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Joe H

The Wine Library, Springfield, NJ

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Over the past few years I have bought a lot of wine over the internet without ever having been to most of the stores that I have bought from. Over time and curious, I have tried to visit some of the stores which have consistently offered me low prices for wine, lower than what I can find here, even with shipping factored in. On Friday, driving back from New York, I detoured to Springfield, NJ, about 25 miles south of Manhattan. I have been buying from the Wine Library, over the internet, for the last year. I had to go there. It seemed that across the board they were 20, 25, 30% cheaper than anyone else for wine. I should also note this is for wine that is hard to find or difficult to find at a competitive price. IThe Wine Library is the largest store I have ever been in. I have been in probably every significant wine/liquor store in America from Applejack's in Denver to Zachy's to the New Hampshire state stores to State Line in Elkton, to Verona, Milan and Alessi in Florence, etc. For years when travelling I would stop in wine shops if I had time. I've been in a LOT of wine shops.

The Wine Library is about 50,000 square feet or more on three floors. It is also new, having moved to their new building in the past year. It is beautiful! The main floor is three stories high wth balconies surrounding it. The wraparound balconies have wine racks in the style of bookcases you would find in a library. There is a temperature controlled room that is about 3,000 square feet. The greatest collection of large bottles I have ever seen. An incredible selection-fifty or more barolos, 100+ Spanish reds, 50+ South African, etc.

Everything in the store is around 20-30% off!

Take a look at their internet operation. www.winelibrary.com I have consistently found that if they ship on Monday I will receive it on Weds. The internet prices are the SAME prices as the ones in the store. (I had assumed they would be more expensive; I was wrong.) They have seven cash registers and all seven were open with a line when I was there. An incredible selection. Chilean, South African, Australian, Italian-simply as wide and deep of a selection as I have ever seen in a store anywhere. All at a remarkable discount.

For all the I've loved about Calvert Woodley, MacArthur, Schindler's, State Line and others in the past this just blows them away. Anyway travelling north or south on the Jersey Turnpike who is into wine should give this place a ten minute detour.

I spent two hours in there. I'll go back again.

And, no, I have no relatiohip or financial arrangement with them. I am just indebted to them. Literally.

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Only if you like wines with points. At least that's how the old store was.

Edited by jparrott

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This is a real plus of their's: almost every wine had a rating from Parker, the Wine Spectator, Decanter or another source. Rather than just a plain bottle on a shelf there was some information about it. Yes, the information could have been biased, fractured, wrong, misleading, etc. But still there was information. Yes, I'm guilty of buying based on some of Parker's and the WS and others' recommendations. The 93 point Umbrian Montiano which retails for as much as $60 was $29.99. I bought three bottles. The 94 point Cims De Porerra which sells for $80 at Zachy's was $35.99. The 95 point Mas Doix (another outstanding Spanish red) was $31.99, not $45 as offered elsewhere. Perhaps the one that really stood out was 2001 Torre Muga, 95 points from Parker and a great Spanish wine for $49.99-not $65 or more if it could be found.

Did I mention 2003 Altos de Luzon for $12.99? 93 points from Parker. Yes, I agree, it's not a 93 point wine. Probably 90. But worth every penny of the $12.99 or even the $18 which is what area stores sell it for.

Or did I mention the 2003 Henry's Drive Reserve Shiraz that I stupidly paid $89.99 for at the Wine Cabinet in Reston? I am looking at the receipt as I type this: $39.99 at the Wine Library yesterday. That's FIFTY DOLLARS MORE AT THE RESTON STORE!!!! Or the $49.99 I paid for the 2002 '93 point Clio at the Wine Cabinet which was $31.99 at the Wine Library in New Jersey? $18 more at the Reston store. For the four six bottle cases I bought from the Wine Library that's a difference of $432 minus the $50 for shipping. Still four hundred dollars!

More realistic prices on either of these might have caused me to ask them if they would match or even come close to the internet price. But paying double (more than double for the Henry's Drive!) or significantly more has caused them to lose a customer: me. If the Wine Library is poison to area stores then so be it. But I spend a lot of money on wine and I am going to buy it for the best price I can. When I am ripped off I will and do go elsewhere. When I find a source for extremely competitive pricing with an incredible selection I will tell everyone I can.

