Archive for the Shopping for Wine Category

WINE SHOP WARS – HOPS N GRAPES VS. THE MONSTER

Posted in Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine with tags , , , , on July 8, 2010 by ballymote

It may not be an officially declared full scale combat but when two business selling the same product are located so close to one another that the last digit on my odometer didn’t change driving from one to the other, it has to be some sort of undeclared conflict.

Last night I compared a few different wine prices at the two stores and made some observations. Overall, Hops n Grapes has better prices on the approximately ten wines I checked on with Monster only being less expensive on one or two of my choices. There are some other noticeable differences in the two stores and they way they promote their wines. Hops n Grapes utilizes the internet and e-mails “daily special” coupons that offer “one day only” sales of about 10 to 15% off a featured wine. Not many of the wines offered were ever of much interest. I’d say roughly every 15th offer is worth pursuing but, your mileage may vary.  They also offer buyers “credits” which appear to be about 2% when you use your Hops n Grapes card for each purchase.

Monster does not use the Internet. Their approach to wine “sales” appears to be two-fold. Many of their wines are marked with two prices. One is purported to be the retail price while the lower is the “Club” price. It appears to me that the lower or “club” price is what the wine SHOULD sell for. In many cases, Monster’s “club” price equaled Hops n Grapes regular every day price. The good folks at Circle Liquors in Somers Point use a similar pricing system. There are a few legitimate good buys at Monster, they can be identified by an orange  price tag.

Here are a few of the comparisons I made between the two stores.

2008 Tres Picos

Monster  Reg. 16.99

                  Club.14.99

Hops n Grapes 13.99

 

2008 Can Blau

Monster 17.99

Hops n Grapes 14.99

 

 

 2006 St. Francis Napa Cab

Monster  21.99

Hops n Grapes 20.99

 

 

 2008 Panarroz

Monster 9.99

Hops n Grapes 7.99

 

2008 Erath Pinot Noir

Monster Reg. 18.99

                 Club 16.99

Hops n Grapes 18.99

 

2008 Bodegas Borsao

Monster 8.99

Hops n Grapes 6.99

 

On the high end wines, Monster has a glass case with about 50 top of the line wines. Hops n Grapes has an excellent premium wine selection with hundreds of good choices. In fairness, Monster has improved their selection over the past few years in response to the arrival of Hops n Grapes. They may be a little higher in price but if you have the time it’s worth checking out both places for the wine you are looking for.

A GREAT CASE OF 90 POINT WINES FOR UNDER $100.00

Posted in Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine, Wine Ratings with tags , , , , , , on April 3, 2010 by ballymote

You could spend almost $100 on a case of Beringer White Zinfandel (yuck) or Turning Leaf Merlot (double yuck). It’s not easy to find really good wines where you can select 12 bottles for less than 100 bucks and know that you have wines that you could proudly serve to the most discriminating wine snobs like myself. So where is this great grape bargain taking place, you may ask?  Well, for those of you in South Jersey or even those willing to journey across the bridge from Philly, you can, for a limited time, find these wines in Marlton, NJ at my favorite wine store, Canal’s Bottle Stop on Route 70 just pass the Rt 73 Circle. Here are the wines that will make up your money-saving case:6 bottles of 2008 Bodegas Borsao Campo De Borja priced at $6.49

3 bottles of 2007 Bodegas Alto Almanzora Este Almeria at $8.88

3 bottle of 2008 Marquis-Philips “Sarah’s Blend” at $10.99

The total for the 12 bottle prices out at $98.55

The Borsao is made from 80% Garnacha and 20% Tempranillo and is rated 89 Points by Wine Spectator.

The Este Almanzora is a blend of 6 grapes and comes from Spain, as does the Borsao, the two primary grapes being 45% Monastrell and 25 % Tempranillo, and is rated 90 points by The Wine Advocate.

The Marquis-Philips “Sarah’s Blend” is from Australia and composed of 63% Shiraz and 26% Cabernet with a splash of Merlot and Cab Franc and is rated 91 points by The Wine Advocate.

