I've bought wine from just about every place that sells it, online and brick and mortar. I've even bought wine from a gas station when funds were short. BevMo and Total Wine have changed the retail landscape of wine dramatically, one stop shops with comprehensive selections and aggressive pricing that are hard to resist. And when you are in a hurry, the grocery store offers real convenience, if limited selection. However, I learned recently that Village Wine Cellars in North Scottsdale is closing its doors at the end of this month.
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That news made me rethink my scattershot retail habits. There is no doubt that the big box wine store located just up Scottsdale Road is not just a little to blame for the demise of Village Wine Cellars which was a smart, charming, locally owned wine shop. I long ago stopped eating at chain restaurants and from here on out, I will be as choosy with where I purchase my wine.
There are several independent wine shops scattered around the valley and I urge you to spend your holiday money at one of them. Here are three of my favorites.
This place is as charming as it gets. A sandwich/gourmet/cheese and wine shop all rolled into one. You can get a sandwich and sit in the wine shop to eat it and browse with a glass of wine. They have all the basic regions covered with an interesting sparkling selection and more dessert wines than most places.
Tarbell's "The Wine Store"
Many of us were pretty bummed when Sportsman's closed. So when Mark Tarbell decided to take over his next door neighbor's space and reopen part of it as a wine store I let out a sigh of relief. The selection here is skewed heavily toward the domestic with an impressive collection of Oregon pinot noirs. They are definitely able to use the leverage of Tarbell's name to get their hands on difficult to obtain wines. I especially like the large and diverse number of wines kept and sold refrigerated.
This is the largest of my three favorites. They offer a bigger imported selection than the others with an especially large Italian aisle which I love. You can find high dollar Burgundy and Bordeaux or you can search the clearance rack always stocked with hidden gems.
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And finally, I won't "officially" put them on my list since my employer owns the shop, but I'd be wrong to not mention AZ Wine Merchants. Really a "nano" wine shop located next to FnB restaurant, the selection is very small but what's there is always interesting and off the beaten path. This is where you go when you want to try something you've never tasted or even ever heard of. They also specialize in Arizona wines so there's always a great selection of them.
If you shop at a local retailer that I didn't mention, by all means keep doing so, these are simply a few that I like. If you shop at the big box wine stores I hope you'll reconsider or this list will continue to shrink.
When I'm not writing this column or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find me pouring wine at FnB.