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Aug 10, 2010 07:34 PM

wine stores?

I'm piecing together my food plans for my visit in a few weeks. See numerous good BYOB recommendations, great! But when I google "Best Philadelphia Wine Stores" or the equivalent, I'm to nothing! Surely a culinary city such as yours has interesting wine stores, doesn't it?

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  1. Pennsylvania we are still stuck in a "State Store" system. That means that all wine and hard liquor is sold in stores run by the state of PA. Some of these stores have a wider wine selection than others. If you let us know where you are staying or which BYOs you will be visiting, we can tell you what is nearby.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      Thanks Ray. I'm going to be at the Sofitel in, what would that be, Center City?

      1. re: sanglier

        one of the area's best state stores is on chestnut between 12th and 13th. there's also a pretty good one on chestnut around 19th. if you do a google map search for wine & spirits you'll see just about every state store our fair city has to offer... good luck. i remember the pains i experienced adjusting to the system when i first moved here!!

        1. re: rabidog

          For some reason searching "wine & spirits" actually will not bring up a full list on GMaps. You'll do better searching "liquor."

          The criticisms here are well deserved but you can find decent and somewhat knowledgeable employees at these places if you get lucky; I've been surprised when I actually asked someone for advice. "Half-empty shelves" is hyperbole. Prices are a few dollars higher than NJ, not sure about Delaware. Still, an experience at a state store will not come close to one at a boutique place staffed by real experts.

          At these stores, be sure to look along the walls and the temperature-controlled rooms in the back for the best wines.

          Bottom line is that you'll be able to find good bottles at the State store but if you are looking for something really special or particular you should bring it with you or take a trip elsewhere. If you call the restaurant in advance, they may have specific suggestions and know which stores stock them.

          1. re: barryg

            Use this link to find the store locations. It is the PLCB website.


          2. re: rabidog

            The store inside the Garces Trading Company (1100 block of Locust), while a "state store," has knowledgeable employees, and a small, but well-curated selection of wines.

        2. re: Philly Ray

          Yeah the PLBC is miserable. You walk into stores with half empty shelves and with a very limited selection of overpriced bottles. You are far better off schlepping across state lines to NJ or DE. I make bimonthly trips to Joe Canal's in NJ and Total Wine & Spirits just across the border in Wilmington,DE is a destination. Both have an impressive domestic and international selection of FAIRLY priced wines AND beer. What a concept... beer and wine and hard liquor sold in one store!

          In terms of draft beers, Philadelphia is paradise. Aside from Portland, OR we are second to none! I really enjoy Tria for a glass of wine.

        3. Have to agree that state stores in CC pretty disappointing. Rabidog is correct, the best one is at 12th and Chestnut. 19th and Chestnut is closer to your hotel and has a decent selection but always very surprising to me it's not better being so close to Rittenhouse Square. A very nice Wine store in NJ is Moore Brothers in Pensauken.

          1. "Surely a culinary city such as yours has interesting wine stores, doesn't it?"

            Oh lordy, how I wish that were the case. The store at Garces Trading Co is better, though.

            3 Replies
            1. re: AgentRed

              Thanks to all you nice folks for your suggestions! I wish the New Orleans board was this responsive! I should be in good shape, vis-a-vis finding decent BYOB wines for mid- to lower-priced restaurants. I'll revert to the wine lists for the higher-end places.

              On a side note: do Philadelphia citizens bristle at the shortened "Philly" as a reference to the city, as I hear San Francisco citizens often do when they hear "Frisco" for short?

              1. re: sanglier

                No, it's fine in common usage, just understand that the "official" abbreviation is "Phila;" that's what you will see on street signs, city publications, etc. and what you should use in any non-casual writing.

                1. re: sanglier

                  FYI, "higher-end" and "BYOB" are not mutually exclusive. Quite a few of the city's best restaurants are BYOBs.

                  Fun fact: restaurants in PA that serve wine are forced to pay the same price for a bottle that a citizen walking into a wine store pays. No wholesale, no volume discounts, nothing. So you may see what you think is an outrageous markup on our wine lists, just be aware that the restaurant is paying retail for their wine. Thanks to the PLCB.

              2. Just wanted to put in my votes for best stores: my favorites (favorite is the wrong word really, more like "least objectionable") are the 19th and Chestnut one and the one inside Garces Trading. I used to like the 12th & Chestnut one but I've been in there a few times recently when the temperature inside the store has been hotter than outside (when it's already warm outside). That's not good for the wine.

                The problem we have here in PA is that ALL wine and liquor sold in the state is sold by the abominable state-run Liquor Control Board. It's a state-run monopoly, there are NO privately run wine/liquor stores in the entire state. All the store employees are state employees: basic wine knowledge, or even enthusiasm, are not job requirements.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Buckethead

                  I just marvel at the situation you guys are in in Pennsylvania. I thought the "free the grapes" legal victory of a few years back, when it was seen as counter to the Constitution's Commerce Clause, made things better for retail wine consumers. Guess not. Again, thanks for all your help. Now the challenge is reducing the long list of Italian restaurants to try down to 2 or 3...

                  1. re: sanglier

                    what's the long list? in advance of that, my vote goes to modo mio and/or melograno. :)

                    1. re: rabidog

                      In an earlier thread I asked you guys for advice on Italian restaurants. Between the responses I got and other sources, I'm left with one hell of a lot of good -looking places to choose from! I'll probably opt for one "upscale" meal and one/two more down-home places. Your breadth of Italian restaurants is much greater than what I get in New Orleans, so I plan to avail myself of that bounty!

                2. If you're going to be in town for a while, and if you're considering dining at several BYOs, I'd recommend crossing a state line and shopping in either DE or NJ. Moore Brothers has stores in Pennsauken and Wilmington, and IMHO, it would be worth a trip to either of their locations for a stash of wine. Their selection is wonderful, with emphasis on wines from smaller producers whose products are not on the shelves of the wine superstores. Their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. And their prices are very reasonable.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: CindyJ

                    If you do, just make sure you print out their map before you go, because you WILL get lost otherwise:


                    1. re: Buckethead

                      I must admit, I've never been to Moore Bros. NJ store; I do all my wine shopping at their Wilmington location.