Posts Tagged ‘wine store’

Wine Retail: Bottle King – Values All Around

July 3, 2012 5 comments

It’s been a while since I talked about wine stores in this blog, so may be it is time to tell you about another one of my favorite wine stores (here you can read about other stores from that same “wine stores to love” list – Cost Less Wine and PJ Wine). Today I want to bring to your attention a store in New Jersey called Bottle King – well, actually it is a group of 14 wine stores, all located in New Jersey, plus the online store called The Wine Buyer, so even if New Jersey is far away for you, you can enjoy great values.

The store I usually shop at is located in the town of Glen Rock in northern New Jersey, so this is the store I’m writing about. Bottle King sells everything from beer to wine and to all kinds of liquors, plus stores have a section called The Vineyard Market, where cheeses and such are sold. Interestingly [sadly] enough, wine stores in Connecticut are prohibited from selling of any of the food items – one day I will write a big rant blog post about stupidity of the laws and regulations we have around alcohol… one day. Anyway, let’s go back to the Bottle King wine stores. For me the major feature of the store is wine – but liquors section shouldn’t be ignored, as while it is on the smaller side, the selection, variety and prices are quite good (not that you can really see it in the photo below, but I tried).

The whole store can be essentially described in one word – value. In any department, there are always lots of great values to be found. Also the concept of “value” is delivered on multiple levels.

First, Bottle King runs loyalty program called “BK Club”. The program is free and easy to sign up for. Once you have a BK Club membership, all you need to do is to look for the special prices advertised for BK Club customers:

In addition to BK Club deals, there are always many wines on sale, and certain items might be even on “super-sale” which in a lot of cases represents really great buying opportunity. Last but not least, every time you buy a case of wine, there is 20% discount applied to all non-sale and non-club items (but those count towards the case).

Wine is mostly organized by the country, and then by the grape (depending on the size of the country’s section). If you are looking for the value, the section you want to be heading to is Portugal – it is one of the closest to the entrance and it is the section where I usually start my walk around.

Here is a look at the shelf in that Portugal section:

Just to explain in more practical terms what I mean by value, here is an example of the wines you can find in that Portuguese section.

These two wines, made by Fado, cost $4.99 each. 2011 Fado White (13% ABV) has very nice nose with the hint of fresh-cut grass and fresh lemon – just a hint, it is not “in your face” wine. This continues on the palate, with light herbs and citrus notes, perfect acidity, round and balanced (Drinkability: 7+).

2010 Fado Red (13.5% ABV) has medium body, nice red fruit on the nose, more red fruit and again some herbaceous notes with some plums on the palate, soft tannins and good balancing acidity (Drinkability: 7+). Would either of these wines carry a label of France or California, you would gladly pay $20+ for them and still consider it to be a good value.

In addition to Portugal, the same shelf is shared by sparkling wines (not a bad selection, but mostly focused on mainstream France and Italy, lacking growers’ champagne, some of the artisan US sparklers, and also limited in Cava options). You can also find a few wines from South Africa and Greece, but literally only a few different bottles.

There is a decent choice of New Zealand and Australian wines. Spanish wines are underrepresented to my taste, but still have some good values from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat and so on.

California takes a very significant part of the store, sorted by variety, and of course having a lot of great values in every category.

France is really comes second after California in the amount of the shelf space it is occupying:

And there are plenty of values to be found in the French section:

France is focused on Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone, with addition of Languedoc and Loire – if you are looking for obscure Jura wine, this most likely will not be the place for you. Italy is closely trailing France in the amount of shelf space it is occupying, and has good representation of all main regions.

You will also have no problems finding wines from Chile and Argentina, as well as Port (lots of great selections, including super-discounted vintage port from time to time).