Three terrific wines at a very affordable price. Stop reading NOW and head on over to Canal’s BottleStop in Marlton before the prices increase. I can’t think of a better way to spend one hundred dollars!!

I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM WRITING ABOUT A NEW JERSEY WINERY

Posted in Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine with tags , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by ballymote

Wine snobs, like myself, have long contended that the only wine made in the USA worth drinking must come from California, Oregon or Washington state. I can not tell you I have sampled lots of NJ wines. I simply don’t give them a chance because, the few I have had, have been undrinkable, and I, like many others, live by the creed that “life is too short to drink bad wine.”

So, when someone sent me a Craig LaBan (food critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer) article from the newspaper titled “Wines of NJ Draw Fans”, I read it with a large degree of skepticism. The piece featured the Sharrott Winery in Winslow Township, just a few miles from my home. In all honesty, I have never been there and prior to the article, never even knew it existed. It seems that among the wines they produce  is a Cabernet Franc that was just awarded a Gold Medal at the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I also learned that it is available at one of my favorite wine stores, Hops n Grapes in Glassboro. I was impressed enough by what I read that I am planning to purchase the Sharrott Cab Franc as soon as this damn snow stops long enough to enable me to visit Hops n Grapes. I will make certain that in the next few days I provide a report on my impressions of what I have for many years felt was an impossibility, a good wine, lovingly nursed to the bottle from the vine, here in the Garden State. Stay Tuned!

THE BIG HOUSE WINE COMPANY

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine, The Big House Wine Co. with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by ballymote

If you’d like to drink good wine and don’t have the time to invest in learning a whole lot or the money to invest to assure quality in your wine purchases, then you need to know about the Big House Wine Company.

Based just a stones throw from the Soledad State Prison in California, The Big House Wine Company knows how to have fun with wine in addition to making some good juice. Their winemaker is known as The Warden and their wines all reflect names associated with the inner-workings of the criminal justice system. They make a Big House Red, a Big House White and a Big House Pink. In addition, Georgetta Dane, the Winemaker…..oops Warden, who hails from Romania and has a penchant for the more European grape varietals, produces a few other criminally indulgent wines. I would suggest you try all three of these.

THE SLAMMER – 85% Syrah 15%Petit Syrah

WARDEN’S COMMENTS
This is a full-bodied Syrah, forceful; perhaps even a bit “dangerous” dare I say (that’s why he’s locked up in solitary). Muscular and deeply concentrated this wine has a nose of sweet black berry jam and hints of dark chocolates. Balanced and well structured, it bodes a well-rounded mouthfeel and a long, pleasant aftertaste. This wine can be enjoyed now or cellared for several years.

THE LINEUP - 49% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre, 1% Mixed Red

WARDEN’S COMMENTS
GSM is a colloquial and friendly name attached to that venerable style developed within spitting distance from the Pope’s French incarceration camp (it was actually a palace, but hey he’s the Pope) in Avignon. While the Central Coast has many micro-climates, some are very similar to the Southern Rhone valley. Each variety plays a part in the overall gestalt of this wine; blackberries and spiciness from the Syrah, raspberries and a hint of rose petals from the Grenache, and Mourvedre offers hints of truffles as well as the structure of a muscular backbone.

THE PRODIGAL SON - 100% Petit Syrah

WARDEN’S COMMENTS
Arresting hue of this very deep and dark red, is an attesting to the beauty of the boy. The bouquet is muscular with black fruits, blackberries, and cassis dominating the introduction. Then a whiff of anise sets in, followed by a whisper of smoke and white pepper. The palate follows the nose with lip smacking blackberry and currant. Flavors then intertwine chocolate, spice in a swirl of bodacious body, that one would consider gravitas. All of this delight leaves you longing for another sip, before ending with a hint of vanilla, oak, and spice.

If you are not yet tempted to try one of the wines from Big House Wines, here are three more tidbits offered to tempt you. All of their wines are under $10.00. All of their wines come with twist-off caps. They have a web site that is fun to explore just based on the creativity and wit of the designers and you would enjoy touring the “correctional facility” even if you hate wine! So, do yourself a flavor favor and pick up a bottle of any of the Big House Wines. They are available almost anywhere that wines are sold. You can thank me later!

