Friday, May 4, 2012

Wine Store Power Rankings!

First of all, Wines Over Somerville is now on Instagram (we're worth at least $4 of that billion).  Check us out @wines_over_somerville

So, remember last time (a mere month ago), when I lamented that it had been so long since I'd last written, and that I was going to definitely, for sure, absolutely write more?  Well that didn't quite happen.  As has become a theme here at Wines Over Somerville, I planned to write during a vacation, and instead spent that vacation doing something else (in this case 9 rounds of golf in 9 days, but I digress).

My Blog Enrichment Guru (that's his official job title), has helped me brainstorm a series of recurring segments that will both motivate me to write and will be useful to you, my fives of tens (on a good day) of readers.

Today brings the first of these segments, something I like to call "Wine Store Power Rankings."  It's based off the numerous power ranking polls on such as this one.  They're modeled off the AP Top 25 poll (and coaches poll, and Harris poll, and my favorite, the dubious NY Times poll) that are ubiquitous within college sports.  The reason I modeled this after the power rankings, is it doesn't require voting from other people.  Wines Over Somerville is a one man operation (except for my Blog Enrichment Guru), so I wanted complete control over the rankings.

So, without further ado, the first weekly (biweekly? monthly?) Wines Over Somerville Wine Store Power Rankings:

Explanation: These are stores that I have shopped at.  Some I shop at frequently.  Others I visit occasionally or rarely.  They have made the list either due to sheer selection and price or because of something unique about them that sets them apart from the competition.  I have tried, and largely failed, to spread these out geographically so as to make them of as much interest as possible to my readers, however, as I have been based in Brighton/Cambridge/Somerville for my three years since college, they are somewhat centered around those areas.  I look forward to suggestions from my readers for shops I should visit.

This is a dynamic list, meaning it will be updated whenever something changes about it, perhaps weekly, perhaps monthly.  I shop at different wine stores at different times of year depending on what I drink at that time.  For instance, Winestone, BLM, and Cambridge Wine & Sprits all have amazing selections of Rose, which is what I crave in the summer.  Marty’s often has great deals on American syrah, which I crave in the fall, and etc. 

Much like the power rankings of sports teams on ESPN, or the top-25 polls in college sports, these are merely opinions.  I hope that as the rankings evolve, I can get more “voters” and actually make this a list devised by a group rather than just myself. 

The top 3 in this list are very close, and depending on mood, any of them could be in the top spot.  I have included an “also receiving votes” section to highlight stores that I shop at that didn’t quite make the cut.  These are stores usually that I am just discovering, or who may have one great strength but lack the across the board selection to make the top ten list.

Strengths: American Craft Beer, Belgian Beer, Old World Wine, Greek Wine, Sweet Wine, Spirits.   
Weaknesses: New World Wine, Low-End Bottlings.   
X-Factor: Succeeds in a very difficult location.  Somerville is not the affluent, wine-buying community that I sometimes portray it to be!

2.     Winestone  
Strengths: USA Wine especially east coast producers, Italy, Loire Valley, Germany/Austria/Luxembourg/Switzerland.   
Weaknesses: Spirits/Beer/Sweet Wine, Size.  
X-Factor: Selection is impeccably curated, staff is unbelievably helpful.  Winestone makes up for being by far the smallest store on this list by having absolutely no "throwaway" selections.  Looking for a magnum of Yellowtail Shiraz/Cabernet?  Don't come here.  Looking for 15 bottles under $13 from Italy alone?  Do come here.

3.     Marty’s 
Strengths: USA, Burgundy, Loire, Rhone, Italy, Spain, Sparkling Wine, BEER (easily the best beer selection in the area), spirits.   
Weaknesses: Atmosphere (feels big and brusque), Germany, New World, East Coast.   
X-factor: huge amount of discounted wine, incl 50% off rack (this rack is legendary), deli attached

Strengths: USA, Loire, Bordeaux, Rose, Sprits, Beer.   
Weaknesses: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Foreign Beer, Local Beer (for a store that has such a large beer selection, they have few of the local up and coming breweries stocked).  
 X-Factor: On my commute, rarely crowded, huge volume

5.     Trader Joe’s 
This one could be a controversial selection, so I'll abandon my strengths/weaknesses/x-factor format and give a concise explanation of why I like shopping for wine at TJ's.  Trader Joe's offers an unparalleled selection of wines for $10 and under, and an absurd selection at the $7 or less price point.  These are prices that will land you sheer crap in a big store (yellowtail/woodbridge/little penguin/etc.) but they manage to deliver some drinkable wines.  Now--before we get ahead of ourselves--there is A LOT of shitty wine at TJ's (overly confected red wines are a problem), but there is some really good wines, especially foreign whites.  My main concern with TJ's is that once a wine is discovered as excellent, the production usually ramps up in the next vintage and it turns into a shit wine (see Gypsy, Chariot). 

6.     Vinnin Sq. Liquors 
Strengths: USA chardonnay and cab, New World wine, spirits, USA and foreign beer.   
Weaknesses: France, Italy, Spain. 
X-Factor: Price (often several dollars cheaper than the best alternative), location (the north shore isn't exactly hopping with competitors)

7.     Brookline Liquor Mart 
Strengths: Old World wines, natural wines, closeouts, tastings.  
Weaknesses: Beer, current vintages (The often over-order wines and then try to foist them off on people who don't know any better.  For example, there are still some 2004-2005 rose sitting around...which is disgusting)
X-Factor: The location is great and they have parking available.  Their staff is incredibly knowledgeable...BUT they aren't that helpful unless you prove you know what you're talking about.  Or as we call it, good old fashioned Yankee service.

8.     Blanchard’s 
Strengths: Old world wine, New world wine.  
Weaknesses: Beer.   
X-factor: Located in West Roxbury, which needs a place like this.  I am just becoming acquainted with this store, so look for it to move higher on the list as I become more familiar and comfortable with it's selections.

9.     Wine Cask 
Strengths: France, Spain, Italy, Spirits, Sweet wine.   
Weaknesses: new world wine.   
X-factor: cheese/meat/coffee

Strengths: Beer, Beer, Beer, solid wine selection.   
Weaknesses: Crowded, small inventory.   
X-factor: punches way above its weight.  There is no way a small, stereotypical packie should be able to find its way on this list.  But the selection is solidly curated, especially the beer selection (they were one of the first to pick up local brewer Slumbrew) and it's damned convenient, right in the porter square mall.

There you have it.  I hope this helps.  Sorry for the lack of pictures/other visual stimuli, but this post didn't really lend itself to them.  Check out our new instagram account at @wines_over_somerville