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Jul 12, 2009 11:30 PM

Best Place to Buy a Barolo?

Or, less specifically, which of the many wine shops in the city have reputations for exceptional selections of Italian wine? Or, at the very least, which store has an employee who can point me towards a good bottle of barolo? Most places certainly have Italian wines, but the most shelf space is understandably devoted to California wines.

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  1. Don't know how the barolo inventory looks these days, but Biondivino sells primarily Italian wine and makes good recs. At K&L, Greg St Clair is the Italian specialist who every Italian wine importer hopes will choose their selections.

    1415 Green Street, San Francisco, CA

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Biondivino is where I would go. Aside from a carefully selected set of almost all Italian wines, the owner, Ceri, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Italian wine and an excellent ear, so when we go in looking for a cross section of a particular region or just an ephemeral idea about trying something totally different, she listens to how we describe our tastes and makes recommendations, which have all been excellent.

      K&L's buyer is top notch, but I haven't experienced the same tailored service in-store as I have at Biondivino.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I think Greg is now in the LA branch of K&L, but if you call him and gab, I'm confident he will put you in the right direction. He knows a lot about Barolos and when I was looking for wines to put away for my daughters' 21th birthday, he was very helpful. To draw him out, ask him about his travels to Italy. He's a good guy.

      2. I know it's not the city but if all else fails we'll always have Berkeley.
        North Berkeley Wine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: wolfe

          I bought a great barolo there, but I can't remember the name of the guy who helped us. I do recall that he had a lot of information about the wines and they had a few different barolos to chose from.

        2. The old Tower Market (now a Mollie Stone's), up on Portola, has always had a surprisingly good selection of Italian wines. It still does. I don't know how often or when the wine buyer is there.

          The Wine Club, south of Market Street, also has a very good selection and a helpful staff.

          1. For older Barolos that are ready to drink, check out K&L, Dee Vine, Premier Cru, and Paul Marcus. The Wine Club occasionally has older bottles from cellars they've bought up.

            Biondivino has almost all Italian wine but I don't think she stocks many older bottles.

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

            Paul Marcus Wines
            5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

            Premier Cru
            1011 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

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

            2 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Premier Cru has a nationwide rep amongst the wine-geek community for the sheer depth and breadth of their offerings, but the vast majority of it isn't on the shelves at the front of their storefront. Most of their business is done via mail-order from their website (or phone), though locals can certainly drop by and pick up orders in person.

              I know next to nothing about Italian wines, so I have to admit ignorance about Dee Vine's Italian selection. They have an awe-inspiring array of German wines, at least, which is what pulls me to their (very) barebones operation on the SF waterfront.

              1. re: Spatlese

                Yeah, for older bottles I'd recommend calling all of those places first, or checking their online inventory.

            2. If Menlo Park isn’t too far, Beltramo’s is where I have purchased most of my Nebbiolo. I’ve gotten great recommendations there too. For instance, the clerk recommended an outstanding 2004 Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco for $33, which turned out to be “Tre Bicchieri” in the Gambero Rosso. Once on a trip to Italy, I was looking for a particular wine, which I never found but discovered at Beltramo’s upon my return. I have gotten older Barolos I particularly wanted at Rare Wine Co. in Sonoma. Pick-up at their warehouse was not a problem. In SF proper it’s Biondivino, but I buy all her recommendations so I never have money left for Barolo.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BN1

                Oh yeah, I forgot about Rare Wine Co. They're amazing. They've been having more sales than they used to due perhaps to the recession.