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Where do you shop for under-the-radar wines?

LilBrownBat Sep 16, 2013 08:20 AM

Inspired by http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/09...

I'm a fan of the less well-known wine regions -- I've found them to often be a source of interesting wines at good prices. Unfortunately, they're often hard to find. I've had some luck at Vinidivino and a bit less at Boston Wine Exchange. The larger stores like Blanchard's and Martignetti's are a crapshoot and always involve wading through aisles of Barefoot and the like, and I've never seen anything that wasn't straight-up conventional at Trader Joe's. If you like less-common wines from less-popular regions, where do you go to get them?

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  1. k
    Klunco Sep 16, 2013 09:13 AM

    Urban Grape, Central Bottle (had a great Santorini Assyrtiko from here yesterday), Martignetti's (yes, you have to wade but they have a large stock), Marty's. Also Julio's if you're up for a drive.

    Trader Joe's can occasionally have a great find albeit it takes a lot of wading. Recently I've found the Louis Latour Marsannay at $13 to be a pretty killer deal.

    Vinodivino is definitely not going to have much under-the-radar stuff. The first time I went in I was poking around and started asking if they had any Cru Beaujolais or Jura wines and they looked at me like I had three heads. Then I asked about higher quality vermouths... To be fair though, judging by their stock they are all about WS/Parker style scores and big name regions, so under-the-radar isn't their focus.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Klunco
      LilBrownBat Sep 18, 2013 07:38 AM

      Thanks for the tips on Urban Grape and Central Bottle - I've never been to either. You're correct about 90% of the shelf space at Vinodivino, but the other 10% is worth a look.

      Oh yeah...how did I forget to mention Wine Bottega in the North End? Love this place, not a huge fan of the location, but you can't have everything.

      1. re: LilBrownBat
        nsenada Sep 18, 2013 08:04 AM

        Wine Bottega is great - I also love Bin Ends (now in Needham!)

        1. re: LilBrownBat
          Gabatta Sep 18, 2013 08:31 AM

          Central Bottle is local to me, but I never go there. This thread offers a perspective on their pricing: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8821...

          I stick with the Wine & Cheese Cask locally and Gordon's if I can drive a bit.

          1. re: Gabatta
            Klunco Sep 19, 2013 12:31 PM

            Wine & Cheese is great and very well stock with liquor as well for such a small store.

            Agreed on Central's pricing and should make it out to Gordon's more often, but sometimes convenience trumps price and I do think they have good selections.

            1. re: Klunco
              jajjguy Sep 19, 2013 01:42 PM

              I like both the Cask and Central Bottle.

              The Cask has a great section of wines from less-famous parts of France: Loire, Rhone, Jura, etc (i.e., not Bordeaux or Burgundy). And good prices. Lots of hits, lots of misses, as you'd expect, but more interesting selection than most places.

              Central Bottle, I find I can grab any bottle off the shelf and have a very good chance of it being delicious and exciting. It's very well curated, at least for my taste. And yes, you pay for that.

              So much of choosing a wine shop is finding one whose taste agrees with your own.

      2. okra Sep 16, 2013 09:57 AM

        If you're anywhere near Waltham, try Gordon's. Not intimidating at all, good listeners, and just tell them your price point, and they'll help you out.

        2 Replies
        1. re: okra
          tomatotomato Sep 16, 2013 12:09 PM

          +1 on Gordon's. The assistant wine director, Cheryl, has great recommendations for bottles at every price point when we go. Italian and French selection is especially strong -- there's more,
          but that's what we are mostly looking for. Plenty of small producers represented.

          We've also tried and enjoyed Vintages in West Concord for their wines from the Piedmont region of Italy. (Never been to their Belmont shop.)

          For overall selection, value, and personal wine shopping (thanks to help from Cheryl) our nod goes to Gordon's for an interesting wine adventure.

          1. re: tomatotomato
            cambridgedoctpr Sep 16, 2013 12:13 PM

            i like the people at the wine cask; they do a pretty good job of finding interesting wines at all price points though they seem to be more interested in wines under 20 dollars. If you are looking for more expensive wines, Gordon's would be better.

        2. w
          weg Sep 16, 2013 01:25 PM

          I have had great luck at Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville for under $20 bottles and Federal Wines in downtown Boston for the rest. The staff at both stores are very knowledgeable and they know their inventory really well. I have been a happy customer of both stores for 15 years.

          1 Reply
          1. re: weg
            Gabatta Sep 16, 2013 01:40 PM

            The fact that Federal delivers is a huge bonus.

          2. hotoynoodle Sep 16, 2013 01:57 PM

            also brix.

            1. pinehurst Sep 16, 2013 02:36 PM

              Hi LilBrownBat,

              I venture now and then to stock up at the NH Wine/Liquor outlet. They have some great sales, and it's not a hardship for me given where I live; if I were in the city, I'd do Martignetti's.

              1. j
                johndory Sep 17, 2013 03:11 AM

                As others have mentioned, the Wine and Cheese Cask in Somerville is very good, especially in the under $20 price category. Streetcar in JP seems to have a similar perspective, but is much smaller. Smaller still, but great (especially for splurges) is the wine selection at Formaggio.

