Online retail makes it easier to get most any wine you want shipped most anywhere you happen to be. And those online sites have made neighborhood wine stores work harder to stay relevant. These five stores encourage lingering, with quirky, personality-filled selections that represent the best of wine retail today
Frequent trips to London’s Berry Bros & Rudd inspired William Oben and Neil Thompson to open Park Avenue Wines and Bardot Wine Bar in Portland’s downtown urban core. For the past two decades, the duo worked in Portland’s wholesale, retail and restaurant wine scene. When a 32-year-old restaurant in a historic building closed, they seized the opportunity to transform the 8,000-square-foot space into a wine destination. A regal chandelier, riddling racks stocked with grower Champagne, warm wood floors and exposed brick walls set the mood. “We are definitely Francophiles,” says Oben, which means shelves deep in Burgundy, Loire and Rhône bottles. Access to private cellars and auction houses bolsters the library collection (from Lafite Rothschild to Richebourg). Relationships with Northwest producers round out the selections, which they aim to build to 3,000 by late summer. Downstairs there’s a swanky clubroom, locker storage for members and a stately dining room for winemaker dinners.
Kyle Nadeau has built one of the most impressive whisk(e)y collections in San Francisco at Maison Corbeaux: dozens of single-barrel Bourbons from producers like Four Roses and Wild Turkey, coveted old Scotch bottlings including a range from the long-gone Port Ellen distillery, plenty of Japanese whiskeys, plus bottles from lesser-known American distilleries like Westland in Washington State and Belle Meade in Tennessee. Nadeau opened his first wine and spirits shop inside Wingtip, a luxury menswear store in the Financial District, but his new space in Pacific Heights allows him to carry much more inventory. There are better places to go for $15 weeknight wines; this is where you’ll seek out special bottles, like the 2008 Chartogne-Taillet Heurtebise Brut Blanc de Blancs ($70). Don’t forget to peruse the floor-to-ceiling glass case at the front of the store, which houses rarities, from the ’68 Heitz and ’59 Haut-Brion to hundred-year-old D’Oliviera Madeira—whether you need a last-minute gift for a hard-to-please wine collector, or just want to ogle.
Joshua Walker puts the accent on “company” in his new store in downtown Charleston, encouraging customers to hang out in the space. Walker, who worked at Accent on Wine in Summerville, South Carolina, for six years, stocks the shelves with a savvy mix of familiar names and sommelier catnip: Belle Glos Pinot Noir shares shelf space with Sandlands Mataro from California and Jacques Puffeney wines from France’s Jura. Sip before you buy at the wine bar, where Walker pours 20-some compelling wines by the glass (Nikolaihof Grüner Veltliner, Giacosa Barbera d’Alba) or buy a bottle and settle in at a table with a cheese and charcuterie plate. Wines are priced at respectable retail rates for drinking on site; Walker adds ten percent on bottles to go.
A handful of wine bars and restaurants that sell wine at retail have opened and closed in Houston over the last decade, but none has had the impact of Vinology, which opened in late 2016. This West University wine shop/wine bar has given Houstonians something that they have long thirsted for: A robust wine selection focused on artisanal and natural wines from across the world, all available for retail purchase, and a rotating offering of wines by the glass. On a recent visit, wine director Thomas Moësse featured flights of Portuguese whites, Sherry and New World chenin blanc, but he hasn’t abandoned his first love, Italy. From the impossible-to-find and highly coveted Taurasi from Luigi Tecce to the macerated whites by Cantine di Giardino, a natural-wine producer in southern Italy, Moësse finds bottles that few others can. That’s because he sources many of them himself, working with small Texas distributors to bring them into the state. Stop by on Wednesdays, when he hosts free wine tastings, often with the winemakers themselves.
Opened in October 2016 in the space that once housed O’Gara & Wilson, the city’s oldest rare bookstore, 57th Street Wines stands out for a collection of wines as diverse as its Hyde Park neighborhood. Derrick Westbrook, former sommelier at the Michelin-starred Elizabeth, is the wine buyer here, serving the college crowd from the nearby University of Chicago with the same care and respect as he does the wine geeks who come to see what he’s drinking. In addition to a terrific range of $10 wines, the selection goes deep in French classics and newwave California natural wine, with personal favorites like Qaisar Mourvèdre from South Africa and a 1995 Poço do Lobo white from Portugal’s Caves São João mixed in.