 

A QUICK GUIDE TO RECENT WINE VINTAGES

Posted in Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine, Wine Ratings with tags , on November 12, 2009 by ballymote

Haut_Brion_lineupWhy does buying wine have to be so damn hard? It’s bad enough that you have to select from thousands of possibilities but you also have to choose a wine from the right vintage. Vintage refers to the year that the wine was produced. Remember, most wines, at least the ones we want to drink, spend a certain amount of time in some sort of barrels. By the time the wine is on the shelves of our local wine merchant, a year and probably somewhat more, has passed. I’m not going to go thru every year and describe the wines of that vintage but here are a couple of hints on the better vintages in some of the wine growing regions since the start of this decade.

wine collage

If you are looking for the best that France has to offer you will want to buy wines from the 2005 or 2000 vintage. Both of these years were outstanding and the wines from these years are, for the most part, great examples of how good French wines can be. A word of caution; because these vintages were so good, you can expect to pay more for wines from 2000 and 2005.

Italy is another very popular place for wine enthusiasts. There are several different wine growing areas in Italy with contrasting climates, so that one can not uniformily give the entire country one vintage rating. For now, we will just focus on Tuscany and the wines of Chianti. The best years of this decade were 2006 and 2004. Remember, when you are shopping for Chianti spend the extra money and always choose the Chianti Classico Riserva. It’s the good stuff!

If you are a fan of California Cabernets you might want to narrow your search to bottles from 2007, 2001, 2005, or 2002. This isn’t to say wines from other vintages aren’t good. It simply means these were the years that lent themselves, through good weather, to better grapes, allowing the wine makers to work their charms.

If Australian wines float your boat you should select from 2005, 2001, 2002 or 2006, in that order, especially wines from Barossa or McLaren ValeIMG_2436 (see my earlier post on “my all-time favorite wine”, the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz). The wines of 2005 from this area are rated higher than both 01 and 02 but as good as the 05’s might be I honestly feel that the great wines from McLaren Vale in both 01 and 02, far surpass even the 05 in drinkability. Discovering the sheer power and balance of the that 2001 Shirvington was one of the great wine-tasting events in my life.

Wines from Spain are the new rage and the prices are, for the time being, very reasonable. In a few years, as their popularity increases, you can expect to pay more for Spanish wines. If you want to look for the better vintages I would suggest 2004 or 2001 with 2005 close behind. Unfortunately, wines from Spain don’t spend a lot of time on the shelves so it’s possible all you will see are bottles from newer vintages. Don’t let that deter you, as even the current wines can be a great compliments to all kinds of foods.

The Malbecs from Argentina have had outstanding ratings in each of the last five vintages, so for you, this is a no-brainer. Any bottle of Malbec from Argentina is from a good vintage, and many are available for $10.00 to $12.00. It’s up to you to try a few different producers and settle on the one you find most enjoyable.

For Oregon Pinot Noirs, the vintage now on most shelves, the 2008’s, are rated higher than any other vintage of this decade. Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varietals and the ones from Oregon are excellent. The more you are willing to spend for these, the better your chances of experiencing the true flavors of this grape varietal.

As you might have noticed, my preference is for red wines. I do acknowledge that there is room in life for white wines. With that in mind, if you like Chardonnay from sunny California, I would suggest the vintages from 2005 with 2007 and 2004 just slightly behind.

In Germany, the Rieslings from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, 2005 vintage were outstanding with excellent wines also being produced in both 2006 and 2001.

BookHoursThere are many web sites online where you can find vintage charts. Some are downloadable as pocket fold-ups that can be carried in your wallet and used as a resource when you are browsing the wines shelves. Remember, good wines can come from any vintage. There are wine makers working all over the world who are talented enough to create good wines from bad vintages. Hopefully, the information I have given you here will help you find the best that each wine growing country has to offer.

SHOPPING FOR WINE ONLINE – and finding lots of bargains in one place !

