor prices are hard to beat!

    I live within 3 miles of both of these stores - feel like a kid in a candy store everytime I go:-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: ceekskat

      You beat me to K&L, but I can add Davidson's, Denver, CO (actually probably listed as Highland's Ranch, but it's south Denver).


      [EDIT] Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, San Francisco at the Embarkadero is a good shop. Not as large, but interesting selections. I always pick up a couple of mixed cases of wines I do not see every day. Still, in the SF-area, K&L gets my vote.

    2. I'm a big Kermit Lynch fan and when traveling in southern California, also like Woodland Hills Wine Merchant in the valley and Hi-Times in Orange County. A great little shop in SF is Biondivino.

      1. I will second K&L, Woodland Hills, and Biondivino. Those three stores make up the vast majority of my wine buying.

        It is hard to call Premier Cru a "great" wine store, but it does sometimes have amazing deals.

        By the way, Woodland Hills:

        1. I have always had great experiences in Union Square Wines and Spirits near Union Square in NYC. Excellent selection, interesting wines. I feel like they make an effort to stock great bottles at every price point. They have excellent staff to make recommendations and help you decide what to buy. They are very helpful, friendly, enthusiastic and well-informed. They have a reward system: each dollar you spend turns into points which can be redeemed as tastes of wines they have in stock. Their selection of tasting wines is large (about 30 or so bottles if I recall, they have one of those taste dispensing machines with multiple bottles). Plus they have a big screen tv, so if you go on a Sunday afternoon during football season, you can watch the game and drink wine. But be careful if you aren't rooting for the Giants.... I always leave this shop with multiple bottles, and they are always interesting wines, and often outstanding wines.

          1 Reply
          1. re: moh

            I'm sure it is not one of the best in the country, but a surprisingly good wine store I encountered on recent travels was the Boise Wine Co-op in none other than Boise, Idaho. It was a decent-sized store with a particularly strong selection of Pacific Northwest wines (i.e. many of the Ken Wrights, Penner-Ash, Archery Summit, Domaine Serene, etc...) It also had a good selection of French and Italian wines, a surprisingly broad Austrian section, and a so-so selection of Californian wines.

            However, one of the neatest things about the Boise Wine Co-op was its climate controlled "library room" with various back vintages of Harlan Estate, Bond, Caymus SS, first and second growth Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc...

            The staff told me it had the biggest selection of any Pacific Northwest wine store outside of Seattle. (Don't know if this was true, but in any case, it is a cool store to wander around).

            Oh, and if anybody ever visits Vancouver, make sure to visit the flagship store of the BC Liquor Board, on 39th and Cambie. It is a grocery store sized liquor store that not only boasts a large selection of wines from around the world, it also has a food demonstration area where there are food/wine pairings offered as you browse the aisles. (Also has a killer selection of scotches, rums, tequilas, etc...)

          2. I'm not sure it's possible to actually name the "best." For me, it depends upon what I'm looking for. In this, it's no different than how I shop for food . . . go here for my meats, there for fish; the farmer's market for fruits and vegetables, and over here for my cheese . . . .

            Kermit Lynch is a great individual, and has done more for the quality of imported wine than almost anyone I know. And I think Kermit's is a great store -- I often shop at his store, it being just down the hill from my house. But is it one of the best stores in the US? How do you figure? The store carries NO wine from California, Oregon, or Washington; NO wine from Australia or New Zealand; NO wine from Chile or Argentina; NO wine from Germany or Austria; NO wine from Portugal or Spain (save for one dry Sherry); and only a LIMITED selection of wine from France and Italy.

            But why do you feel this is one of the five best stores in the US? What is your criteria?

            Please note: I am NOT trying to be argumentative; I am merely trying to understand your criteria. There ARE certain instances I would probably agree with you about Kermit, but I wouldn't include his store if your criteria are "selection" and "price."


            14 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              I have to agree, though I've never been to Kermit's store. In Seattle, I have one specific store I go to when I want Burgundy or Champagne. One that I love for Alsace, Loire, Germany, and Southern France. One that is better for North West Wines.

              The world of wine is just too huge for a one size fits all store. I find myself almost avoiding the ones that attempt it, because they are usually lacking enough in one area or another.

              1. re: zin1953

                You're certainly correct in saying that Kermit is not one of the best wine shops in the US when considering selection and price, but I can say that I've NEVER been disappointed with a bottle I've bought there - either at $10 or $60. I guess his palette and mine are compatible.

                1. re: Husky

                  Husky, I agree 1000% with that! I, too, have NEVER been disappointed in any wine I have ever purchased from Kermit, and I think it's a great store. But the prices are/can be on the high side and the selection is limited to only the wines he, himself, imports directly . . . but those are darned good wines!

