Photo © BevMo!
By Cole Danehower
Travel around the Northwest and it quickly becomes obvious: there are a lot of great wine shops here! Whether an old-school wine shop with personal service and bottles strewn about in boxes and racks, or a new-style superstore, such as BevMo!, with glittering aisles of perfectly-organized bottles, there are great shops for every taste.
Take Seattle, for instance. Esquin Wine Merchants has been a Seattle-area staple since 1969. With a selection of over 5,000 wines and a staff that includes certified sommeliers, this is a place to get lost in. Here you’ll find everything from a Antonopoulos Moschofilero White for about $11 (it’s from Greece) to the occasional older Leonetti Cellar (Walla Walla, of course) for a few hundred dollars—and everything in between.
Pike & Western Wine Shop, in the Pike Place market since 1975, is one of a kind. Rather than trying to span the wide world of wine, owner Michael Teer and his staff hand select artisan-made wines that offer distinctive character. And don’t miss their weekly Friday tastings!
Named one of the “50 best wine stores in America” by GQ magazine, McCarthy & Schiering emphasizes Northwest producers at their two Seattle locations, with a broad selection of small-estate wineries. Bottles, boxes, and racks invite impromptu discovery and keep beckoning you farther into the store.
Of course, great wine shops abound elsewhere in Washington. If you’re in the Spokane area, a visit to Vino! is a must. Founded in 1995 by three wine-loving friends, Vino! is the center of the city’s wine scene. With a wide range of wine samplings (over 200 a month) and a bring-it-back-if-you-don’t-like-it policy, the store has garnered a wide group of Vino! loyalists.
Likewise, Compass Wines in Anacortes is a vinous oasis. Founded in 2001 by Doug Charles, this shop sells the finest selection of rare Washington wines “on Earth,” as well as an unusually deep selection of older vintages from key wine regions around the world.
And don’t ignore the wine “superstores” that have opened recently. BevMo! has several locations throughout Washington and a dizzying selection of labels. Wine World & Spirits bills itself as the Northwest’s largest locally owned wine superstore, and it sure feels that way as you wend your way through their vast selection of wines. Total Wine & More is part of a nationwide chain. Shopping at these stores can be an eye-opening experience as you move through the huge wine (and more) selections.
Oregon has a great selection of wine shops as well—though with no superstores because of the laws, each store has its own distinctive character. Portland, in particular, is home to approximately 25 wine stores.
In Portland, E & R Wine Shop has a tremendous selection of Italian wines alongside their Oregon pinots and often attracts amazing producers to pour samples—well worth being on their mailing list. Liner & Elsen Wine Merchants has been described by Bon Appetit as “One of America’s six great Main Street wine shops” and is a reliable source for Northwest and international wines. Vinopolis, downtown, is the city’s largest wine shop, with a warehouse-like atmosphere that offers a sense of discovery as you pick through the bottles from across the globe.
Michael Alberty’s Storyteller Wine Co. offers great tastings and wines “with a story to tell” that have attracted a loyal following. Dan Beekly’s CorksCru is a small shop featuring bargain wines that appeal to his own palate—which is shared by many customers. Division Wine Company is a well-stocked international shop with plenty of bargains and unusual wines to find, while Pairings Portland is a shop themed to help you select wines to go with different foods—with wines displayed by weight and style, not grape and geography.
Other Oregon cities boast well-stocked shops. In Astoria, Mike Wallis offers one of the best selections of Northwest wines in the region at his charming shop, including rarities you won’t find elsewhere. Cannon Beach has a highly rated (again, by GQ) shop, The Wine Shack, which stocks a wide variety of Northwest wines and has a tasting room upstairs. Farther south, in Coos Bay, is a gem of a store, Oregon Wine Cellars Etc., where Tamara and Gino Landrum stock local wines and dispense great advice.
In Eugene, Sundance Wine Cellars claims to have the largest selection of Oregon Pinot Noirs in the world. They also have perhaps the largest selection of wines—of all kinds—in the state! Though tiny, the Jacksonville Inn Wine Shop, in Jacksonville, is a vinous treasure, with hand-picked wines you won’t easily find elsewhere.
Idaho is no less a source for great wine. In Boise, the Co-op Wine Shop opened in 1984 and now has over 3,600 selections on offer—with particular strength in organic wine. Bodovino in Boise has over 2,000 bottles for purchase, plus 144 wines on tap so you can literally take a tasting tour of the world! In Meridian, Ilene Dudunake’s A New Vintage Wine Shop is a delightful specialty wine shop that offers friendly ambiance along with a wide selection of hand-picked wines.
These examples only touch the surface of the Northwest’s vinous resources. Wherever you travel in the region, keep an eye peeled for interesting wine shops: you’ll like what you see, and taste!