Central Bottle Redux
I hit Central Bottle a few weeks ago and my initial impression was that the place was a tad precious, and pricey... but many chimed in to counter my impression. I promised to revisit and in so doing attempt to maintain an open mind.
I hit it again on Wednesday after work and I must say, my impression hasn't changed.
Gruet Rose, from a New Mexico winery, generally available far and wide, was $18.
On teh internets it can be had for as little as $11.99 here:
In Boston I generally see it for around $14.
I won't bore you with the details, but I did some other price checking and not all of their prices are quite that bad, but generally expect to pay 15% or more over Boston's more reasonable wine stores.
On the precious/absurd front, they have spice mixes for cooking shrimp, steak, etc. up by the register in insanely small bottles. About the size of a large tub of Carmex lip balm. I noticed Spicey/Salt for seasoning shrimp, and Cumin Meat Rub, both for $2.75 each. While this may not sound too silly, the bottles probably held 2, max 3 tablespoons of goo. You would have needed 4 to 6 of the meat rub bottles to flavor a decent sized steak to feed 4 people; SERIOUSLY, no exaggeration.
My initial vibe on the cheeses being with one exception being in the $22-34 a pound range was correct.
Also, when I was in the store there were several people working there who all seemed too busy fussing behind the counter to pay too much attention to me. When I finally essentially barged in and asked for some help picking out some wine they hesitatingly left their projects behind. I decided to try two Italian reds unfamiliar to me... when I get a chance to crack em I will report again.
Bottom line: the most fru fru, precious, and pricey aspects of the South End have arrived in Central Square, if that rocks your boat, run, don't walk to Central Bottle.
Folks, we've moved a more general discussion of wine pricing and markups to the Wine board, where the topic can be discussed with a lot more leeway than we can offer here on the Boston board. Please feel free to continue discussing your experiences at Central Bottle or other local wine retailers here, but if you'd like to join that thread to discuss markups and pricing in general, you can find the thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673743
The most egregious pricing issue I have seen at the store is the Rosso di Montepulciano from Poderi Sanguineto I e II. It is a superb wine, and I can usually find it at Brix or one of the Formaggios for $17-19. Central Bottle has it for $32.
I didn't bring it up with the store owners because while at the store I thought maybe I had misremembered what I paid for the wine elsewhere. I later checked the intarwebz and found the wine for $16-20. Maybe/hopefully Central Bottle just made a pricing mistake on this one.
The first time I had this wine was about two years ago when it was a wine special at the Butcher Shop. I was in a particularly wasteful mood that day so I just got the glass - for $16 - because the waiter had raved about it. No less than 15 minutes after leaving the Butcher Shop, I was at Brix and saw the wine for $17. I was so freakin mad at the Butcher Shop. That sort of markup ain't cool. (I know a lot of places have markups like that, but it is never fun to see the retail price per bottle be what you just paid for a glass.)
A friend just received this email from Central Bottle.
"We have just been informed by our vendor that we were incorrectly overcharged for the Sanguineto Rosso...and, we have been passing that onto our customers unknowingly!!!!!! Yikes!!!!!! We have corrected the selling price down to $20."
In the original thread on this topic, you made a number of other comments.
You indicated: "Really no way to tell if the prices are reasonable as they obviously go out of their way to stock VERY obscure wines."
So obviously you were mistaken on this point as you now claim you were able to do price checking on their wines.
Why compare the online price for the Gruet? First, that is a sale price when their normal price is $15.99. Second, they cannot even deliver to MA so their price is irrelevant. You also previously lauded Gordon's yet their price for the Gruet is $15, which is more than the average price you quote. And you have not offered any other price comparisons beyond the Gruet.
Which other wines did you compare to other local stores? And when did you visit those other stores to do the comparison?
As for the cheeses, when I was last there I saw several cheeses that cost under $20/lb, even one as low as $13/lb. Plus, they had several cheese circles, mostly goat, that only cost $7-12 each.
If the prices were too high for you, why did you bother to buy two wines?
You seem to have an axe to grind here. I don't.
Gordon's may be $15 for the Gruet, I have not checked their price on this, but CB is still $18. And it is prettey readily available "On Sale" on teh web for as little as $12.99:
The cheese circles you mention at $7-12 each were tiny, so probably WELL north of $20 on a per pound basis. I gave the cheese case a VERY good look over last Wednesday and saw only one cheese below $22 a pound.