Posted in Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine, Wine Lists with tags , , on October 8, 2009 by ballymote

wine blog pics 41I went online last night to see if I could find enough good to very good wines that would make up a case of wines (12 bottles) for under $100.00. It was my intention to split up my shopping amongst several local wine outlets. Where I went wrong was in beginning my search at Hops and Grapes in Glassboro, NJ. I found so many wines on sale that I was able to fill my case without leaving their “online” location. These are not just any wines. They are wines that I have enjoyed, most within the last year. Lots of them have excellent scores from Parker or the Wine Spectator and not one of them cost more than $9.99. In being totally honest, the case I selected actually totaled out at $103.77 but who is gonna quibble about $4.00 and for all I know, you might get a case discount.

wine toastHere are the 12 wines I selected for my bargain case and their individual prices. Keep in mind, these are all good wines that I would recommend to friends and family. They represent a variety of wine making regions and all are currently priced at under their usual retail prices. They may not fall into the category of “special” wines but they certainly qualify as excellent “everyday” wines that would compliment virtually any meal. In no particular order, here are the 12 wines that made up my ONLINE SHOPPING Case.

2007  FALESCO VITIANO (ITALY) a Cabernet/Merlot/Sangiovese blend    $8.98

2007  BORSAO RED WINE (SPAIN)  (stick a couple of these in the case if you are intent on keeping the cost under $100. This is a steal!) $6.99

2005 FLAVIUM, CRIANZA (SPAIN) $8.99

2005 COLUMBIA CREST, TWO VINES, VINEYARD 10 (CALIFORNIA)    $7.99

2007 FINCA LUZON, JUMILLA (SPAIN)  $7.98

2006 YARD DOG RED (AUSTRALIA)  $8.99

2007 CUPCAKE , PETITE SYRAH (CALIFORNIA)  $8.98

2004 E. GUIGAL, COTES DU RHONE (FRANCE)   $9.98

2007 CASTANO, MONASTRELL, YECLA (SPAIN)  $7.98

2006 CLINE, RED TRUCK (CALIFORNIA)    $8.95

2008 BITCH, GRENACHE (AUSTRALIA)   $8.98

2006 PAUL JABOULET, PARALLEL 45, ROUGE (FRANCE)   $8.98

REMEMBER – FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS DRINK WHITE ZINFANDEL !!

NOW WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS? A GUIDE TO BUYING FOREIGN WINES

Posted in Info on Wine, Shopping for Wine with tags , , , on September 1, 2009 by ballymote

It was always my intention to make every post on this blog something original. A creation of my own mind for better or worse. I recently came across this article which has forced me to make an exception, hopefully, a rare one, to this rule.

Mike Steinberger is the Wine Writer on Slate Magazine. Slate is an online magazine that covers the entire spectrum of news and presents it in unique and interesting ways. Many of their articles have been quoted by all the major news outlets.

On May 6, 2009 Mike wrote an article for Slate titled “Never Buy Bad Wine Again”; Slate’s Guide to the Importers You Can Count On. This is an excellent article on a  topic I am passionate about which is how to get the general public, the wine novices, to stop buying bad wines. One slightly limiting thing about this article is that it only refers to foreign wines; those imported into the USA from regions like France, Italy, Germany, Australia, etc. This will not help you with California wines.  You can go to Slate.com and read the entire article but the key piece is a printable, fold-able card that you can carry in your wallet listing the best importers. When you visit your local wine outlet simply use this card to compare the importer listed on the bottle to the list of the best importers on your card.

Blog pics 010

 

 

 

 

 

 

I  would point out that there is one excellent importer of Australian wines NOT listed on this handy card. I strongly suggest you add the name Grateful Palate Imports to the back of this card and look for them when wine shopping. Good Stuff!

WINE SHOPPING AT THE JERSEY SHORE

Posted in Shopping for Wine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2009 by ballymote

Perhaps a better title for this post would be Wine Shopping at and on the way to the Jersey Shore. I took the opportunity of my week in Avalon to visit a number of wine outlets to see what was available to those on vacation in the area. What I found was that the selection varies greatly from store to store as do retail prices. I guess it’s only natural to expect to pay a little more for all items, including wine, when you are on vacation and that pretty much proved to be the norm. Here is a breakdown on the places I visited.

