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Best Wine Store for Excellent Buying Advice/Guidance?

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I need to buy a really special bottle of wine as a thank you gift, but my own knowledge of wine is pretty limited (esp. when it comes to more expensive bottles, which I only splurge on every couple of years and usually with no idea of what I'm doing).

I'm hoping to find a wine store with employees who can guide me to a bottle that will be really special for a wine drinker and good value for the money (I don't mind spending $50+, if I know that the wine is excellent and will be appreciated).

Do you have a place that gives reliably, consistently great advice, or has lead you to a fantastic bottle? Or a wine store whose selection is so well chosen that I can safely assume an expensive bottle there will be a standout?

My thank you to this person is so heartfelt - I'd love to knock him out with this gift!

Thanks for any help!

(P.S. I'm in Alexandria, but will happily travel to anywhere in the metro area for a store that's got great staff/selection)

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  1. Go to Schneider's on Capitol Hill.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChewFun

      that is exactly what i was going to say! they are great and they usually end up steering you to less expensive bottles

    2. Calvert-Woodley Wine & Spirits is my go-to place. An older gentleman by the name of Pepe is fantastic with recommendations and wine-food pairings. In fact, all of the staff is highly knowledgeable. They've helped me discover many, many fantastic bottles of wine. I wholeheartedly recommend them.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Gigi007

        I second my friend Pepe at Calvert-Woodley and offer the folks at Mac Arthur Beverage as another great shop.

      2. You don't even have to leave Old Town. . . .

        Check out Au Domaine. Owned by Rick (formerly of Rick's Wine and Gourmet) and his wife. They have limited hours (I think Wed to Sat or something, but he always brings in the best wines. Google the name and you can find directions.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Tugboat

          Au Domaine is good. You may want to also check out the Whole Foods in Fair Lakes; Rob (also formerly of Rick's) was hired away by WF to run their wine tasting room there, IIRC, and he's a great resource.

          1. re: Tugboat

            was rick in business with terry wight, by any chance, in "rick's wine and gourmet", which is in a corner of an L-shaped shopping strip on duke street in alexandria? i see the website is still up. http://www.rickswine.com/home.html

            is au domaine an *additional* store for rick? http://www.audomaine.com/

            1. re: alkapal

              Yes, that was Rick's store.

              They decided to split up and Rick opened the new place.

              1. re: Tugboat

                thanks. so, terry is running "rick's" on duke?

                1. re: alkapal

                  talked to terry's mom recently, and he is still running rick's, and having a great time!

          2. biggest and best I have ever been to is Corridor Wine and Spirits in laurel MD. I asked a random employee about Greek wines and he told me a great story while helping me pick out a bottle about how the grapes are grown in the Greek Isles, and his trip to Santorini Wineries in his training as a sommelier. The place is HUGE on the inside, more wine than you could possilby ever want.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bboyneko

              Pepe. In the past I've bought cases based on his opinion. (Of course I buy cases based on a lot of opinions but his taste seems to be very similar to mine I must note here that I know an English grandmother whose taste is bang on with mine... of course she doesn't own or manage a wine shop but if she did...)

            2. Thanks, all, for the suggestions. So many fans of Pepe (and familiarity with the area) definitely call for a trip to chat with him. And I will check out the place in Alexandria, as well, just because it's so close. Thanks again!

              5 Replies
              1. re: Oobay

                Oh, and I find the people at Arrowine in Arlington to be pretty decent too, although I think some of their bottles can be pricey.

                1. re: Oobay

                  Glad to help, Oobay. Let us know how it goes. Cheers.

                  1. re: Oobay

                    I hate to rain on the Pepe parade, but the man does not even drink wine. I don't know, but to me it seems odd to buy wine from someone that does not even taste. In fact it is almost deceiving to me. Go to Macarthur Beverages, better informed staff and a much broader selection that CW

                    1. re: alaint1976

                      Remarkable that a man who you say doesn't drink wine should have taste that is so similar to mine-I who drink enough for both of us! He also, long ago, established his credibility with me. And, it would seem, with a great many other people.

                      1. re: alaint1976

                        Pepe has recommended some real winners to me. Many more than the other staffers at CW. Drinker or not, he's an industry pro.

                    2. I also vouch for CalvertWoodley and have enjoyed great suggestions (and results) with CW's Howard Friedman over the years - esp. with French and Italian wines. Fair warning - the store is packed on weekends and the wine section gets very cramped with carts, people and cartons.