Some wines I buy on recommendation, some from employees whose opinions I trust (i.e. Pepe at Calvert Woodley). But over time I've found that Parker and the Wine Spectator are as good of an index as any to buy a bottle and see what I think of it. If I like it then I'll buy a case.

For this I am indebted to the Wine Library. They are the best I have found. I should also note that I believe this is the highest volume "internet" store in America. Someone has the system down. Perhaps local stores could benefit from this.

Edited by Joe H

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This is a real plus of their's: almost every wine had a rating from Parker, the Wine Spectator, Decanter or another source. Rather than just a plain bottle on a shelf there was some information about it. Yes, the information could have been biased, fractured, wrong, misleading, etc. But still there was information.

**Bangs head against nearest wall...**

Please tell me that they have an educated staff that is willing to tell you what they REALLY think, and don't engage in "groupthink"?

I had a salesperson (actually, a rep from one of California's largest, most heavily-marketed wineries) this past week who rattled off their wines "scores" like chapter and verse to us.

I wanted to scream.

If those scores are so wonderful then why even bother to try us on the damned things? Don't the almighty SCORES speak for themselves? Why didn't we fall to our knees and genuflect in the direction of Monkton, MD? ARGH!

That posted information on the shelves of that store could have been prepared by anyone. Did you know who prepared it? Was it a marketing company? Was it the head wine buyer? Or was it boilerplate from a publication?

Maybe this is why their prices are so low. They don't have a wine staff, they have clerks who cut and paste magazine doggrel. Ask any one of these people about a particular wine and their eyes will glaze over and you'll get a blank stare, or they'll go wide with fear and anxiety.

It's a trade-off, I'll grant you that: low prices and zero expertise vs. a service-oriented business who remembers your name, preferences and earns your loyalty and trust.

Sorry for the late-night rant. The Redskins lost and I'm cranky.

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Naw, Joe R., your musings reflect the six or seven times I've shopping at the Wine Library. It's pretty much a pile of points, with a few DIs or pseudo-DIs thrown in (with "ratings" from the store) to bump up the margins. It's Carolina Wine Company with less Burgundy/Austria and more graphics in the points-chasing e-mails.

For real depth and breadth of selection and staff knowledge, it's hard to beat Astor Wines in New York City (best Loire, Germany, Austria, Rioja selections I've seen anywhere and very good spirits), Chambers Street Wines in NYC (smaller store, but not a bottle is there without a damn good reason, including spirits), WineSellar just north of San Diego (no Burgundy to speak of, just because California is doofy like that; the store doesn't match my palate but it's got a metric buttload of gems and the prices are fair; no spirits), Wine Exchange in Orange County (yes they push the points as much as anyone, but their champagnes, burgundies, bordeaux and spirits are top-notch) and J&B in London (probably my favorite shopping experience).

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I acknowledged in my post that there are stores that I've been to where I've found the taste of a particular sales person to be similar to mine; in short I trust him or her. I used Pepe as an example. At the Wine Library approximately 2/3 of all their wine had printed cards with ratings and descriptions of the wine from the source, i.e. Parker, WS, even Gary ?, the owner. (No clippings-consistent appearance in the presentation of the various sources.) But what is the difference between this and a salesperson's opinion? Essentially they are taking the place of a salesperson and this is a problem-they are eliminating the need to pay for this kind of overhead. They provide the ratings in place of them. I believe this is the highest volume internet operation in the industry. ALL of that is done without a salesperson. What is important to me is that I've bought from them a dozen or more times over the past year and every time the wine arrived in perfect condition within 48 hours of placing the order (i.e. Monday to Weds.). Having said this have either of you been to their new store which opened within the past year? I understand their old store was much, much smaller. They had a lot of staff in the new one. The several that I talked to seemed very knowledgeable. This is NOT a Total kind of operation. In fact there were at least two on their staff who seemed to be in their 60's or '70's and worked there to suppliment their retirement. Both were enthusiasts and very knowledgeable. They both also liked to talk wine. Each had several "specialties." One seemed to know as much about Spanish wine as Pepe does at Calvert Woodley. He had lived in Spain and been to many of the wineries in different regions of the country.

