Top Wine Shops



Top Wine Shops

 

By Geoff Kalish Photography by Iko

 

With more than 150 retail outlets offering wine (an average of one store every three square miles), Westchester County residents rarely need to travel far to make a purchase. However, you may find that selecting just one bottle can be surprisingly overwhelming once in a shop. Even a modest stock presents bottles emblazoned with little-known foreign names and somewhat meaningless brand designations from thoroughly unfamiliar producers or shippers. Wider inventories present product names and a range of vintages and special bottlings of the same brand that can confound even highly knowledgeable shoppers. Then there is price, of course.

Fortunately, an impressive number of local shops provide excellent, trustworthy assistance as well as selection. At such stores, wines are stored properly, prices are fair, and recommendations are made based on value rather than on sales that will generate the most profit. Here in alphabetical order are 20 shops that generally meet these criteria, albeit some with certain caveats.

 

 

aries wine & spirits

128 West Post Road, White Plains

914.946.3382

 

Like many other county shops, Aries HAS modestly priced bottles vying for attention at the front of the store, with the rear area reserved for more expensive brands. However, what sets this retail outlet apart from many of its competitors is not only the wide range of modestly priced bottles available, but the fact that in the back room light, temperature and humidity are controlled, prolonging the life of the many costly vintages stocked there, such as the 2000 Bordeaux and a Beringer 1997 Napa Valley Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Aries’s inventory includes a wide assortment of Italian wines (including many older, ready-to-drink reds) and an array of avant-garde Spanish wines, like the fruity, cherry-scented Onix and Vega Sindoa El Chaparral. Proprietors Tony and Andrea Russo are regulars at professional and trade tastings and are extremely capable at guiding consumers to wines they will enjoy as well as at assisting them with in-home parties and tastings (for $200 and up). Also, case discounts of 10 to 15 percent are offered.

 

armonk wines & spirits

383 Main Street, Armonk

914.273.3044

 

Service is the hallmark here. A small, terrifically accommodating staff is led by owner and former public-relations executive Gael Lorenzen. Quality brands in the range of $10 to $25 per bottle dominate the selection, but there are enough high-end vintages to satisfy the most demanding palate. Of note, the shop carries a wide range of flavorful, concentrated Spanish sherries from Emilio Lustau (superb as aperitifs or for sipping with ripe cheese after the main course). Tastings are regularly held on Saturdays, and 10 percent case discounts are offered for wines not already on sale.  

 

art of wine, inc

1 Cooley Street, Pleasantville

914.769.0206

 

Over the past 25 years, owner (and former college history teacher) Michael Goldstein has markedly expanded his selection to include more than just his personal favorites. Now, bottles from most wine-producing areas of the world and in all price ranges cram the shop’s shelves. Notable is the extensive array of older vintage ports and a small but well-chosen assortment of top-quality German Rieslings, such as the fragrant bottlings of J.J. Prum and Friedrich Wilhelm. Goldstein has also managed to train a polite, well-informed staff that is generally up to the task of matching food with wine or assisting with choices for a party. In addition, brief evaluations placed above or below particular bottles are extremely helpful. In-store, informal tastings are held frequently, and a 10 percent case discount is offered on wines not already on sale.     

 

bedford wine merchants

24 Main Street, Bedford Village

914.234.6021

 

The focus here is on top-end California bottles, particularly those from boutique and so-called “cult” producers, like Turley, Martinelli and Screaming Eagle, rarely available outside restaurants. Also stocked is a modest selection of premium brands from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Italy, such as some well-priced Barolos from Renato Ratti. However, consumers looking for a very wide range of wines for less than $20 a bottle might do better elsewhere. Service is informative and enthusiastic. Most bottles have recently been tasted by owner Arthur Wunderlich or by members of his staff, who are quite adept at matching wine with food. Tastings are held regularly on Saturdays, and a 10 percent discount on full cases is offered.

