Friday, November 7, 2008

Local Winos

I enjoy wine immensely, but for some reason, I just can't get interested in it.  I can tell you what my favorite type of wine tastes like (I've read enough menu descriptions to throw around some know, minerally, complex, and when I really want to impress I call for the off-dry white) but I have no idea of the vintage or provenance.  If I taste a particularly lovely wine, my reaction is basically "Wow, yum!", not "Oh isn't that delightful!  What am I drinking?".

As a result, when I shop for wine I tend to rely fairly exclusively on either the salespeople in the wine store (generally my M.O. at places like Sherry-Lehman), or the pithy little written descriptions (Astor Wine & Spirits) for my choices.  But somehow in these stores with huge selections I'm always left feeling a bit cheated.  Is this one bottle, out of all of the thousands available, really the best for my money?

Enter, the owner of which seems to have read my angst-ridden thoughts.  The store, which also is an online seller within New York State, hence the vaguely bizarre name, carries a well-edited selection, probably about 100 different bottles, and is organized in a way that is exactly in sync with my wine decision making process.  On one side of the store is white, on the other is red (question number one:  Do I want red or white?).  And each wall is lined with a row of bottles on a shallow shelf, organized from cheapest (closest to the door) to most expensive (question number two:  Do I want to cheap out or not?).  

Despite the clarity of the display (and his helpful posted descriptions), I never purchase a bottle without checking in with the owner.  He'll always give it to you straight.  Tell him what you're having for dinner or what kind of a person you're buying a gift for, he'll give you the best option in your price range.  And I believe him when he tells me.  Partly because he knows what he's talking about, and partly because there really are only three or four options to pick from in any one price range so I figure he can't go too wrong.

And beyond the merchandise selection and display, I love this store for its location (Jones Street in the West Village, spitting distance from at least five of my favorite food shops), and for its neighborhood feel.  People quite literally hang out on the store's stoop!  The owner knows all the weird characters in the 'hood (there are a few left, despite the aggressive gentrification that has overwhelmed the West Village), and his dogs chill out on the shop's floor (at least they used to, I haven't seen them in a while, which I hope just means they've found somewhere else that they like better!). 

Nice owner, nice dogs, nice wine.  You can't ask for much more.

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