Wine has an image of being expensive to be of good quality. For the most part, this is an accurate sentiment as it is priced based upon the craftsmanship and production techniques, the reputation of the producer as well as the style of wine that is being made. However, the wine industry has responded, much like everyone else, to the economic times. This has made available to us wines that are good quality and that will not dent your bank account.
According to Sharole Negrete, the Assistant General Manager at The Wine Shoppe in North Myrtle Beach, more customers are seeking out the value in wine and are willing to try a new wine if it is priced right. She also says that customers are quick to ask for assistance in finding the best value wine that fits into their flavor criteria. It makes better sense than perusing aisle after aisle of bottles. Due to the increase in customer interaction and the store's devotion to quality, Bob Simon, the general manager of the shop, and Negrete taste every wine they put on the shelves. This practice also gives them first-hand knowledge of the flavors in the wine which helps them assist customers more efficiently. Discerning palates are their specialty at The Wine Shoppe as Negrete tells me that they blindly picked 20 of the top 100 wines from Wine Spectator last year for their shelves. I would say that qualifies the pair to steer most anyone in the right direction.
Negrete was kind enough to give me a tour of the place and she pointed out some of her personal favorite value wines that the shop offers. Here is the list of good wine that costs less than $15 per bottle that we compiled.
» 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon , Washington, 2007, $13.50
Plums, dried herbs and hints of chocolate
» Carlos Basso Cabernet/Malbec , Mendoza, 2008, $12.99
Blackberries, strawberry jam and very soft to the palate
» Martin Codax Tempranillo Rioja Ergo , Spain, 2007; $11.99
Black cherry, light tannins and supple
» Le Lapin Petit Syrah , Paso Robles, Nev., $9.99
Dark plum, spicy blackberries and big body
» 120 Merlot , Chile, 2008, $8.99
Fruity flavor, well rounded and hints of spicy oak
» Glory Days Zinfandel , Lodi, Calif. 2008, $11.99
Ripe Plum, sweet berry and a smooth finish
» Lucky Star Pinot Noir , California, 2008, $9.99
Cherry, raspberry and a silky finish
» Artisan Santa di Terrossa Pinot Grigio , Italy, 2008, $10.99
Pear, lemon and balanced acidity
» Laboure Roi Chardonnay , France, 2007, $8.99
Ripe melon, pineapple and a firm finish
» Dr L Riesling , Germany, 2008, $14.99
Fruity, slightly sweet and refreshing
Many of the wines that we looked at are available in specialty wine shops and restaurants only according to Negrete. Retailers such as grocery stores and wholesale warehouses may not be able to purchase some of these wines. The perception of a wine shop being more expensive than the grocery store is simply a myth. Often you can visit your specialty wine shop and find a better wine for the same or not much more money. It's well worth the extra stop on the way home.
While my visit was of the non-tasting nature, The Wine Shoppe holds a wine tastings from 5-8 p.m. on Fridays. Negrete and Simon compare a few wines, often taste with food and educate anyone interested in listening about latest in the world of wine. The popularity of these weekly tasting events has spawned another idea for the shop. They are in the process of transforming into a full fledged wine bar, specializing in food pairing, wine dinners and wine flights while in a traditional wine bar atmosphere. They don't have a timeline for this project to be complete, but it sounds like something special for the wine enthusiast. Not to worry, the wine will still be available for retail sale as well.
A private cellar stores most of the higher-end vintage bottles, but you will find some great wines from recent years mingling with the new comers on the shelves of the shop. It is the perfect selection for all budgets, experiences and occasions.
Some wine stores may come off as a little pretentious, but The Wine Shoppe, at 3809 U.S. 17 Business S., is comfortable and the staff is eager to talk wine if you would like to listen. I noticed that whether the customer was there for a crafted beer, wine or simply to ask a question, Negrete greeted them all just the same. It creates an inviting environment that makes me anxious for the wine bar element.
Kevin Hoover, a local food and beverage manager, is engaged in the endless pursuit of the perfect cocktail and dining experience. Check out his blog at lushlifeonline.com.