Smaller shops, we find, are more often where we turn when we're in search of just the right bottle. In the interest of finding great wine, and supporting independently owned businesses, here are some alternatives to the fluorescent-lit monoliths of "bargain" booze.
Hidden Track Bottle Shop111 West Monroe Street, #120
Downtown dwellers eagerly awaited the opening of Hidden Track Bottle Shop in 2015. Owners Danielle Middlebrook and Craig Dziadowicz have brought their extensive wine knowledge to the hip shop tucked into a building lobby. They've tasted, evaluated, and hand-selected each bottle on the ever-expanding shelves, and are equally skilled at guiding guests to the perfect label at the right price point. The shop has also created four wines inspired by some distinct Phoenix neighborhoods and has opened a second shop inside Practical Art — Hidden Track Bottle Shop Uptown.
Sauvage Bottle Shop901 North First Street, #109
Sauvage Bottle Shop is Chris Lingua's wine store inside The Churchill, and it's great. It contains the most thrilling selection of wine and wine-adjacent bottles in town. Lingua sells low-intervention wines, meaning natural-leaning bottles. This is progressive stuff, the opposite of your sleepy industrial cab from Napa. Lingua stocks biodynamic ciders, orange wines from the Puglia avant-garde producer Valentina Passalacqua, and experimental cocktails canned by alums of the groundbreaking Danish restaurant Noma.
The Montecito Bottle Shop704 West Montecito Avenue
Last fall, The Montecito Bottle Shop opened inside a middle suite in the Wagon Wheel Building in the Melrose District. The wine, beer, and cider shop is right next door to Restaurant Progress, which is convenient since it's run by the same small team. That means it carries the same simple, elegant vibe as its neighbor. Current picks include Florèz Wines Sauvignon Blanc "Shangra-li Mendo Savvy B" 2019, Brand "Wildersatz" 2019, and G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2016. Online ordering is available, as is curbside pick-up, but if you can, check out this well-designed shop.
Atlas Wines2515 North Scottsdale Road, #17, Scottsdale
It shouldn't surprise you that Atlas Wines neighbors Atlas Bistro because the latter has always pushed its BYOB policy, so it makes sense that a wine shop is immediately next door. In fact, it's the bistro's entrance. Formerly called AZ Wine Company, the independent boutique bottle shop specializes in representing independent wineries (other related businesses) from around the world. Some recent highlights include a 2012 Bond Quella, a 2010 Hundred Acre Few and Far Between, and a 1995 Chateau Pape Clement.
Tarbell's Wine Store3205 East Camelback Road
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. Tarbell's Wine Store can sometimes tout intimidating price tags, but the shop's wines are worth it. After taking over the space from Sportsman's back 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.
Duck & Decanter1651 East Camelback Road
We like stopping by Duck & Decanter 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 on the expansive patio.
Le Grande Orange Grocery4410 North 40th Street
It's nearly impossible to find something to complain about regarding the selection procured by Le Grande Orange Grocery. There's a little bit of something for every level of wine drinker, and 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.
Rift Wine + Tap431 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Rift Wine + Tap is overseen by Damien Kanser and Jonathan Coppins in a former convenience store next to the much-missed Rogue Bar. Kanser says the idea behind Rift is this: Beer shops often have so-so wine lists, and wine bars offer just okay-beer menus. Rift aims to provide the best of both, which is proven amid the racks and racks of wine (though canned wine is a thing here, too). Items range from a $4 can of Scarpetta Frico Lambrusco to a $95 bottle of 2015 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole DOCG.
Tops Liquors403 West University Drive, #104, Tempe
Wandering into the family-owned Tops Liquors is pretty similar to finding yourself in the midst of overloaded library basement stacks. There are boxes of back stockpiled 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, variety, and presence in central Tempe (it's been around since 1981).
ODV Wines1325 West University Drive, Tempe
ODV Wines is found in a section of Tracy Dempsey Originals. The latter is run by Pastry Chef Tracy Dempsey, the former mostly by her husband, Chuck Dempsey. While the Tempe wine shop offers a big selection of Arizona wines, it also stocks a vast variety of small-lot wines from around the globe. From around here, think Dos Cabezas Wineworks, Merkin Vineyards, Pillsbury Wine Company, and Los Milics Winery and Vineyards. From out there, think Fattoria le Pupille from Italy, Buil & Giné from Spain, and France's Clos Ste. Magdeline. Note: Call or email to schedule a time to shop privately or FaceTime shop with Tracy and do curbside pickup.
Gilbert Convenient Mart118 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
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 that make you stand in the aisle, overly impressed with the selection. Knowledgeable staff will guide you through the store's collection of imported, domestic, and local wine.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 3, 2015. It was updated on February 18, 2021. Cal Faber contributed to this article.