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),
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
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
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
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.
The focus here is on top-end
boutique wines and liquor
225 Ashford Avenue
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
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
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
(intersection of Routes 100 & 133)
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
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
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
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
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.
389 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry
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
rockwood & perry fine wine and spirits
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
stew leonard’s vineyards
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
suburban wine & spirits
379 Downing Drive
This shop offers an extensive selection of domestic and imported bottles in all price ranges. Top-flight
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
“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