BUENA DISCOUNT LIQUORS IMG_2619

This one is located on Route 40 just pass the intersection of Route 54 in the town of Buena using the back roads to the Jersey Shore. The first thing that caught my eye was the preponderance of local wines from NJ vineyards throughout the area. If you are looking for your favorite Blueberry wine, and who isn’t, this would be the place you’d want to be shopping. They also have a large selection of what I refer to as “plonk” wines, the Cavits, Hacienda’s, Turning Leaf’s of the wine world. If you search real hard though you can find a handful of decent choices such as Franciscan Cab at $25.99, the always dependable, Menage a Trois red blend at $11.49. For the real Aussie fans there is even a couple of Two Hands Shirazes, Lily’s Blend at $56.99 and Angels Share at $33.99.  It’s not a place where I would spend much time browsing the selections but you can find something of interest in a pinch.

CAMPARK LIQUORS IMG_2560

Located on OceanView-Woodbine Rd in Woodbine NJ, this store sits a few miles from busy Rt 9 which leads to access to many Jersey shore resort towns. You would expect that a wine outlet in this area would have a well-stocked and varied supply of wines. You’d be wrong. Campark’s focus is on beer and maybe I shouldn’t blame them as there is no question beer is the drink of choice for the hordes arriving for vacations at the beach. The few wines aside from the “plonk” brands that are available would be the Columbia Crest “Two Vines” series that usually sell for about $7.99 elsewhere marked at $12.99 at Campark. The always dependable Ruffino Chianti Classico Reserva is there for $29.99 and if you want to spend a few bucks for a Chardonnay there is the Husic at a brisk $44.99. One interesting find on a shelf marked “Sale Wines” was a lone bottle of Cockburn Vintage Port 1997, for $34.99. This usually sells for $65 – $80. I was tempted, but ended up being concerned as to how well it had been preserved in this store. Interestingly, this Campark Liquors sold one of the two winning tickets in the 2007 Mega Millions Jackpot of 350 million dollars. Buying a lottery ticket would be a better idea than buying a bottle of wine here. Just my opinion, though.

FRED’S AVALON LIQUOR STORE IMG_2559

Located at 23rd and Dune Drive, Avalon Liquor Store manages to cram an awful lot of stock into its meager space. I am pleased to report that although you will definitely pay a few more sheckles per bottle than back in your own neighborhood, Avalon Liquor has a tremendous selection of quality wines available year round. Their Australian collection is top notch with all of the Mollydookers available including the top of the line Velvet Glove ($224.99).  The entry level Mollydookers such as The Boxer, The Maitre’d and Two Left Feet are all $32.99 as compared to $28.99 and $24.99 in most wine outlets. If the lottery ticket you bought at Campark Liquors turns out to be a winner you might purchase the 2005 Chateau Pavie for $550.00 (about $50.00 more than most places charge). They have an excellent selection of Pinot Noirs, Cabernet’s and Zinfandels. They also have some of my favorite QPR wines available such as Pillar Box Red for $13.99 (12.99 at home) and Strong Arms Shiraz $11.99 ($9.99 at home). It takes awhile to make sense of the layout of the wines but there is enough good stuff in this store to keep a wine geek busy browsing for quite some time. Kudos to Avalon Liquor for being a top notch wine outlet in a town with some really good BYOB’s.

KIX PACKAGE GOODS IMG_2561

Located at 6400 Landis Ave. in Sea Isle City, Kix is a good place to buy your beer for your time at the shore. There wine supply is limited and not very impressive. They have all the usual plonk suspects and a few real wines such as Zin 91 at $18.99, a Silver Oak Cab for more money than I wanna spend and the always present Ruffino Chianti Classico Reserva at $31.99. My advice would be to grab a six pack of Smythwick’s at Kix and pay the $1.50 to drive over the bridge into Avalon and get your wine at Avalon Liquors; but hey, that’s just me!

