A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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WINE SHOPS: New York City

June 27th, 2006

I have visited hundreds of wine shops over the years, and it is surprising how so many are fair at best. But maybe the point is that most wine shops don’t cater to my needs. Although New York City has hundreds of shops, I found it interesting that several new wine stores have opened in the last year with a unique twist. I thought that everyone could benefit from a discussion of New York wine stores in that it would highlight what wine shops can offer. We could than each reflect our own needs to determine what is important to us, and ask if our present wine store is fulfilling our needs.

Here are a few wine store features:

  • depth of wine selection
  • knowledgeable sales help
  • a sales person that understands your unique taste
  • price
  • location
  • proper care of their wine
  • wine tastings
  • free delivery

What is most important to you? I believe it is important to have a sales person that understands the type of wines that I like, it is also important that the sales persons have an excellent palate so that they understand the characteristics of the wine they are suggesting. It is also important to me that a wine store carries enough variety and offers some boutique (not necessarily expensive) wines since I love to try new wines. And lastly I am looking to pay a fair price.

Before looking at a few of the newer wine shops in NYC, here are 5 stores that have been around for awhile, each with quite a bit to offer.

Astor Wines & Spirits (399 Lafayette)
The largest wine store downtown, and even larger after their recent move. Large selection, almost supermarket like, fair prices, and lots of wine tastings and classes.
Columbus Circle Liquors (1780 Broadway)
This is my favorite shop, I have dealt with Phill for years. Not only does Phill taste almost every wine they sell, and have an excellent palate, but most importantly he understands my palate. They have a wide selection of wines, and offer many boutique wines from some of the better importers.
Garnet Wines & Liquors (929 Lexington Ave)
They have a broad selection of wines focusing on those that are most popular. High volume is their game, and in return they offer some of the most competitive prices in the city.
Morrell & Company ( One Rockefeller Plaza)
Another high end wine store that caters to the midtown business elite. Their unique selling point is their wine bar next door.
Sherry Lehmann Wines & Spirits (679 Madison Ave)
A high end wine shop with perhaps the best selection of French wines, which are offered at competitive prices. The store gets very busy, so even though the sales staff is knowledgeable it is hard to develop a relationship.

So what is new? Looking at some of the new stores that have recently opened we see a couple of unique features, although you need to determine if these features are important to you. A few of the newer stores are:

Crush Wine & Spirits (153 East 57th Street)
Crush opened about a year ago with the main idea to offer wines from smaller, lesser known producers. These boutique wines are organized by grape varietal rather than region, which can be confusing but also fun. Although they don’t carry many of the producers you are familiar with, their selection is broad, and their quality of suggestions seems to be above average. Note that boutique wines don’t necessarily mean expensive, they cover all price points.
Le Du’s Wines (600 Washington St)
Jean Luc Le Du was the sommelier at Daniel, a superior French restaurant in New York. Sommeliers can often introduce you to very interesting wines from smaller producers. This concept is the theme of this store, and the feedback I get is that they are doing it pretty well.
Moore Brothers (33 East 20th St )
Gregory Moore is another former sommelier, and he worked at Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia. Moore Brothers takes the idea of offering boutique wines to a new level. They only offer wines where they are the sole importer so that they can control the shipping process. They refrigerate both their trucks and their store to keep the wine at ideal temperatures. You won’t find a more enthusiastic salesman than Greg Moore, but the store inventory is very limited, and I don’t feel that wine is as fragile as they would have us believe.

No matter where you live, it is easy to see all wine shops are not created equal. I believe that having a good relationship is most important. Hopefully your wine shop is satisfying your needs, if not, please find a new one!

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