By Shana Sokol
Let’s face it; whether you’re standing in the pharmacy line at Duane Reade or getting sucked into the vortex of Bed, Bath and Beyond, running errands is a pain in the ass. With the holidays coming up fast and furious, the number of chores will expand exponentially and there’s a strong chance grabbing wine for a party or as gifts will be one of those tasks.
However, wine shopping should never evoke the same sense of dismay as say, fighting the crowds at Whole Foods. There are some excellent wine shops that make buying bottles a fun activity, whether it’s through sampling, events, a really cool staff, or just an easy-breezy experience. Here are 5 NYC shops that make wine shopping, dare I say it, enjoyable.
One of the largest shops in the city, USQ is one of your best bets for variety. They aim to represent wines from all across the globe and exploring the unknown is half the fun here. The other half? The tastings. The shop boasts enomatic machines, which are preservation systems with a rotating selection of wines available for sampling at a minimal fee. Even better are their Saturday afternoon tastings, which are some of the biggest in the city. Here, distributors bring in goodies for sampling, free of charge.
The wine shop for budding wine geeks, not only does the store boast a huge selection of bottles, they continually host classes in a separate classroom space. Wine, cocktails, sake, pairings; their education schedule is always packed with interesting and informative topics. Take them singularly or purchase a package and build your own curriculum at Wine U. Go Corkscrews! (ok, not the best mascot).
Bottlerocket is the CliffsNotes to Astor’s classes. The shop is large, bright, and easy to follow for those who are intimidated by wine and want simple instruction. Kiosks highlight wine selections based on usage, such as “Gifts for Your Boss” or “What To Drink With Takeout.” They also sort wines by price and take the stigma out of bargain hunting by proudly displaying “Cheap” offerings. Categorizing wines by lifestyle makes this a completely non-intimidating experience; purchase with confidence.
In a slightly industrial area of the West Village lies this stellar wine store. Their focus is on small production wines, so most everything you buy is going to be a rarity on the NYC retail market. Every Saturday they host informative tasting events that appeal to both novices and oenophiles alike. Want more? They offer private, reservation-only wine classes for those who really want to dig in.
What makes Moore Brothers stand out from the rest of this list is their personal connection to all the winemakers. Instead of buying from a large number of producers, they buy deeply into the portfolios of a select few. Like the Barolo from Proprieta Sperino? Then you will most likely love their Rose. And their Uvaggio, And their…. (you get the idea). They often host free tastings with the winemakers when they are in town, so you have the opportunity to make the personal connection yourself. Be forewarned; this shop is so dedicated to preserving the quality of their wines that they keep the shop at a chilly 56 degrees. Make sure to grab one of the fleece jackets at the door before you start shopping.
In a rush and can’t make it to the above places? Here are a few great neighborhood shops to grab a bottle (or three); all have a solid selection and knowledgeable staff who will get you through the holiday craziness with your sanity intact:
Tribeca: Vintry Fine Wines
Lower East Side: September Wine and Spirits
Chelsea: Chelsea Wine Vault
Upper West Side: Beacon Wines and Spirits
Upper East Side: Vintage Grape
Shana Sokol is a wine blogger, freelance writer and event planner living in New York City. She holds an Advanced Certificate from Wine and Spirit Education Trust and is a graduate of two programs from American Sommelier. Learn more at www.shanaspeakswine.com. Follow her musings on Twitter and Instagram (@ShanaSpeaksWine) or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ShanaSpeaksWine.