Great wines are just a quick trip away.

Great wines are just a quick trip away.

Great wine sources abound in our area. From big box retailers to homespun haunts, from grocery stores and pharmacies to gas stations, excellent wine is not far. So how do we choose where to satisfy our wine craving?

If your tastes are not sophisticated, any of the above will do. If, however, you wish to increase your wine knowledge, crave a special wine or simply want to explore a different grape type or growing region, I suggest heading to a full-service wine store. They differ from others by having wine consultants on hand to assist and offer suggestions.

Keep in mind that these consultants may have reason to make certain suggestions. There may be private labels that are proprietary to the store that they need to sell, or sales of certain wines would result in points toward a trip. It’s not unreasonable to ask the consultant, “Why this recommendation?”  If you have doubts, you might inquire if a tasting sample is available. If you are adventurous, consider red tag specials or closeouts. (You might find a treasure like they do on Storage Wars!)

Here's a list of full-service stores in our region to try.

Total Wine & More

The behemoth of wine stores, this is the only one with a national presence. Their selection is tremendous, at 8,000 wines, and a large number are private label, or Total Wine refers to as “winery direct.” Total Wine was the first to introduce this concept on a large scale. With two locations in Sarasota, wine consultants are always accessible. Plus, the website is quite workable and online ordering, pickup and delivery are available.

ABC

With 125 stores, ABC is the largest wine retailer in Florida. Stores average 1,600 wines, and 93 of them have wine consultants. Numerous wines are sourced through Grantham Imports, which I have found to be of exceptional quality and value, and there are private-label wines, as well. Stores vary in size and number of selections. Website ordering and store pickup is available.

The Wine to Buy

Mitch Soffer is the proprietor and consultant of this unique store in Gulf Gate. His experience covers 40 years in retail and wholesale. Quite knowledgeable, he focuses on ultra- premium wines. In-store selections number over 2,500, and he has access to many more. He plans to start a wine club soon. Online ordering, pickup, and delivery are available. Nice newsletter and e-blast, as well.

Michael’s Wine Cellar

The ultimate in personal attention, this cellar-temperature store is loaded with great wines. Over 1,000 are available and their consultants have tasted most of them. Michael's Wine Cellar Social Club holds upscale tastings twice a month, and those wines are discounted. Well worth the expense. Online ordering and pickup are available.

Seagrape Wine Company

Thomas Morgan is the owner here, a veteran of the wine industry and former proprietor of Wine Warehouse in Sarasota. Seagrape is an intimate and inviting store, offering limited-production and personal selections featuring French and Italian wines with a focus on Burgundies. Online ordering, pickup and delivery are available.

Other wine stores that may or may not have wine consultants include Norman’s, Venice Wine and Spirits, and Sarasota Wine Warehouse.

Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.

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