Store Check: Joe’s Wines & Liquor, Memphis, TN

4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

joewswinesign

A family event brought us through Memphis, Tennessee one recent weekend, and a group dinner at Felicia Suzanne called for one special bottle of Malbec. But where to buy?

Quench, across from the Peabody Hotel, had a couple of decent mid-range Argentine reds, but nothing to write home about. A phone call to another recommended store, The Corkscrew, revealed little more than the same.

Time to consult Yelp, which revealed Joe’s Wines & Liquor, 10 minutes away in Midtown. A phone call quickly revealed this store was worth a visit.

IMG_1760

First of all, you have to love the retro Sputnik signage – your first clue this place is a cut above. And the Argentine red selection was very nice. While including the usual suspects like Achaval Ferrer Malbec, the always-delicious Luigi Bosca D.O.C., and Catena Alta, this proved the perfect place to explore the Terroir Series from Traphiche. These wines are designed to showcase very specific microclimates and soil.

FincaAmbrosia

Our choice was the Robert Parker 94-rated Trapiche Terroir Series Finca Ambrosia, 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5) which sources from Gualtallary. It was a big, bold and powerful New World red that demanded a good steak and at least a half hour of decanting. Honestly, I still found it opening up almost an hour after the cork came out.

At dinner, the wine accomplished its goal – which was to share with new friends the incredible artistry, story, taste and value of today’s Argentine malbecs. We can’t wait to try another bottle in the Terroir Series.

JoesInterior

Oh, and back to Joe’s. They have a super-friendly, knowledgable staff who is eager to share what they learned, and for you beer drinkers out there, a fantastic growler station which sells growlers as well as customized cans of draft with their own distinctive labels. I would characterize the wine prices as $3-5 higher than you might find at a Costco, but the convenience and expertise make Joe’s a very worthwhile visit indeed.

joesgrowlerstation

 

Store Check: Sherlock’s Wine Merchants, Atlanta, GA

4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

CostcoSherlocks

I can’t believe I’ve passed this place so many times without checking it out. Sherlock’s is the wine retailing offshoot of the Cook’s Warehouse gourmet stores.

Wow. Very knowledgable sales staff and really interesting, well curated choices.

However: expect to pay about 15% above discount prices for all this expertise. They sell the top of the line wine from Bodega TeHo at $71. (As noted in yesterday’s Store Check, the nearby Costco retails the same wine for $59.)

CostcoSherlocks 9

 

They offer the same winery’s more moderately priced ZaHa at $47. Costco lists it for $39. Most other prices follow suit.

Paul Hobbs’ Bramare Cab is respectfully priced at $42. No bargain but not highway robbery, either.

CostcoSherlocks 8

Still, it’s great to have an independent store with knowledgable advice – something you really won’t find in a big box retailer. Plus, they have fascinating, more obscure choices you won’t find on a retail shelf anywhere else in the city, including Saurus, a bottle I haven’t seen anywhere else in the US. We’ll explore their inventory further in the future.

ATL Liquor Store Smackdown: Tower vs. Green’s – Who has the Malbec?

TowerSign  GreensSign

Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Green’s Beverages 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

There are two major liquor store chains in Atlanta, and judging by the vast number of cars battling for parking spots on Valentine’s Day, both are doing gangbuster business.

Both are well priced and both offer discounts for cash. But for lovers of high-end Argentine wines, that’s where the similarities end.

Tower has a strong selection of wines from $12 to $40, including such vineyards as Achaval-Ferrer, Tikal, Luca, Bestial, and Zuccardi. They are well-chosen and well-priced, though you’re not going to find any rare or surprising choices.

TowerAisle1 TowerAisle2 TowerAisle3

In particular, they have Michel Rolland’s very respected Yacochuya for $30, the $60 Cheval des Andes and two of Cuvelier Los Andes’ wonderful wines, the $20 Coleccion and the $35 Grand Vin, which is an extremely good price for that bottle.