                      I regularly patronize The Vineyard in McLean. Their selection is very interesting and thoughtful, featuring smaller producers and boutique champagnes. The knowledge and advice of the staff is superb and personable (no heavy selling pressure) and has been right on in every recommendation made over many years. Vineyard lacks the size & breadth of CW but it more than compensates with its selections and comfortable surroundings. Prices are good.

                      I have recentled visited Cellar Market in Reston Town Center and found the staff to be very solicitious and pleasingly knowledgeable about their well chosen (but limited) stock. If you are in the area, its worth popping in and I plan to return.

                      Total Wine has rock bottom prices but staff advice is, charitable here, unreliable. Wegman's has competitive pricing with Total but offers a far better selection. But the hectic scene at W is not conducive to intelligent conversation with a very small (and sometimes invisible) staff.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: wristband

                        Could you say a bit more about Wegman's? Is it part of the grocery store chain? Where is it located?

                      2. Calvert-Woodley is good, and I will also add Addie Basin's to the mix. Very knowledgeable.

                        1. I can not understand all the accolades for Calvery Woodley and Addy Bassin's. After decades of buying in those stores, and thousands of dollars spent, including yers of futures, I still can't get the time of day out of the staff at either place. I am convinced they're pushing whatever plonk they have overstocked. I have NEVER heard Pepe say ANYTHING about a wine except "dynamite." I'm sorry, Pep, everything isn't "dynamite."

                          Do yourselves a great favor. Go up to Arrowine in Arlington. Ask for Doug Rosen, the owner. I can easily say this is the best wine shop in the DC area. Doug is truly in the Kermit Lynch mold. He goes to Europe himself to taste and buy, not simply trusting the importers that call on him. He eschewes the brand name Cali wines for the overpriced, overproduced crap that they are. He doesn't worship Parker's fruit-bomb palate. And his prices are better than DC.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Pappy

                            I agree Doug Rosen is very knowledgeable and eager to offer his insights. But...once you head down the Arrow staff ladder, it is another level entirely. Pleasant folks but my experience with their recs has been so so. Ask for Doug - otherwise caveat emptor.

                            1. re: wristband

                              While I've had very good experiences with Pepe, Pappy is right about Doug Rosen and Arrowine. They also have a mailing list for some incredible specials that is well worthwhile to be on. But you'll have to be willing to buy by the case for this-25-30% + discounts.

                              1. re: Joe H

                                typically, their email specials are great prices -- even though you need to buy a case.

                                also, they have regular tastings, friday and saturday, iirc. they also have a good cheese selection. http://www.arrowine.com/wine.html

                            2. re: Pappy

                              I lost any respect with Pepe when he kept trying to push a St Supery gift pack on me. I know many in the biz and they all laugh at people trusting Pepe, because he never tastes anything and brags that he can get people to buy things when he has no damn clue about the wine. Caveat emptor!

                              Also, as a lover of good cru beaujolais, it pains me how much of that Duboeuf plonk that CW carries.

                              Pappy, I know all the guys at Bassins well, and I am surprised that you don't get good service there.

                            3. Whatever you do DON'T go to Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor Deli in Dupont. The staff is incredibly rude. A friend was buying a coke and he was one penny short and had no more money or change (just a credit card which they wouldn't accept). He asked him if that was ok and the guy screamed at him to get the F* out of his store! I've been in there in the past and have seen this guy (a mid-aged Asian man) be rude to customers.

                              1. i love the selection at dean and deluca in g town. its a little pricey but great wines that you cant find everywhere.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Bigcitywine

                                  I forgot about Dean and Deluca in Gtown. You're right. The selection is excellent.

                                  1. re: Gigi007

                                    Earlier today, I stopped by Dean and Deluca and picked up a bottle of 2006 Daedalus Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley, Oregon) on the recommendation of Chris of Dean and Deluca's wine department. While I was looking around, I couldn't help hearing comments of some people who must have been from the west coast; they were incredibly impressed by D&D's selection of west coast wines. I'm looking forward to going back to D&D soon and exploring some more.

                                2. The Curious Grape in Shirlington has a lovely, thoughtful selection and helpful staff. We get unusual stuff there.

                                  1. I know it's too late to help you, and I know I'm going to get slammed for recommending a place in MoCo, but I've got fantastic advice from the folks at finewine.com in Gaithersburg. They've never given me any attitude or holier-than-thou about my total lack of wine knowledge and have made some recommendations of bottles to go with specific meals that have been perfect.