Berkeley, CA wine-store reccommendations
Some friends are now at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (aka CDSP):
2451 Ridge Road
Berkeley, CA 94709-1217
Can anybody recommend a really great wine store that's nearby? By 'really great," I mean cozy, friendly, lots of great options at great prices, but really a wine store. I'm looking for a spot where we could get them a gift certificate and they could count on going in and being directed toward really really great juice.
The closest wine shop is the Vintage Berkeley, which has the best selection and prices in town. (There's another VB in Elmwood and Solano Cellars has the same owners and largely similar selection.) Open until 8pm.
North Berkeley, which used to be right around the corner, focuses on more expensive wines and is primarily mail-order. Same goes for Premier Cru. Kermit is primarily an importer / distributor and the retail shop sells only their own wines, as Steve notes sometimes at higher prices than you'll find elsewhere. Showing their other-than-retail focus, NB, PC, and KL all close at 6.
2113 Vine St, Berkeley, CA 94709
Not to necessarily repeat Steve's recommendations, but it all depends upon WHAT your friends are "into" . . .
Kermit Lynch -- http://kermitlynch.com/ -- ONLY sells the wines that Kermit imports directly from France and Italy. The are located at 1605 San Pablo Avenue (at Cedar Ave.) in Berkeley (510.524.1524). While there are wines in various price categories, they specialize in high(er) end wines. Think $15-$100+, with the emphasis on the "plus."
North Berkeley Imports -- http://www.northberkeleyimports.com/ -- ALSO sells the wines they import, with a handful of high(er)-end California wines. They are located at 1601 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (at Cedar Ave.) in Berkeley (800.266.6585).
If your friends are looking for "great options at great prices," I'd encourage them to check out Vintage Berkeley -- http://www.vintageberkeley.com/Home.html -- which specializes in wines <$25 from all over the world. Peter and staff may have a relatively small (and perhaps obscure) selection, compared to other stores, but I find it VERY well thought out, and very nicely priced. They are located at 2113 Vine Street (at Walnut -- one block north of Cedar) in Berkeley (510.665.8600). They have a second location in the Elmwood, at 2949 College Ave. (near Ashby) in Berkeley (510.549.9501). Peter also has Solano Cellars (same website), which features a broader selection and wines with price tags above $25. It is located at 1580 Solano Ave., in Albany (510.525.9463).
My favorite retailer in the area, however, is Paul Marcus Wines -- http://www.paulmarcuswines.com/ -- which is actually located just across the Berkeley city limits in Market Hall, just across the street from the Rockridge BART station, 5655 College Ave., Oakland (510.420.1005). Paul has been in the wine trade some 30+ years, is very knowledgeable (as is his staff), and they have an excellent selection with very good prices.
The Spanish Table -- http://www.spanishtable.com/ -- is a GREAT place for all things Iberian, and carries a variety of foods, pottery and serving pieces, cooking utensils, AND wines from Spain and Portugal, as well as Chile and Argentina. Again, knowledgable people are always there to help, but you won't find wines from France, Italy, New Zealand and the like here . . . still, they *do* manage to get more than their fair share of my money! ;^) They are located at 1814 San Pablo Ave (between Delaware and Hearst) in Berkeley (510.548.1383).
I've never been a big fan of Oddlots, but you *can* get some very good deals there . . . IF they have what you like/want. I spent years selling wines to Premier Cru, and Steve is right -- lots of high-end grey market wines, some reasonable stuff, depending on how you define "reasonable."
Also, in Kensington is Arlington Wine & Spirits -- good selection, nice people, decent pricing. They are at 295 Arlington Ave. in Kensington, just across the Berkeley border (510.524.0841).
They're close to North Berkeley Imports, which is a great wine store.
As Jock pointed out, Kermit Lynch is also a great wine store.
There's some other great choices. For a gift certificate, how about The Spanish Table? They have some great, inexpensive wines in there, along with some tasty food imported from Spain .It's a foodie's dream.
Kermit Lynch and Spanish Table on are San Pablo Avenue. Also on San Pablo Avenue, but in Albany, is Odd Lots. This is a great store for inexpensive wine. The owner, Morgan Miller, used to work at Kermit Lynch. He specializes in wines that are $7 to $14 a bottle. Lots of gems there.
Just around the corner from San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley is Premier Cru. These guys tend more towards gray market trophy wines, but there are other wines in there for daily drinking.
Just across the border from Berkeley in Oakland is Paul Marcus wines, which has a nice range of selections and a knowledgeable staff.
There's also Vintage Berkeley/Solano Cellars. Good wine. I've had some issues with a couple of the employees here, but the owner is supposed to be a solid guy. I've never met him. By the way, both Vintage Berkeley and Paul Marcus carry Kermit Lynch's wines and sell them for less than Kermit Lynch does. Kermit Lynch is the importer so they sell for full retail price.
After listing all these places, I'd say the best place for a gift certificate would be The Spanish Table.