Where is the best place to buy wine?

This is a question I am asked often. Where is the best place to purchase wine? This is a hard question to answer, since there are so many ways to get your hands on a great bottle of wine. I have my favorites, which I am sure you are sick of hearing me talk about, but it is hard for me to answer that question for anyone else. It depends. Where do you live? How far are you willing to commute for a bottle of wine, how much do you want to spend, are you ok buying wine along with your gas, etc.? The list of questions could go on for hours. So, I figured maybe I should do a little research and compile a list for you.

This is an intriguing topic for me to also talk about, since I was close to purchasing a wine shop around 6 months ago. I wanted to open a shop where my fellow novices were comfortable coming into a non, pretentious store where they wouldn’t get eye rolls for asking where the white zin is (although, there would be no white zin, I would point them into another direction). I was so excited about the possibility of opening a wine shop for people like me in the world – those who want a good bottle of wine, at an inexpensive price – without getting laughed at! Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be at this point in time.

I am sorry to say but this list does discriminate against those living outside Washington. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I am not sure (besides the obvious grocery stores, Costco’s and BevMo’s) where the best wine shops are in your neck of the woods. I would love it you made comments to let me (and my fellow wine novices) know! For those living in the great state of Washington, below is a list of wine shops I have frequented or heard about through fellow novices.  I want to make sure I lead you in a direction of discovering fine wines. I am in NO WAY paid by or asked to promote these businesses. This list is made up solely on my opinion, which I at least regard highly. If I have missed some special shop (because it is difficult for me to make it to every shop in WA), please let me know. I would love to have a long list overflowing of great wine shops and wine buys.

1.) West Seattle Cellars, West Seattle

www.westseattlecellars.com

Ok, I know you are sick of me always talking about WS cellars, but I cannot help it. Tom and Jan are the most helpful people in the business. They will bend over backwards to get you that special wine. And how can you pass up their $10 and under bins of wines OR their amazing Consumer Wine club where for $100/month you get 12 wines… all personally picked for you. To top all that off, they offer weekly wine tastings (free) and classes (not free, but around $25). I literally drive from my North Seattle home to their shop off California Ave, because they are worth it.

2.) Greenlake Wines/Wine Outlet, Seattle area

www.greenlakewines.com

The Wine Outlet has been in SODO and lower Queen Anne for ages, but they recently opened up Greenlake Wines and Wine Bar. I met up with some girlfriends at GL Wines one night and was pleased with the wine’s by the glass (and flights). They also have some very yummy small plates to accompany the wines. The shop is small and intimate, but when I went back on my mission to find a Spanish wine under $10, they were able to accommodate. Richard, the owner, was incredibly sweet, knowledgable and quick to point out his other shops had a larger selection.

3.) Costco, throughout the good ol USA

Costco is everything that is wrong with America, in my humble opinion. I cannot stand the place. Everything in bulk, bright neon lights burning you,  promoting overeating and overspending. I am not trying to rag on Costco, or those who love it. It has its place in the world. My blog isn’t to complain things I don’t like (that is why I have a husband). However, I do give Costco a little credit, they have a great wine selection. And they do a nice job stocking the shelves with local wines. If you live in an area with no wine shop and need a decent wine, wear your comfy shoes, brave the crowds and check out Costco (make sure you go hungry, they do a good job feeding you with free samples).

4.) Whole Foods, various US locations

www.wholefoods.com

Ok, I know, whole paycheck… but get this? Not with their wines. Holy moly. They have a fantastic wine selection, wonderful help and great prices. I even had an employee offer to help me find a wine, with a screaming toddler. Now, that takes patience (and why I needed that bottle of wine). The only downside I have heard about Whole Foods, from a wine maker over in Eastern WA, is that it is difficult for small, local wine makers to get their wines on the shelves. Beyond that, from a consumers viewpoint, I very much appreciate their selections of wines.

5.) The Grape Choice, Kirkland WA

http://www.thegrapechoice.com/

This shop is more nostalgic for me than anything. I have never purchased a wine from The Grape Choice. My parents frequented their shop and my dad even held a few of his company Christmas parties at The Grape Choice. It is also highly regarded within the community of Kirkland. If you live on the eastside, hop in your Land Rover and cruise on over … you will see why my parents loved the shop so much!

6.) QFC/Fred Meyer, various locations

You need to grab a bottle of wine, while buying your groceries, QFC is probably your best option (WAY better than the wine I have seen at various Safeway’s and Albertson’s). They tend to have a bigger wine section than other supermarkets and try to have a decent local selection. Fred Meyer surprised me with in their wines as well. Very impressive, large wine department!

7.) The Grape Adventure, Kent WA

http://www.thegrapeadventure.com/

If you read my previous blog, which I am sure you all have… I talk about what a great find this is!! If you are in the south sound, check them out. Also a wine bar; with tasty small plates.

8.) Town and Country Markets (Ballard Market/ Greenwood Market/Central Markets), Seattle, Mill Creek, Poulsbo, Shoreline, Bainbridge Island.

http://www.townandcountrymarkets.com/location.html

For a small market, they actually have wine experts to help you! I love this about Town and Country/Central Markets. Wine section is small, but very thorough in selection!

9.) Vino Verite, Capital Hill

www.vinoverite.com

I have not been to this shop, but have heard amazing things from patrons. I plan on making up to Capital Hill to visit, I just need a babysitter so I can take my time to look around (any takers to babysit?).

10.) Cellar 46, Mercer Island

www.cellar46.com

Also a wine bar – very nice atmosphere. Small wine selection, but very, very nice wines. A little pricey, but worth the stop to grab some tapa’s and have a nice glass of vino.