                  1. re: zin1953

                    I think it's also important to add that his staff is extraordinarily well-trained.

                    But taking into account price and selection, I would agree that I cannot put it at the top of the list. Still, definitely worth a visit to anyone in Berkeley.

                2. re: zin1953

                  Fair enough. Maybe call it "Favorite" stores or "Stores Worth Visiting," but gosh those sound so milquetoast.

                  The idea was to compile a list so that when I'm next in Boise--great rec, btw--I'll know where I might go to get something other than Kendall Jackson.

                  1. re: jasmurph

                    Favorites are another matter entirely . . . I shop at each of the following stores, some more frequently than others, but that is mostly out of convenience and/or driving times. The wine selections are well thought out, and the staff is quite knowledgeable. Not all wines are everywhere; indeed, most of these stores specialize in one thing or another -- D&M, for example, is a specialist in Champagne, single malt Scotch, and French brandies (Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados); but I go to the Jug Shop to get sparkling Shiraz! In other words, each fills, for me, a specific niche . . . or two.

                    Prices are better at some than at others, but that's the way it goes.

                    Also, please note that the stores are in random order; preference is NOT indicated by their order.

                    K & L Wine Merchants
                    638 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                    Spanish Table
                    1814 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                    Jug Shop Wine & Spirits
                    1590 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109

                    Wine Club
                    953 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                    Vintage Berkeley
                    2113 Vine St, Berkeley, CA 94709

                    Oddlots Wine Shop
                    1025 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                    Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
                    1605 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                    Paul Marcus Wines
                    5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                    Premier Cru
                    1011 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

                    Solano Cellars Bistro & Wine
                    1580 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                    North Berkeley Wine Co
                    1601 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Berkeley, CA 94709

                    Dee Vine Wines
                    19 Pier 45, San Francisco, CA 94133

                    Golden West International
                    2443 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                    Plumpjack Wines
                    3201 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94123

                    D & M Liquors
                    2200 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                    Ferry Plaza Seafood
                    1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA

                    Wine House
                    129 Carolina St, San Francisco, CA

                    1. re: jasmurph

                      Among MANY others in Southern California . . .

                      Woodland Hills Wine Company
                      22622 Ventura Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91364

                      Wine House
                      2311 Cotner Ave, Los Angeles, CA

                      Wine Country
                      2301 Redondo Ave, Signal Hill, CA

                      Wine Expo
                      2933 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

                      Wine Exchange
                      1500 E Village Way # 2368, Orange, CA

                      Hi-Time Wine Cellars
                      250 Ogle St, Costa Mesa, CA

                      Du Vin Wine & Spirits
                      540 N San Vicente Blvd West, Hollywood, CA

                      Wine Cask
                      813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

                      Renegade Wines
                      417 Santa Barbara St # A6, Santa Barbara, CA

                      1. re: jasmurph

                        In Seattle . . .

                        Pike & Western Wine Merchants
                        1934 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA

                        McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants
                        2401 Queen Anne Ave N, B Seattle, WA

                        1. re: zin1953

                          In New Orleans,

                          Martin Wine Cellar: Store
                          3500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA

                          Martin Wine Cellar
                          3827 Baronne St, New Orleans, LA

                          Vieux Carre Wine & Spirits
                          422 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

                          1. re: zin1953

                            In the wine list above you left out High Times and Trader Joe's. Wonderful selection of wine. Newport Beach, CA

                            1. re: kati_spears


                              I know you spelled it "High Times" (the name of a former "pre-Marijuana" magazine, IIRC), but Hi-Time in Costa Mesa IS there . . . or is there really a different store called "High Times"???

                              As for Trader Joe's, they were a deliberate omission. I would certainly include them on any list concerning the VOLUME of wine sold, but I wouldn't include them on a list of the BEST wine stores. YMMV.


                              1. re: zin1953

                                TJs is a great store for everything but wine. For wine it is downright awful!

                                1. re: zin1953


                                  I agree completely. With but the rarest of exceptions, the wines are very low-end, and though they might be good, with a selection, limited to US$ 8/btl., I would never consider them to be amongst "the best."

                                  When I think "best," I am thinking Berry Bros. & Rudd,, or similar. Though many of the Nicholas shops (especially the one across Curzon St. from our Mayfair flat) have some neat wines, they are but "wine-oriented convenience stores," and would never make a mark on BB & R. Same for K&L, and several others, like the above mentioned Davidson's.

                                  I understand your omission, and would have made the same. Now, as for High-Times, just what ARE you buying there... ?


                            2. re: zin1953

                              In the Seattle area I head for Pete's or Esquin.