Buying wine from big box stores like Total Wine, BevMo, or (god forbid) the grocery store can be a headache. Often employees are more interested in moving stock than they are in matching you with the right bottle, and the store's collections can be hard to look through, or marketed based on irrelevant label design.
In the interest of finding great wine, and also supporting local, independently owned businesses, here are some alternatives to the fluorescent-lit monoliths of "bargain" booze.
Located on the southeast corner of 7th Avenue and Missouri, French Grocery is a Francophile's dream come true. Shoppers can find imported cheese, jam, whole grain mustards, and other Parisian necessities, while stopping by for a quick lunchtime Croque Monsieur. Let's be honest, though — we came here for the wine. Specializing in Old World wines, especially those from France (of course), French Grocery offers a wide range of labels from which to choose. Price points vary from affordable $10 bottles to nearly $100 stunners, such as an allocated release Bordeaux Grand Crus.
Hidden Track Bottle Shop
Downtown dwellers eagerly awaited the opening of Hidden Track Bottle Shop earlier this summer, and they have not been disappointed. Owners Danielle Middlebrook and Craig Dziadowicz have brought their extensive wine knowledge to Hidden Track, a hip shop tucked in the lobby of 111 W. Monroe. They've tasted, evaluated, and hand selected each bottle on the shop's ever-expanding shelves, and are equally skilled at guiding guests to the perfect label at the right price point. Along with a diverse selection of beers, Hidden Track also sells a small variety of gourmet pasta, sauces, chocolates, and nibbles to accompany your newly-discovered favorite wine.
Wandering into Tops Liquor is pretty similar to finding yourself in the midst of overloaded library basement stacks. There are boxes of back stock piled up along the walkways, and every shelf bursts with so many bottles that it would take you all day to look at each one. There's an equal split between New World and Old World wines and plenty of bottles in the $10 range that are better than their price tags would suggest. For casual wine drinkers, it's hard to beat Tops' selection and variety.
AZ Wine Company
While it's increasingly difficult in today's economic climate to compete with big box stores like BevMo and Total Wine, AZ Wine Company has been crushing the wine shop scene for more than 25 years. Filled with extensive selections from France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Arizona, and nearly everywhere else, AZ Wine Co also has multiple shelves heavily stocked with favorites such as Cabernet Saugivnons and Pinot Noirs. If there's something you want that they don't have, they're only too happy to put in a quick order for you, making AZ Wine Co one of the most hospitable wine shops in the Valley.
Sun Devil Wine Cellar & Pub
We love stopping by Sun Devil for its broad selection of wine, beer, and spirits, and its awesome tasting room hidden in the basement. Nobody will bat an eye if you're only there for a jug of Carlo Rossi, but Sun Devil also carries a wide variety of fine wines from all around the world. Sample some of the wines from the store's rotating tasting menu, and hang out in the cozy cellar for a while. Who knows, after staring at a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc while you savor your glass, you might just end up taking it home.
The Wine Store at Tarbell's
We can appreciate a bottle of cheap, delicious wine, but sometimes you need to pull out all the stops and splurge on an elite vintage. The Wine Store at Tarbell's can sometimes tout intimidating price tags, but the shop's wines are worth it. After taking over the space from Sportsman's in 2013, Tarbell's has put in place a stock of mainly New World wines that aims to impress. Better yet, they'll make special orders for rare and desirable wines that other stores may have difficulty getting their hands on.
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Gilbert Convenient Mart
While it may look like a typical liquor shop from the outside, only a fool would pass over a trip to Gilbert Convenient Mart. The stand-alone shop has a huge variety of liquor, beer, and wine, ranging from the grab-and-go variety to those what make you impressed with the selection. Knowledgeable staff will guide you through the store's collection of imported, domestic, and local wine. On our most recent trip, we were delighted to find the recently released Provisioner white wine, a trendy label not yet found on every bottle shop's shelf.
Duck & Decanter
We like stopping by Duck & Decanter's Camelback location to buy wine for a few reasons. The provincial market ambiance makes the tiny wine shop and bar feel like the public house of a small European town. While the bottle selection may not be vast, there are a few labels you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere. We particularly like grabbing a sandwich, picking a bottle of wine — or letting the barkeep direct us to one — and posting up for a while.
Red Goat Wine at Bodega Market
Adjacent to Scottsdale eatery FnB, Bodega Market has a wine selection that would make any enthusiast envious. With a splendid array of Arizona wine, the bodega also boasts a highly-curated collection of allocated and hard-to-find labels that are rare to find outside of restaurants. Members of the Red Goat Wine subscription club get first pick on some of the best labels, but we were excited to see a few bottles of Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge on the shelf, certain to be replaced soon by something equally as desirable.
Le Grande Orange
It's nearly impossible to find something to complain about the assortment of wines procured by LGO. There's a little bit of something for everyone, from nearly every wine-growing country, too. Shoppers can find all types of wine in most price ranges, from $9 bottles of Vinho Verde to $100 bottles of champagne. The wines are great to take home with a pizza or salad, or to take as a hostess gift to this weekend's dinner party.