I can’t really comment on effectiveness of the service, as I had been offered help a few times, but always declined, as my strong preference is to browse the selection on my own terms, and I don’t really know sometimes what exactly I’m looking for (well, okay, I’m looking for the signs of super-sale and overall the amazingly priced wines, but please keep it a secret). I would love to see people at the cash register a bit more smiling and welcoming (send them for training to the Trader Joe’s, may be?), but hey, value can’t come without some expense, can it?

All in all, Bottle King stores are definitely worth a visit, even if you have to take a special trip – by the way, they are open tomorrow, July 4th, in case you got some time…

That’s all, folks. Cheers!

Stew Leonard’s Wines: Meeting Winemaker Chester Osborn

September 28, 2010 1 comment

A few times lately I have come across blog posts talking about too many wines on the shelves of the stores and poor consumers being intimidated and having troubles to find what they want. Quite honestly, I find this annoying – I believe convincing consumers that they should be intimidated is the wrong thing to do. Why am I annoyed with this? Very simple. Today, you need a very few things to navigate the world of wine and feel comfortable. One is desire to learn (if someone doesn’t want to learn, it makes no sense to complain that one can not). Learning about wines simply means trying them and making an effort to remember what you like and what you don’t. Another helpful thing – finding a good wine store.

There are quite a few good wine stores where I live – I do plan to write a separate blog post (or may be a few) covering some of those in more detail. One of such good wine stores is Stew Leonard’s Wines in Norwalk, CT. What makes the wine store “good”? It is easy to navigate, it has helpful and knowledgeable personnel,  and it is helping you to learn about wines. You got all of that at Stew Leonard’s Wines – easy to navigate, helpful staff and great education. What do I mean by education? When it comes to wines, education consist of learning about wines and tasting them. One of the ultimate forms of “education” then is when you can learn from the best and taste excellent wine – and did I mention that it is usually free? Yep, it is free and available, almost every Friday and Saturday, again, thanks to the folks at Stew Leonard’s Wines. Every Friday and and Saturday, you can come to the store for the wine tasting, and if you are lucky – you will also learn from the winemaker, as it was the case last Friday, September 24th , when Chester Osborn, winemaker of the famed Australian winery, d’Arenberg, was presenting his wines.

d’Arenberg produces quite a few different wines in the McLaren Vale region in the South Australia, of course with Shiraz being a star grape. Five different wines were presented at the tasting. First, Lightly Oaked Chardonnay – it is actually very nice and simple, with clear fruit and light oak expression. Then comes The Stump Jump 2008, which is also should be known at GSM. GSM stands for Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, and it is a blend modeled after wines from Southern Rhone. It is also interesting to note that Friday, September 24th was the First International Grenache Day which was proudly stressed by Chester holding up the bottle of GSM. Stump Jump is a very nice and approachable wine with great and powerful fruit expression. The next wine was classic The Footbolt Shiraz 2007 (Footbolt actually was the name of the horse), nicely showing spicy bouquet of MacLaren Vale’s shiraz (need my rack of lamb wit that one). And then the flagship Dead Arm Shiraz 2006 – great wine which will need another 15-20 years to be enjoyed fully, very earthy and dense, drinkable now, but boy, will it evolve! In case anyone wonders, the Dead Arm has nothing to do with human body parts – the name is related to the grapevine disease, which can kill part of the plant, producing “dead arm”, or a “dead branch” – in this case the grapes on the surviving part have very high flavor concentration.

And  last wine presented was Sticky Chardonnay – beautiful desert wine, made from Chardonnay grapes, exhibiting honey and white peaches notes, all with nice minerals, acidity and green apple bite. At $9.99, the wine of such quality is a pure steal. All in all, it was a pleasure meetings Chester d’Arenberg Osborn, learning from him and experiencing his wines.

To complete the story, I would like to include a picture of the great folks from Stew Leonard’s Wines, including Stew Leonard Jr. himself:

Going back to where we started – it is not difficult to learn about wines today – all you have to do is make an effort. As one of my teachers was saying, when the student is ready, the teacher will come…

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