Saturday, April 28, 2012
There are few things more wonderful than having a favorite local wine haunt. A wine buyer who knows you by name, where your kids go to school, what your favorite Friday Night Cocktail is, or saves that last special bottle of your favorite bubbly for your anniversary celebration. They are local people, actively involved in their community. There are few more intimate relationships than your local wine shop. They know all your dirty little secrets! With "big-box" wine stores like Total Wine, Costco, Wine Nation, and BevMax, the intimacy of this all-too-important relationship is completely lost. You'll never see a friendly clerk carry out your purchases to the car in these places. You'll rarely see them offer to artfully gift wrap your purchases for free, and even deliver them that day to your all-important neighbor or best friend. You won't have a house account for daily necessities like cooking wine, beer for the gardener, and that last-minute hostess gift on your way to a dinner party. These big stores will categorically deny you when asked to donate or assist with your local Lion's Club Fundraiser, or annual Dogwood Festival, or Bastille Day parade. Your local wine shop will not only donate, but offer to pour wine at at your event, and knows most of the attendees by name or sight from their shop. When a limited-release special wine comes into the store, your local wine guy will drop you an email, a text, or a phone call to let you in on the secretly stash. You may even get special pricing that the big stores refuse to regular, loyal customers. Big box stores don't host intimate wine dinners with famous winemakers, or have invitation-only VIP Wine Tastings. The big boys sadly put the likes of great wines such as Mouton Rothschild next to Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc, in keeping with their strictly alphabetical arrangement, nearly "cooking" their fine wines in an over-heated retail space. Can you call Costco from your commuter train home and have them chill your favorite Chardonnay? I think not. How about selection? Sure those big box stores have Yellow Tail and Kendall Jackson Chardonnay stacked to the ceiling, but do they have the most fabulous Northern Italian Friulano you've ever tasted for $12? Do the people working in those big stores even know what that is? Do they care? Sadly, the answer is no. Their goal is to sell product with the least amount of physical or mental output from their under-qualified staff to save a few bucks. Your local wine guy has most likely been in the wine trade for decades, and probably has a few distinguished wine certifications under their belt. Lastly, does your big box store give you great restaurant recommendations? Do they know the owner of the hot new Bistro down the street? Can they give them a shout and have a cherry item from their wine list open and ready for you? I think not. Can they set you and your spouse up for a free tasting on your next California trip to Napa? Nope! Do you trust that the wine your just purchased is going to be exactly to YOUR tastes and delicious from the first to the last sip because your wine person KNOWS you? Has your big box clerk even TASTED any of the wines in their store? The answer is probably no. Shop local, win big. Get service, selection, support and a whole host of unexpected pleasures by forming a relationship with your local wine person. You'll be thrilled you did!