 

boutique wines and liquor

225 Ashford Avenue

914.693.8649

 

While the extent of the selection here is surpassed by some neighboring retail outlets, this small, family-owned shop provides customers with top-notch service. Below almost all bottles are hand-written, easy-to-understand tasting notes culled from a variety of sources. Numerical ratings from leading wine publications are also provided for many bottles. In addition, a member of the family is almost always available to assist shoppers with choices. Discounts on full cases, from six to 10 percent, are offered.    

 

chappaqua wine & spirit co.

65 King Street, Chappaqua

914.238.3114

 

The front area of this shop features a decent range of very well-priced “everyday drinking” wines, with more complex, special-occasion bottles housed in a room in the back. Pricing is comparable to, if not better than, that of neighboring retail outlets.  However, the service has become somewhat perplexing compared to a few years ago, when the store first opened, staff roamed the aisles ready to answer questions and make suggestions. Now it seems difficult to get someone to emerge from behind the checkout desk to discuss potential purchases. Tastings are held regularly on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m., and case discounts of up to 20 percent are offered.   

 

cortlandt plaza wines & liquor

447 Albany Post Road, Croton-on-Hudson

914.271.6614

 

What this small shop has going for it is a wide variety of very well-priced brands from most wine-producing regions of the world, with few bottles costing more than $100. For example, easy drinking Italian reds from highly regarded vintner Clerico and dry, fruity French whites, like the Laboure-Roi Pouilly-Fuisse are less than $20 a bottle. And for a few dollars more there are elegant reds from Spanish vintner Bodegas Pesquera. Service is usually friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable, particularly regarding wine and food pairings. Case discounts of up to 20 percent are offered. 

   

dodd’s liquor city

Millwood Shopping Center

(intersection of Routes 100 & 133)

914.762.5511

 

The name, its somewhat difficult-to-find location and cramped quarters can be off-putting to some, but Dodd’s offers an above-average selection in almost all categories, especially brands from California and Champagne, with prices among the best in the area. A special feature here is that with only a 10 percent down payment, consumers can buy Bordeaux “futures,” that is, advance purchase of reds from Bordeaux. Service is generally attentive and knowledgeable. In addition, owner Dodd Farber,
who regularly attends professional tastings, can often provide outstanding recommendations on newly released vintages. A discount of up to 20 percent is available on full cases.   

 

grapes—the wine company

11 Purdy Avenue, Rye

914.967.9245

 

This compact shop carries a selection that is geared towards the connoisseur. For example, on its limited shelf space, the store stocks three separate vintages of the famed Tuscan Cabernet Sauvignon, Sassicaia (at upwards of $100 a bottle) and at least four vintages of sweet, honeyed Sauternes from Chateau d’Yquem (at upwards of $200 a bottle), when few other shops stock even one bottling of either brand. The hard-to-find vintages carried here are generally well priced, and the store offers a reasonable selection of brands that will not require mortgage refinancing. Service is friendly and accommodating, independent of the level of customer wine expertise. And to enhance consumer knowledge, the staff conducts periodic in-store and restaurant tastings. Up to 10 percent discounts are offered on full cases.

 

green lane wines & liquors

741 North Bedford Road, Bedford Hills

914.666.7272

 

Consumers who know what they want shop here. While this store carries an extensive inventory of very well priced domestic and imported brands (including a good range of half-bottles), separating quality bottles from those that are just mediocre or worse requires a bit of experience. As evident from a recent visit, a young, rather inexperienced staff is able to offer little help with purchase decisions. Consumers not sure about what to purchase should call first to find out whether one of the more knowledgeable staff members, such as Steve Nyburg, is available. In-store tastings are held regularly on Saturdays from 2 to 6 p.m., and full case discounts of up to 20 percent are offered.  

 

mamaroneck station liquors, inc.

137 Halstead Avenue, Mamaroneck

914.698.1112

 

Opened shortly after the repeal
of Prohibition, this shop stocks an above-average selection of top-quality, modestly priced reds and whites as well as a smaller range of high-end bottles and a somewhat limited choice of sparkling wine. On a recent Saturday afternoon visit, service was pleasant but unsophisticated. However, to its credit, the store distributes complimentary copies of the “Guide to Good Hosting,” which contains outstanding tips on purchasing wine, written by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan (the authors of White Wine for Dummies). Periodic in-store, informal tastings are generally held on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 percent case discounts are offered.