 11.) Wicked Cellars, Everett

http://wickedcellars.com/about_us.html

This is the only wine shop I recommend, but have not shopped at. Same with any novices I know. I saw their ratings on the internet and explored their site. Seems like a non-snooty, helpful wine shop. I am happy to see Everett opening up some fun shops!! Plus, I love the name. Go E-town!

Eastern WA –

Sorry, but you have wineries in your backyards – so I have not included you. You are lucky SOB’s who can frequent your favorite winery any time.. even in snow, since you know how to drive in it. Seriously though, those living East of the mountains, let me know your favorite shops for wine.

I hope you find this list helpful. I know good wine is to be found anywhere (hey, I have found excellent bottles at a gas station), these are just a few places to guide you in your journey for the perfect wine.

Cheers!

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South America

My friend Lisa stood at a crossroads trying to decide between a Chilean or a Spanish wine one fine day in Scottsdale, AZ . She didn’t know which one would settle her craving – they both are Spanish-speaking countries and both known for making good, inexpensive wines; she decided to take a gamble, trust her instincts and went with the Chilean wine (and she had not read my Spanish wine blog yet). I haven’t heard her opinion on the choice, but it motivated me to buy a bottle of Chilean wine.

Chilean wines are foreign to me. Usually, when I decide to fill my South American wine craving, I tend to lean towards Argentina. Wines from the Mendoza , Argentina region are medium-bodied and smooth (oh so lovely). I am sure at some point in my life I have tasted a Chilean wine, but it obviously did not leave a lasting impression. But, at times I am biased and probably skipped that region in the wine shop to head towards my favorites. So thank you Lisa for inspiring me to explore my horizons.

* Here is a little known fact about Chilean wines – there are more than 20 different types of grapes but it is their Cabernet Sauvignon which is famous. The wine I chose was not a Cab, but to me, an unknown varietal.

Some of you have asked me to review/taste wines that are under $10.00, since most of my fellow novices prefer wines around that price range (and we are in a recession right?). So, I will make sure to write about affordable wines as well as some splurges (we should all splurge sometime, right?).

Tonight’s Tasting:

Terra Andina – 2008 Carmenere – Central Valley of Chili (Whole Foods $8.99)

I do have a cold, so I am not the best judge of  wine tonight. From what I have tasted, I am not a fan, cold or not. It has an overbearing berry taste which is harsh on the taste buds and stomach. Ian said it tasted like the end of a bottle of wine; the flavor of sediment. We let the wine sit, and there was still no improvement. This is a wine I would not recommend ( I think having a cold made it taste better).  Even if you needed a take a cheap bottle of wine to a party, I would say stick with a Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes. Now, I am not blaming the Chileans, every country makes bad wines. So, my mission fellow novices, is to try a wine from Chili that will take you to a happy place!

Have a wine filled night my friends!

ps – Ian just opened a bottle, since he was not a fan of the Chili wine either. This is a staple in our cellar and would recommend this to anyone – we usually keep a couple bottles on hand.

Guenoc – 2007 Petite Sirah from California. Is around $8.00 – I have seen it at Trader Joes and West Seattle Cellars (don’t purchase through their winery, they charge $20.00 a bottle, ouch!). Smooth, nice and easy to drink!

2007 Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah

And a wine fan is born…

From a couple of nights ago...

As an adult, we tend look back on our childhood and appreciate, or not appreciate, what our parents taught us. There are many things  I appreciate about what my parents taught me as a child; one of them being exposed to the world of wine. I spent many school breaks on car trips through the wine countries of Napa/Sonoma California and Eastern Washington (and let me tell you, many wineries make wonderful grape juice for kids). I have fond memories of dinner parties where my dad let me go into his wine room and pick any wine from his wine rack. I would bring it upstairs excited  to sit and listen to my mom and dad talk about which winery it was from, who was with them on that trip and  then watch them contemplate drinking that wine or saving it (and if they wanted to save it, I went back down and grabbed another bottle).  In today’s society, that may not be acceptable parenting (however in other countries it is acceptable, we are sensitive in the US – in my humble opinion), but it was my reality and I am thankful for it. Thank you mom and dad for giving me the opportunity to learn from you about the world of wine….

Tonight, I did not taste a new wine. I do have a 6 week old baby, so I have to watch my consumption. However I do have a few things to add from past wines…

Last night’s Cotes Du Rhone  tasted delightful this evening. Some wines taste lovely a day or two after being opened. Some lose a little flavor but are drinkable. Others turn bitter, develop a vinegar taste and are horrible. It is hard to tell if your wine will last the next day; even the most expensive wine may not last a second day after being opened. My only advice is to invest in a good wine stopper. (Crate and Barrel has nice stoppers). I will try to let you know how wines taste the next day. The Cotes Du Rhone was a wine that still had a nice flavor the next day.

A couple nights ago, Ian and I opened a smooth Washington Syrah.

Milbrandt Vineyards 2007 Syrah – Columbia Valley ($14.99 Whole Foods)

The store recommended drinking this wine with Thanksgiving dinner.  Since Thanksgiving has obviously passed, I believe this would be a great wine for you gentleman to serve with the Valentines dinner I am sure you will be cooking for your wife/girlfriend/crush. It would taste lovely with a pasta or chicken dish. It has a berry, current flavor with a little spice. Not much punch  but is a smooth wine to start your date off. I would serve this Syrah with your dinner.  For an after dinner wine that will knock her “socks’ off, stay tuned for my recommendation (closer to Valentines day).

Happy tasting…..