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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.

              2. I would say if you are looking for a newer vintage, Biondivino has fantastic service and recommendations - just a great all around store.

                If you want an older bottle, K&L and Premier Cru.

                Remember that Barolo is going to need a fair amount of aging in order to be at its best to drink, so keep that in mind for the gift.

                1 Reply
                1. re: farmersdaughter

                  The "modern-style" Barolo requires less aging than the traditional style.

                2. I'll second (or third or fourth fifth whatever) Biondivino. Good selection, great advice and very friendly even to short-armed consumers like yours truly.($15 is a stretch for me.)

                  1. Believe it or not, I would call the sommelier, Andrew Mosblech, at A16 and get his thoughts. He's always been very helpful.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Marc Veyrat

                      Or, perhaps I could stop by A16 and order a glass with dinner? I mean, nothing beats hands on research, right?

                      1. re: Pei

                        A16 specializes in the food and wine of Campania in Italy's south. Barolo hails from Piemonte in the northwest, and while I'm not saying that A16 has no barolo by the glass since it does have a few outside the region and even from Calif, I rather doubt it.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I was just at A16 tonight. I think the farthest northern region of Italy that is represented in the bottle list is Umbria or Le Marche.

                        2. re: Pei

                          For Barolo on a wine list, Acquerello's the place. Their current sample wine list shows a 1996 Barolo by the glass and dozens by the bottle.


                        3. re: Marc Veyrat

                          I wasn't suggesting that one go to, or buy from, A16. I said that the poster should call the sommelier to get ideas on where to buy. His knowledge of all Italian wine (including Barolo) and where to buy it here is exceptional.

                        4. Talk to Flori at the Jug Shop. She's a TOTAL Italian wine geek and can get you the good stuff.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: srr

                            Yes, Flori is very knowledgeable about Italian wine.

                          2. I'd second Paul Marcus. They have a deep selection of younger vintage Barolo and impeccable taste.

                            You may also get lucky and find Barolo by the glass at A16 -- I have. They by no means focus their wine list only on Campania and southern Italian wines; I think there's just too much money to be made selling Italy's best wines from up north.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Alba

                              "Our wine list, comprising more than 500 bottles, focuses on the wines of the Mezzogiorno. Sixty percent of the wines are Italian and the majority are from Southern regions, including Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Sardinia, and Sicily."


                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Whatever dude. My point is they don't exclusively focus on southern Italian wines.

                                1. re: Alba

                                  True, but the question at hand is, "Best Place to Buy a Barolo?"

                                  The current sample by-the-glass list has 16 Italian reds, and the northernmost are from Umbria and the Marche. That's typical of my experiences there.

                            2. Not yet mentioned is Weimax in Burlingame near the airport. They have a remarkable selection of Piemontese wines. I was there Monday poking around and saw Barolo wines from Sandrone, Aldo Conterno, Giacomo Conterno, Vietti, Ratti, Cavallotto, Revello, Clerico, E. Pira, Germano, Fontana, Settimo, Massolino, Oddero, Bruno Giacosa and maybe some others. They also had a few good Barbaresco wines including Gaja, Castello di Neive, Cantina del Pino, Produttori del Barbaresco, Cascina Morassino and a couple of others I've forgotten. There are some older vintages stashed in a glass display case. One of the fellows there, the owner I think, travels periodically to Italy. He's shown me some interesting and obscure wines. Prices seem to be reasonable and they offer a case discount (I usually put together a dozen bottles of 'everyday' wines and add a few special bottles).

                              Biondivino has some good wines, too. Paul Marcus has a nice range.

                              1. I third the reco for Rare Wine Co. If you look at their current inventory on their site you will see an impressive portfolio of Barolos (including older wines) that start at $40 (and go up...and up from there.)

                                They are always willing to share tons of advice and help you find the wines you want for your budget. (And they are just as nice to you if you are looking for bargains as if money were no object.) Plus, they will hold your wine and store it for you for free (in their perfectly conditioned warehouse) until you want them to ship it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: originalfig

                                  Best place to buy great wine at a fair price in SF: Wine Club San Francisco. NO DOUBT

                                  1. re: tstrum

                                    I have always found good deals at the SF Wine Club, and appreciate the advice on the wines I have purchased there.

                                2. Paul at the Plumpjack Wines Fillmore store is an expert on Italian Wines. If I were in the market for Barolo, this would be one of my stops.