Green’s on the other hand, barely passes muster. They basically have the choices you’ll find at your typical grocery store. Very limited choices above $20. If you have to shop here I would grab a bottle of the Colomè Estate.

GreensAisle

But they DO have the aforementioned Cheval de Andes, for about $55, five dollars less than we found it at Tower. That just may be the best price in the city – and the one reason to make a detour to Green’s. You’ll find it in the cool room with the fancy California and French icon wines, away from the main aisles of the store.

GreensCheval

 

But otherwise, if you’re looking for great everyday drinking, head for Tower.

 

Store Check: Western Supermarket, Mountain Brook, AL

4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

 

The best place to buy wine in Alabama just may be… a supermarket.

Newcomers to the Birmingham area are shocked when neighbors tell them to go shop at this innocuous market in a Birmingham suburb for serious wine. Mountain Brook is one of the most affluent ZIP Codes in the country, and the well-heeled folks around here know a good bottle when they see one.

The Western in Mountain Brook has a full-time wine buyer who knows what he’s doing. The selection skews towards high-end Italian, American, and French wines. South Africa is also well represented.

And there is a very respectable Argentine inventory – I would say a little smaller than in previous years (I don’t particularly like that Spanish and Chilean wine starting to encroach on my Malbec aisle….) But you’ll find some interesting choices. The locals like Antis Reserve, Catena is respectably priced at $19.99 (but Costco has it cheaper) and there are some decent midrange selections like Luigi Bosca D.O.C, Enamore, and Vina Cobos’ low-end Felino. Alma Negra is fairly popular in Argentina, as I remember.

 

IMG_7178 IMG_7177 IMG_7174

 

Up on the top shelf are some of the Trapiche single-vineyards (highly rated), Cheval de Andes (a bit overpriced) and a number of things I’ve never heard of. Anyone tried these?

IMG_7176

For my money, the Western is one of the three best places to buy Argentine malbec in Birmingham. Shortly, I’ll be telling you about the other two.

 

 

 

 

Store Check: Whole Foods Market, Birmingham, AL

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Whole Foods hit town with an astonishing assortment of high end wines at grand opening. It looked like it was going to give neighborhood favorite Western Supermarket a real run for its money. A few years later, it seems that the $60-80 product (big California cabs, etc.) has been pared in favor of more sub-$20 choices.

wholefoodsaisle

The Argentine Red aisle looks fine, though it’s hardly the most compelling choice in town. But there are still two compelling reasons to shop here.

1) Since you can buy a bottle and drink a glass at the counter at the Brasserie while they cook you a grass-fed Tenderloin you’ve picked out yourself at the butcher shop, you can create your own poor-man’s parrilla right off US 280.

state-malbec2) The semi-annual 20% off case sale. The one to pick up here is Colomè Estate Malbec, priced at $28.99. It’s from Salta, in the northern provinces, and now owned by the Hess family out of Switzerland.

 

Store Check: Target

Target

2.0 Stars (2.0 / 5)

Love me some Target. Good prices, great pharmacy and a bit more fashion sense than other discounters.

But for all its much-vaunted design sensibility, Target isn’t terribly on target when it comes to Argentine red wines.

The selection is nothing to write home about, lacks even some of the common quality high-volume labels (even finding Catena malbec is hit or miss, depending on which location you are at) and the selection tends to skew towards those cute-label brands rather than anything labeled with the name of an actual winemaker who is proud of his craft.

If I had to pick up something here, it would be the Alamos Seleccion, which got a 90 from Robert Parker. It says Catena on the label and it is a product of that family but it’s from different vineyards and is actually imported by (gasp) Gallo.

Second choice would be Punto Final but the reserve version of this wine is much better than the black label.

The Terrazas (huge seller in the States) is appropriately located on the bottom shelf. I’m not a fan of their wines.

Personally, I would buy my socks, grab a Starbucks latte, and plan to make one more stop at the wine store before heading home.