Did you manage to take a look at the miniscule spice mixes? The Iggy's Cranberry bread for $5 a pound that Iggy's charges $5 a full pullman loaf for? The $14 a 750ml olive oil that you can probably buy elsewhere in a 5L tin for $8 a liter?
I am sharing fairly objective observations. I have no reason to like or dislike this place other then my observations.
I bought two of their obscure Italian wines to attempt to see if they were truly fabulous for what I paid. When I get around to opening them I will report back.
Bottom line I can think of 15 places where I would rather buy wine, and Formaggio is closer to my work, and WAY better for cheese. I suppose in a pinch, if you live in the area, Central Bottle would be okay. But it is certainly no destination for anything if their current stock/pricing is any indication.
I guess that bottom line is that the place feels like so many new places in Boston where they will price things as high as they can get away with. My favorite food establishments in Boston feel like they are sharing amazing food that they love. These places are not always inexpensive but include: Arax, Formaggio, Salumeria Italiana, Russo's, Wilson Farm, various Chinese supermarkets, Modern Pastry, Tabrizi Bakery, Athan's, Burdicks Chocolate, Karl's, Indian Grocery Stores in Waltham, etc. etc.
As it is, out the gate, CB is not even close to being on this list.
These two threads have many more destinations that meet these criteria:
I don't have any axe to grind. Your post simply did not make sense to me. And it is especially telling to me that you failed to answer my questions about which wines you compare, and at which wine stores. Instead you try to redirect the discussion to their food prices.
You previously stated you did not know any of the wines at Central Bottles except the Gruet, which you now discuss its price. So what other price checking did you do? You only had a short time since Wed, night to do all your checking. So how did you determine which wines to price check, when they were all obscure to you? And which other wine stores carried the wines at Central Bottle which you checked?
Or was all your price checking done at online websites, which really have little to do with the prices at other Boston area wine stores? Online prices, especially sale prices, will probably the beat at any Boston wine store. And as most cannot ship to MA, they are irrelevant.
Hmmmmm, no axe to grind? I'm not a wine pricing service. Just doing my best to see what is chow-worthy.
$18 for the readily available Gruet Rose is WAY expensive for Boston, and perfectly indicative of their whole "how much can I soak you for" approach which is further confirmed by there fussy, precious, not very chow-worthy food. Nuf said.
I love your list of places with amazing food they love - reinforced by yet another stellar visit to Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge on Thurs night - I arrived later than planned about 10 minutes before closing (7p), yet they were patient, engaged, and helpful putting together some cheeses for me and offering wine samples.
Ecstaticly,I left with more cheese than I planned ( as usual) along with some interesting wine and Poilane bread. Everything was awesome as always - not cheap, but so special and amazing.
Based on your and others' post, I recently made it to Arax and loved it ( the apricots are definitely the best I've ever had!) - Wilsons, Russos, and Burdicks are all in regular rotation already.
I am curious about Central Bottle and do my primary research, but it's not a high priority now...thanks for sharing!
I'm not sure how much Iggy's charges for their cranberry pecan at their store (and i don't think it's relevant, as something bought at the place where it's made is always cheaper than elsewhere), but Whole Foods charges $6.29 for it... We are talking about a 1 pound loaf versus $5 per pound of bread, which is the same... plus (at Central Bottle) there is a possibility to take even less if you need less for your cheese plate. I actually liked this...
As far as their wine selection goes, all I can say is that I'm happy there is finally a store in Central Square where one can buy artisanal and organic/biodynamic wines, not just mass produced "brands" which you run into everywhere. These wines and wine makers are hard to find in other stores, so I am also kind of puzzled that you have been able to compare them so easily to other retailers. I usually saw them on wine lists at the Blue Room, Craigie, Oleana...
What I did find, from a few purchases, were really amazing, at times almost weird, but exciting wines, that all provided bang for the buck.
Another store that would carry some similar wines, may be Formaggio, but I really can't speak about the price comparisons, as I never paid attention. I did, however, gasp when I read that you include Formaggio on the list of "more reasonably priced" places. Ouch. Don't get me wrong, I love the place and shop there a lot... but only because I ignore the total when I sign my credit card receipt and throw it away so my girlfriend doesn't see it...