Here’s the thing about wine: unless you’re an expert in the field or you’ve tried a particular wine and know exactly the bottle your looking for, wine shopping can be an overwhelming experience. With aisles and rows of never ending wines and grapes and vineyards to choose from, it’s hard to make any decision without the opportunity to taste the wine – so your palate can tell you if it’s something you want to buy. It’s like seeing a pair of non-refundable jeans on a rack you love, and purchasing them spontaneously, hoping they’ll fit when you get home in all the right places. Trust us. We feel your pain.
For drinkers beginning their journey of wine as well as experts alike, there still is no method that better than going to your local wine shop to ask for some sage advice. Wine store owners or its employees are trained in all the people and places that make certain wines stand out. Without these brick and mortar stores, wine would have a hard time selling itself. Not only that, maybe it’s our old world, romantic notions about taking the time to connect with the people and things that are important to us, but nothing beats a conversation with an actual human about a subject we both love.
Our list of best wines stores in America has been compiled from our most trusted sources: wine people who know what they’re talking about. We put together a listing from Grub Street, Imbibe, and Food & Wine.
If you read through this list and think we missed any, let us know in the comment section below!
New York City
New York is chockablock with wine stores, but for a broad selection that also has a guiding (and very discerning) sensibility behind it, I head to midtown and Crush. The stock skews European, with both benchmark and up-and-coming producers, and offers one of the best Riesling collections in town. Look for anything from young hotshot winemaker Florian Lauer from the Saar, such as his 2015 Peter Lauer Fass 6 Senior Riesling.
It bears repeating that New York is the absolute best city in the world to buy wine. There’s no place where this is more evident than Chambers Street Wines. Its owners famously chose not to deploy Robert Parker–style points systems from the get-go, a dicey move because high scores tend to move product, and for 15 years the Tribeca shop has eschewed brand names in favor of wines from small producers they admire, or just discoveries from lesser-heralded regions. The result has not just been robust independence, but also a kind of alt-viticulture precognition. “They know what shape a lot of wine lists will take before they actually take shape,” is how a friend described this acumen, and he puts together wine lists for a living.
It’s easy enough to flash a photo of the limited-allocation Alain Graillot you had with the trout at Charlie Bird around town in the hopes of making a match. Because its website is so comprehensive, Astor saves you some trouble by letting you do the same thing with ease from home. (As a bonus, delivery options are also among the absolute best in the city.) The store famously moved from Astor Place to the De Vinne Press Building in 2006 and became something of a beneficent superstore in the process. Staff scramble to meet any need or budget, whether that’s a full case of decent, cheap cava for $100 (there are four to choose from), or a bottle for the friend mourning the death of her betta fish (Bloomer Creek Finger Lakes pét-nat, obviously). Not all stock in the nifty cool room is high-end — some of the fringe-y organic stuff just happens to be more volatile — but the rarities tend to be Sotheby’s-style ultra-rare. The entrance to the subterranean space is flanked with sweet specials on niche wines, and most cost less than $20. Tastings are always free and come with a 15 percent day-of discount. Astor is educational without being pushy, and staffers’ descriptions of wines are on point and pointed — ”I do not worship at his altar, but gosh is this wine well done,” goes one sample kicker. Well done indeed.
Ballers and novices pick through the floor-to-ceiling stock here, which is, hands down, one of the most handsome wine shops in town. The energetic staff seemingly add a handful of new picks each day, so while there’s Domaine Romanée-Conti on a sturdy rack somewhere, a good quotient of the 1,500 bottles, from workhorse Grüner Veltliners to the dark-pink, supercharged sparkler Renardat Bugey, tend to fall on the natural and sustainable side of things. Try a steely Petit Chablis that’s ready to be poured right now, or one of the handful of organic wines from the “$15 and Under” section. The grab-and-go table has more than 100 options that translate to great browsing, and in-store tastings often feature the winemakers up close and personal. One of them, Benoit Roseau, recently flew in to pour three of his Northern Rhone wines, a $20 Syrah and a $65 Condrieu among them. In other words, there’s something for everyone. (side note: WineNight works with Flatiron to send you your wine, so we may be a little biased. But we work with them because we think they are the best!)
SXSW, BBQ and a killer place to taste your way through DOCs and AOCs? Apparently Austin has it all. This locally owned shop has been supplying thirsty Austinites with world-class` wines since 1991. Though focused largely on European bottles, AWM also carries a smaller, but thoughtful selection of American wines.
This 18,000-square-foot warehouse in West Los Angeles is a wine geek’s dream destination (plus, markups tend to be modest, which never hurts). Small-production California offerings like the supple, dark cherry–flavored 2012 Woodenhead Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($42) are a specialty, and there’s an impressive lineup of classes.
K&L’s two Northern California locations are among the best sources for wine in the US. The staff is helpful, the selection spans great everyday bottles to ultra-sought-after rarities, and the prices are unbeatable. Recent case in point: the 2001 Château Branaire-Ducru ($80), a perfect-to-drink-now, cedary, classified-growth Bordeaux.
Staff members at this friendly wine shop are just as happy to procure a case of $9 a bottle everyday white as they are to share a taste of a decade-old Oregon red. There’s no snobbery here; just some good old-fashioned wine geekery.
This is a beautiful shop, with wines to match. Owner Nathan Adams has one of the most interesting wine selections in the country, always focused on cutting-edge, natural wines from the U.S. and Europe, with nearly equal attention given to both sides of the pond.
Located in the middle of downtown Boston, the Wine Bottega proclaims allegiance only to what owner Kerri Platt “real wine.” Platt is talking about natural, biodynamic wines, but more than that, she means wines that are “borne of the land.” Her shop is unassuming but well-stocked—a perfect place to start a love affair with wine.
Aptly named, Wine + Market has a little bit of everything. Gleaming white subway tiles line the walls, and rustic baguettes and pastries from local bakeries fill the counters. And then there’s the wine. Certified sommelier and owner Renee Brewer has built a perfectly curated selection, and lucky Lexingtonians can easily keep up with her finds weekly through newsletters and free tastings.