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Choosing a Wine Store

Blueprint, 2006

Picking the right wine store means you always have someone to pick the right wine. Peter Marks, a Master of Wine and the wine director of Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, in Napa, California, explains:

Listen to recommendations from friends.
Good retailers usually have good reputations.

Take a good look around.
Are the wine bottles usually dust-free and out of the sun? Does the store have a consistent temperature of below 70 degrees? Is there a newsletter or website to educate customers? Are the small descriptive signs next to the bottles ("shelf talkers") actually written by someone who works in the store, or are they just copied from a wine magazine?

Be brave.
A good relationship doesn't happen by chance. You have to open up and describe the wine you want, and that includes a price range. The salesperson should listen and then help determine which wine is right by asking questions, not just offering you the deal of the moment.

Be proactive.
Keep a notebook and record your impressions of the wine, returning with specifics. Ideally, this information will help the salesperson steer you far enough out of your comfort level to expand your horizons.

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