Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday Wine Shopping--The Houseguests are Coming

Because my sister-in-law and her husband are coming from New Jersey to stay with us for a week, I decided to go wine shopping. This is in spite of the fact that I know exactly which wines I'm going to serve with each meal I'm cooking all week already, and they are already in the house. Perhaps it's the anticipation of empty spots on the wine racks. We are looking forward to checking out some of the area wine bars while they are here, so stay tuned for reviews of those.

I scrounged around Whole Foods in Pasadena, where I was reminded once more that their wine is overpriced (though they do have a good selection of organic and biodynamic wines). I went to Trader Joe's on Rosemead, where I was reminded that they give you hardly any information on the shelf talkers. So, it was off to Chronicle Wine Cellar. (Here is a picture of the interior, nicked off their website--thanks to Chronicle Wine Cellar!)

For those of you who live in LA and haven't been to Chronicle Wine, you should consider a trip out to the east side. Go to the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (the weather is gorgeous and the fall plant sale is on this weekend), then to to Pie 'n' Burger, the legendary establishment where you can eat at chipped brown formica tables, chowing down on burgers with Thousand Island Dressing and iceberg lettuce that is folded into squares to fit the bun. (I know, but people do come from miles around). After you eat, head out of the store, turn left then left again down a kind of daunting alley, and under the apartments you will see a plain door with some Christmas lights around the door. Do not be alarmed--just go in.

What I love about Chronicle Wine Cellar (other than the wine) is that they have about half a dozen people working there (singly or in pairs, usually) and no matter who is in the store, they are friendly, informed, and honest. I'm so sick of going into wine stores and asking questions only to have them make stuff up. Today I asked Bob, who was on his own this morning, if he'd had the wine I was about to buy and he said no without hesitation. He also recommended a wine I knew nothing about, but he said the buzz on it in the shop was good. They have great shelf-talkers, which are a combination of published wine reviews and staff wine reviews. I trust their staff reviews completely--if they say its a good value wine, I buy it without worrying about being taken in (see honesty, above). Chronicle Wine Cellar is a bit like Odd Bins used to be in the UK when it was just a few tiny shops with lots of small quantities of wine that you never saw anywhere else.

Chronicle Wines has a particularly nice selection of French wine, along with a great US pinot noir section and some fine cabernets and chardonnay. Today, they had some new arrivals: Pierre-Marie Chermette's high-end 2005 Fleurie Les Garants ($16.95), 2004 Chateau de La Preuille Muscadet Sur Lie Tete de Cuvee ($13.95), and 2004 La Craie Vouvray ($7.95). So I picked those up to fill in some of those impending vacancies on the old wine rack and went home to clean the house!

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