 

rochambeau wines

389 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry

914.693.0034

 

The selection here ranks as one of the top three or four in the county, with a wide range of choices in almost all categories. For example, the shop stocks an excellent assortment of up-and-coming, modestly priced Spanish brands, as well as seven different labels from Clos Vougeot and almost as many from Vosne  Romanee. Also, most major Champagne producers are well represented. And for those tired of Chardonnay, there are a number of noteworthy choices in whites from Vouvray and Alsace, including the rich, intense wines of Zind Humbrecht. Service is usually friendly and helpful, but with such a large inventory, all wines have not been tasted recently. Therefore, some suggestions on current drinkability may need to be made on historical expectations, which the staff can generally provide. Periodic tastings are held, and full-case discounts are often available.

 

rockwood & perry fine wine and spirits

525 Wharburton Avenue, Hastings-on-Hudson

914.478.1028

 

Featured at this modestly sized shop is a selection of top-quality, excellent-value bottles primarily from boutique producers in France, Italy, California and even Spain, which is gaining distinction for its wines in the U.S. Noteworthy examples, carried in very few other county retail outlets, include Domaine de Triennes Viognier  and Syrah, Corino Barolo, Gehrs Chenin Blanc, Turley Zinfandels and the aromatic blends of Mourvedre from Finca Luzon and Casa Castillo. Also available is a wide choice of kosher wines and some of the better bottles from
New York State, such as Millbrook Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Peter Rockwood and his staff of knowledgeable associates, who usually have tasted all but the very limited, high-end brands, provide informative, friendly service. Also, a complimentary quarterly newsletter containing tasting notes and ratings for many of the brands stocked is helpful. Frequent sales are the norm, and an additional discount on two or more full cases is offered.

 

stew leonard’s vineyards

1 Stew Leonard Drive, Yonkers

914.375.4713

           

Not quite four years old, this “new kid on the block” offers top-notch customer service and an excellent spectrum of well-priced quality bottles. A special strength of the shop is Italian wine, especially the complex, flavorful reds from Brunello di Montalcino, and a range of light sparkling Proseccos from the region northwest of Venice. In line with the Stew Leonard philosophy, manager Tony Bonavita and his young but well-trained staff attempt to accommodate even the most novice consumer, spending the time to find out a customer’s preferences and then providing a range of suggestions in easy-to-understand terms. In-store tastings are held frequently, and full case 10 percent discounts are available.

 

suburban wine & spirits

379 Downing Drive, Yorktown Heights

914.962.3100

           

This shop offers an extensive selection of domestic and imported bottles in all price ranges. Top-flight California producers of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Meritage are especially well represented here. The store also stocks a limited quantity of so-called “cult” and “garage” brands, like the complex, concentrated Martinelli Jackass Hill Zinfandel. Service is generally pleasant and knowledgeable, with affable proprietor Henry Ponzio always ready
to guide connoisseurs as well as
the oenologically challenged to new discoveries. Discounts of up to 15 percent are offered on full cases.

 

varmax liquor pantry, inc.

16 Putnam Avenue, Port Chester

914.937.4930

 

“Pantry” is quite a misnomer for this retail outlet that stocks one of the largest selections of brands in the county. Bottles range from fruity California Zinfandels for less than $10 a bottle (like the Rosenblum Vintners Cuvee) to a wide array of upscale favorites like
rich, black currant-scented Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. Other standouts include the rich, intense 1997 Brunello di Montalcinos, hard-to-find complex Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne and the fragrant Banfi Brachetto sparkling wine. Also, the Burgundy and Côtes Du Rhone assortment offers an exceptional range of high- quality, reasonably priced bottles as well as top-end brands. Despite the large stock, proprietor Roger Maxon and Wine Director Mark Chasanoff can provide pedigree and recent tasting results for almost all bottles. I

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