Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Finding Wine Values on Park Avenue

You probably don't think of "value" and "Park Avenue" in the same breath. (image from Sherry-Lehmann)

When I walked into Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits recently, I wasn't sure if there would be much on the shelves that would be interesting and affordable, given its swishy location and upscale feeling.

Instead, I had a terrific time shopping for some seriously good value wine in one of Manhattan's best neighborhoods. The service and the selection were outstanding, as well.

Sherry-Lehmann, for those of you who don't know it, looks and feels like an exclusive wine boutique. There is warm wood paneling, tasteful displays of wine, and a bevvy of knowledgeable sales assistants to answer questions and help pull your order together. Instead of being intimidating, however, the store feels warm and welcoming--as if you've wandered into a wine library full of people who want you to find the perfect bottle for your needs. If your needs run to $3000 Armagnac, they have that. If, like me, your needs run to a wide variety of under $20 treats, they have that, too.

In California, we don't always have the best selection of French regional wines at affordable prices so I made a beeline for those displays and quickly got lost browsing among the options. The store was crowded, but a member of the sales staff approached and asked if I needed help. I took them up on the offer. I was looking for all kinds of things--wine to go with Chinese takeout, sparkling wine, and affordable bottles of red and white wines for a big party--and we had dinner reservations. I could have spent all day there, but instead my friend and I who were selecting the wine went for a more efficient approach.

The staff member grasped what we were looking for immediately after I squealed at seeing the 2006 Chateau Pesquie Cotes-du-Ventoux Cuvee des Terrasses for $12.95 a bottle. After putting four bottles on the order, she suggested a 2007 Sauvion Quincy "Les Glaneuses" ($14.95) for the party white that would go with the Ch. Pesquie. We also left with a bottle of 2007 Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent Gamay ($13.95) and a 2006 Trimbach Gewurztraminer ($18.95) for the Chinese takeout. And for toasting? After discussing the pros and cons of various options we happily purchased several bottles of Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgone Rose Perle d'Aurore ($13.95). As a special treat I snagged a bottle of 2005 J. L. Chave St.-Joseph "Offerus" ($23.95).

This staggeringly good selection of affordable wine was purchased after 7 pm on December 30--and I wanted it delivered the next day. That's right. New Year's Eve. Manhattan. All in less than 18 hours. The wine arrived, safely and on time, just as Sherry-Lehmann promised.

In the end, I had to conclude that there is wine shopping and then there is Sherry-Lehmann. It was the most fun I've had buying wine in a long, long time--and it was a total delight to have a person helping me who really knew what she was doing and didn't try to sell me a single inappropriate or overly expensive bottle of wine.

There's just one problem. Sherry-Lehmann is in NYC and I'm on the other side of the country.

Any chance you'd open a branch in LA?


Laura said...

Oh I heart Sherry-Lehman. Never have I been steered wrong by anyone there. My favorite memory was when I went in there to put together a wedding present of wine for a friend of mine. The bottles were VERY well received!

Wine Club Insider said...

That pretty much sounds like the wine shopping experience of my dreams! Far too many big wine retailers (or big retailers of any type, for that matter) are all about the upsell and not enough about listening to the customer and seeing how they can best meet their needs.

I suppose that's why I tend to stick to small local retailers, as they seem to offer more of a personal experience to their clientele and focus on fast shipping, personal service when it comes to helping you with your selection, and so forth, but honestly that place sounds perfect. Wish they had a location where I live! It sounds like they had a great selection of value wines, and like you, that's the sector of the wine world I tend to gravitate toward these days.

Another great way to find incredibly worthwhile value wines to try is by way of wine clubs that focus on vintages that are unique and interesting without being overly pricey. Keeping up with wine club reviews that point out the specifics and quality of each club is always a good idea to make sure you're making the best and more informed decision. Read the best and most comprehensive wine club reviews at wineclubguide.com. We've done the hard part for you! All you have to do is relax and enjoy the wine.

Stacey said...

Thanks, Deb, for the great write up. You were a pleasure to work with, exactly why I traded restaurants for retail. My bosses were very honored and proud to see this review, and my job feels very secure as a result! I hope to see you again next time you are in NYC. Cheers!