                1. StriperGuy Sep 17, 2013 06:02 AM

                  This has been repeated many times on Chowhound, but the way wine distribution works, ANY wine available at retail in MA can be ordered by ANY wine store...

                  I particularly like (bang for the buck, and just plain interesting) the wines imported by David Raines, look for Vineyard Research as the importer on the bottle, formerly the wine guy at Gordon's in Waltham. Price points tend to be excellent, wines off the beaten track, and just plain tasty.

                  Here is a little blurb on the Gordon's web site:


                  If you like Sauternes dessert wine, the Cadillac (sauterne-like botrytis wine) he imports is the single best dessert wine value I have ever had. On par with Sauternes costing 5X as much.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: StriperGuy
                    cambridgedoctpr Sep 17, 2013 07:05 AM

                    striper, some wines are allocated and not available to your average customer, an example dauvissault Le Clos, but those wines are not flying under the radar.

                    that said, it is best to make a good connection with a wine store and try to get the maximum discount, usually 20% for their best customers though usually you can get this on the quarterly sales.

                    1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                      StriperGuy Sep 17, 2013 07:17 AM

                      In my experience ANY wine store will offer a 20% discount on a case purchase even if they special order it... and certainly if it is off the shelf, whether it is a mixed case or not. I have never been refused a 20% case discount (non-sale items).

                      Also as a note, allocated wines are probably < 1% of all wines for sale in MA in my guesstimate.

                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr
                        hotoynoodle Sep 17, 2013 04:20 PM

                        dauvissat "les clos"? stuff like that flies over the radar.

                        i don't think the op is talking about finding grand cru chablis.

                        and yeah, like 70-80% of wines sold retail are krap critter wines.

                    2. Bugsey34 Sep 18, 2013 07:44 AM

                      We drink mostly Italian wine and like some of the Adonna Imports selections we find a Winestone on Rte. 9 in Chestnut Hill.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Bugsey34
                        tomatotomato Sep 18, 2013 08:22 AM

                        A huge +1 on Adonna Imports wines. If you love Italian wines and appreciate small-scale producers, they're just the ticket. Also available at Gordon's in Waltham (yes, I already mentioned this as my go-to shop).

                      2. n
                        nsgirl Sep 18, 2013 03:35 PM

                        Shubies in Marblehead is outstanding for this.

                        And it is looking like this is going to be a beautiful weekend to take a road trip to the North Shore!

                        1. m
                          mwk Sep 19, 2013 10:25 AM

                          I love going to Bin Ends in Braintree (and they just opened a second location in Needham). They have a wide selection of wines from all around the world, and it's a lot of fun to go there and find new types to try. Their prices are excellent. They also have the best selection of craft beers I've seen anywhere.

                          1. StriperGuy Sep 19, 2013 11:30 AM

                            Hah, so just read that article; it really jibes with my wine approach when dining out: order the most unusual sounding wine on the list, cause if it is off the beaten track, then it is probably on the list for a reason (i.e. the sommelier went out of their way to include the wine). That has rarely failed me.

                            Interestingly, the article mentions finger lakes region wines. I was there on a business trip not too long ago and discovered this remarkable store. I continue to by a couple of cases a year from them.


                            Don't think they will ship to MA, my folks live in NY, so I place an order and ship to them and they bring it along when they come.

                            The wines produced by Dr. Konstantin Frank are superb.

                            I really like Rieslings, both the slightly sweet and the bone dry styles. The Niagara and Cayuga varietals specific to the region are great. Heck, even some of the region's jug wines in magnum formats are wonderful, very distinctive, and tremendous bargains.

                            I continue to feel that Spanish wines, in a store that has some selection can be both interesting AND very reasonable, but as the article says, if you get a little out of your comfort zone, even in Italian or French bottlings, you can find some marvelous surprises.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: StriperGuy
                              cambridgedoctpr Sep 19, 2013 11:44 AM

                              Frank was Russian, and his Rieslings were quite the thing 25 years ago; good to know that his legacy cointinues.

                              I just had a very interesting bottle of spanish wine, but i have to say that they are few and far between. of course, vega scicilia is excellent.

                              1. re: StriperGuy
                                Klunco Sep 19, 2013 12:28 PM

                                Thanks for passing this along. It's been next to impossible to source Finger Lake wines in Boston. Have you seen them for sale anywhere in MA?

                                Definitely agree that off-beat regions will often yield great pqr, particularly in the old world. I don't even think you have to go that far out. Honestly, look outside of California Cabs/Pinot, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Champagne and you've bypassed what 90% of the market is looking for.

                                Personally, I still find many German Rieslings to be a great value considering the quality. It's crazy, but some of these wines are still being under-priced due to Blue Nun given how well made and terroir expressive they are. The Languedoc is another region that has been up and coming for a while and there are many values to be found. The Loire's prices are rising but I still think the quality and variety of wines there is spectacular.

                                1. re: Klunco
                                  cambridgedoctpr Sep 19, 2013 02:39 PM

                                  when i meet people just getting interested in wine, i suggest rhone wines to start. I do like rieslings from Germany and from Alsace. Riesling is not well appreciated though most wine buyers are enthusiastic about them.

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