SHOPPING FOR WINE: MY FIVE FAVORITE SOUTH JERSEY WINE STORES

Posted in Shopping for Wine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2009 by ballymote

A Canal’s by any other name is not necessarily a Canal’s. There are not many places in South Jersey where people live that you wouldn’t find a Canal’s within five or six miles. The problem is all Canal’s are not created equal. You might even say that no two Canal’s are alike when it comes to wine. Some have excellent selections with knowledgeable help and others have a very boring selection with staff who are lacking in wine savvy. Despite the disparity, I am certain that the many outlets doing business under the names Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlets and Joe Canal’s do the majority of the wine business in South Jersey. Two of those locations make my Top Five South Jersey Wine Shops. Here are my 5 Favorites and 2 that receive Honorable Mention. One caveat before I announce my choices. There are some locations that I am just not familiar with for one reason or another and it is entirely possible that I am excluding some very good places. All of these stores are simply my own personal opinion.

#5 Total Wine and Spirits, Cherry Hill, NJblog pics 006

Total is a national mega wine super-store with over 8000 wine selections in each location.  Founded in 1991 by brothers, David and Robert Trone,  Total has grown each year and now have multiple locations in 8 states. There are several things I like about shopping at Total Wines. Their staff is very knowledgeable and often are taken on trips to various wine regions of the world where they get to sample lots of different wines. Each store contains selections that are titled “staff favorites” and although there is freedom to shop on your own there is also a staff member nearby to offer advice. Additionally, they have on hand in each store the Total Guide to Wine which has over 450 pages of information on wines and wine regions. Admittedly, this big, glossy guide becomes an advertisement for the particular wines  that are stocked at Total but, hey, it’s free, it’s informative and you can’t blame them for pushing their own brands. That brings us to my one major complaint about Total Wines; they really DO push their own brands. Even though there are over 8000 different wines there are a lot of popular, good wines from all regions that are not on the shelves at Total. The average buyer will have no trouble finding something of interest and you can totally trust the staff selections. A true “wine geek” could spend hours strolling the aisles of this, my #5 favorite wine shop.

#4 Moore Brothers, Pennsauken, NJblog pics 005

The directions to Moore Brothers posted on their web site has a caveat that says “your GPS will NOT find us”.  They are located just off Route 130 North on Cooper River Park Drive and they are worth finding.

Years ago, when my love of wine was in it’s infancy and I was reading all I could and visiting wine stores to peruse the shelves I had reached a point where I felt I was familiar with the names of 90% of the worlds wines, even if I hadn’t tasted a large percentage of them. Every once in awhile in my reading or in conversations with others I would hear the name “Moore Brothers”. One day I came across a list of the wines they carry in their store. Unlike Total Wines and their 8000 choices, Moore Brothers only carried a couple hundred and very few were from California. None were from my then favorite region, Australia. I was perplexed. Reading thru the list I don’t think there were 3 names of wineries that I was familiar with at the time. I thought to myself, why even bother checking this place out when I don’t have the time to try the thousands of wines I am already familiar with but have not yet tasted and, why would a wine store decide to carry brands that no one has heard of?

Founded by David and Greg Moore, Moore Brothers now has two other locations outside of NJ. These are located in Delaware and New York City. Their philosophy on wine explains their selections. They stock only wine from small growers primarily in France, Italy and Germany. They develop relationships with the growers, visit their farms, almost become a part of their families. They have a tremendous respect for the grapes and the people who grow them. All of their wines are shipped at 56 degrees and the store temperature is kept at 56 degrees. You will see the staff wearing jackets on the warmest of summer days. The staff is totally knowledgeable on all of the wines they carry and are extremely helpful. They are even apprehensive about you driving home with a case of wine on a hot, August day. They caution you to go straight home and get the wine back to 56 degrees as quickly as possible. It’s like you are taking one of their children on a journey and they fear for their safety. I have never been disappointed by a purchase at Moore Brothers and you should definitely make a visit to the Pennsauken location. Their website is fun and informative, too. Moore Brothers are my #4 favorite wine shop.

