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The space: Cavernous; inventory is poorly organized
The service: Sparse but quite cordial
The selection: A wealth of familiar brands from the lower price spectrums (Blackstone, Cook’s, Ménage à Trois), with a few oddities (Chianti with a straw covering!)
Target customer: People looking for familiar brands at rock-bottom prices
Other libations: Virtually all of the usual suspects and a few more exotic choices
House brands/exclusives: None
The actual wines: In trying to find something distinctive, I sampled Newman’s Own California Cabernet Sauvignon ($9), Sockeye Central Valley (Chile) Pinot Noir ($11), the Bottaro Chianti ($8.50) and the Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Gris ($12). All were drinkable but just barely. This is probably not a great outpost for the adventurous wine drinker.
The space: Compact; inventory is well-organized
The service: Engaged, enthusiastic and knowledgeable
The selection: Often-unfamiliar brands with “cool” labels, plus a boatload of Charles Shaw/Two- (actually Three-) Buck Chuck; bonus points for carrying local stuff (WineHaven)
Target customer: People who are adventurous but very value-oriented
Other libations: Limited supply, mostly value-level but well-chosen
House brands/exclusives: Exclusives are labeled, often cryptically except for Trader Joe’s brands
The actual wines: A $10 Barbaresco (from exclusive brand Rocca dell’Olmo)? Believe it, and enjoy its soft, barbera-like goodness. The Black Mountain Pinot Noir ($7) and Trader Joe’s Coastal Zin ($5) were simple and consumer-friendly. The Trader Joe’s California Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ($6) was a buy-it-by-the-case fabulous find; the Villa Alena Moscato ($8) delicious.
Poll: Which 2013 Taste Holiday Cookie Contest entry do you most want to try?