#3 Joe Canal’s Liquor Outlet, Fire Road, Egg Harbor Twp., NJblog pics 009

 

 

 

 

If I never worked in Atlantic City I would have missed the opportunity of having discovered this excellent wine store. It’s a good distance from my home in Washington Twp., NJ but not far off the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township. It made my list of favorites because it has a wonderful selection of wines from every region. The prices are about the same as others perhaps a little higher as some shore liquor outlets tend to do. The other nice thing about this Joe Canal’s is they have one of the best Pinot Noir selections I have found. They also feature some better high end cabs, lots of Spanish wines and a nice selection of Australian bottles. The shelfs are a little tight and crowded but they cram a lot of interesting wines into the space they have. It’s easy to spend hours strolling the aisles of this location on Fire Road in Egg Harbor Township. It may even be that this was where I first discovered the 2001 Shirvington Shiraz which is still the best bottle of wine I have ever experienced. Those are just some of the reasons that this is my #3 favorite wine store in South Jersey.

#2 Hops n Grapes, Glassboro, NJblog pics 014

 

 

 

 

Hops n Grapes is the “new kid on the block” when it comes to South Jersey wine stores. In less than two years this Glassboro location has become my “go to” store for most purchases. It took only a visit or two to put it’s two closest wine neighbors, Canal’s in Williamstown and Monster Beverage in Glassboro far behind them.

Max and Filipe Cammorata, owners of Terra Nova Restaurant in Glassboro and several Landmark Americana Tap and Grills located  just off the Rowan University campus, West Chester, and coming soon to the Drexel campus in Philly have done a great job in quickly making Hops n Grapes a wonderful location for buying wine. The shop features a coffee bar with fresh pastries, an excellent selection of cheeses from all over the globe and a fine selection of premium cigars. They feature wine tastings with cheese samplings every Friday evening and the store is stocked with over 2000 selections; many of them wines you won’t find in most stores. Their premium wine case is an absolute treasure with everything from the extremely hard to find Sine Que Non wines to $1000 Burgundies. Wine “geeks” such as myself have been known to salivate on the glass while gawking at these prize wines.

The staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful and for those on a limited wine budget they even have a section with quite a few wines titled, “GOOD WINES UNDER $10.00″. Max and Filipe do a Youtube video each week on their “FIFTEEN WINES of SUMMER”. They may not yet be ready to take their comedy show on the road but I am not going to deduct any points for that.

I will deduct a few points for their “wine loft” on the second floor. It was scheduled to be an area for single vineyard and exclusive wines but it just hasn’t panned out and many of the wines up there are simply repeats of those on the main floor. I am being picky though in this minor criticism. There is much to like about Hops and Grapes and “frequent wine buyers” earn a 2% credit toward future purchases. Overall, it’s a no-brainer in making Hops n Grapes my #2 favorite wine shop in South Jersey.

and now……. a drumroll please as I announce my choice for…the best wine store in South Jersey

#1 CANAL’S BOTTLESTOP, MARLTON, NJBlog pics 022

 

 

My selection of Canal’s Bottlestop in Marlton, NJ as my favorite South Jersey wine store can be summed up in three reasons:

  1. Charley Beatty
  2. Charley Beatty
  3. Charley Beatty

Charlie has packed the shelves of this store with perhaps the finest selection of California wines in all of South Jersey. He has developed relationships with distributors that enable him to get wines that others will never see. He has tasted almost every wine he sells and when he steers you toward a particular selection you can be assured it’s a wine you will enjoy. The prices are consistent with other stores in the area but he offers some excellent discounts for large purchases and publishes a monthly newsletter that has over 300 sale items from all wine regions.

It’s not unusual to be in the store and see 5 or 6 people all waiting to speak to Charley. It’s a minor miracle that he is able to take care of everyone when he is constantly in such demand. It’s the place I go for those special wines and that special wine wisdom that Charlie Beatty is blessed with. He is the reason that Canal’s Bottlestop, Marlton, NJ is my #1 Favorite Wine Store in South Jersey.

In closing I want to give honorable mention to two other wine stores. They are:

Circle Liquors, Somers Point, NJ for fine selection and a knowledgeable staff and some nice prices for their Circle Club members       and…..

Canals Discount Liquors, Hainesport, NJ this one is a little too far from my house but they have a good selection of all wines and perhaps the absolute best selection of German wines this side of Munich!

 

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