But coming back to Parker et al. I buy "new" wine for a lot of reasons. He/they are only one just as the recommendation of, say, Pepe at Calvert Woodley is only one. I buy a case about every two months which will have 12 bottles that I have not tried before. Probably half of the 12 bottles will be my surveying ratings, three will be a salesman's recommendations and three will be a friend's recommendation, something I read, or a "feeling." I've also found that often the later reasons tend to confirm the first. Based on my sampling of the mixed case I'll buy another 5 or more cases over the two month period. (I have about 750 bottles with about two thirds stored @55 degrees.) For these five cases it is ONLY about price-I am going to go where I can find the best I can. If a salesperson introduced a wine to me that I liked I am willing to pay 5 or even 10% more than the best price because I believe it was his "idea" or opinion and he should be rewarded with that part of my business. But, using the examples I offered in my second post, if it is going to cost me significantly more then I will not buy from him. I will give him the chance to match or come close to a price; if he can't I won't buy it.

I found a wine in a store in Atlanta that they described as "best red under $25." Sierra Cantabria Cuvee Especial 2001. It also noted 91 points from Parker. The combination of the two and a selling price of $18.99 caused me to buy two bottles. When I returned to Reston I opened it and loved it. A GREAT wine for the price. I like the Wine Cabinet here. I called them and asked if they could get it. Yes-for $27.99 with a 10% case discount. I went into WineZap and found, as usual, that the Wine Library (who I trust to ship me wine) was the lowest price at $16.99. With two dollars a bottle for shipping that was $18.99. X three cases = $683.64 plus tax. The Wine Cabinet was $916.92. A difference of $233.28.

For that difference I could have bought FOUR CASES AT THE WINE LIBRARY FOR THE PRICE OF THREE CASES AT THE LOCAL WINE CABINET. I bought the wine from New Jersey.

Have either of you been in their NEW store? It is remarkable-it blew me away. The selection is unreal, the ambience especially upstairs was similar to what I've found in stores in Europe. They have the largest collection of large bottles I've seen on display anywhere. Warehouse operations like Orange County's Wine Club have done extremely well with their narrow margins. But it IS a warehouse. This was not. The complete opposite. The Wine Club has some very knowledgeable salespeople. But so does the Wine Library.

But I understand where you are both coming from: the Wine Library (and the Wine Club) do not place EMPHASIS on the kind of style and opinion found in stores like your own. For those reading this, again, I am NOT talking about a Total kind of operation. I am talking about a store which probably attracts those who are more serious about wine, those who are already more knowledgeable when they walk in. Price caused me to go there but, now, knowing what it is like, it is selection, ambience, size, style, the helpfulness and courtesy of their employees. I found everything there that I've found at MacArthur, Schneider's and others. And much, much more with everything on sale for at least 20% off.

The Wine Library (and OC's the Wine Club) do not target the casual buyer although I am certain they get plenty of them. They're going after someone like myself who is fairly sophisticated and buys a lot. Frankly, if I lived on the West Coast I would probably buy most of my wine from the Wine Club or a similar operation. Here, on the East Coast, I feel more comfortable buying from a store that is three hours away. Given the population density within a 200 mile ring of Springfield, NJ the Wine Library is only going to get larger.

I also understand that a primary problem with ratings is that there is an awful lot of good wine that doesn't score very high with a particular person. Because of the emphasis on ratings it gives Parker and the WS and others a disproportionate amount of power. Much like stars and points do with Sietsema, Michelin and Gault Millau. Or a list in a publication where many worthy restaurants are not included in the 100 best. For wine this is the value of tastings, promotions, wine festivals like the one D. C. did for four or five years at the Convention center or Reagan building. This is also the value of a distributor in getting the wine out there and promoting it. For all of this discussion about ratings I go to these wine events and will taste more than 100 wines looking for new bottles. Just as restaurants go to them, looking also.

But when I leave the convention center and intend to buy a case, guess where I am going to buy it: the store which has the best price.

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Jake and Joe Riley,

I agree with JoeH on this. When you are going for price, I would rather shop on the internet and save some money. I don't care whom they have working at the store. I appreciate their ratings on their website. If I am trying new things I am not familiar with, it is great to know that you like a certain persons style and ratings. Ex: I love Parkers' bold in your face taste, I still haven't found too much of Tanzer I like.

There is another thread here in which we also discussed this. I still patronize my local wineshop (quite a bit), but it saves alot of time and travel not having to go into town from shop to shop to get the variety this and other websites offer

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Ex: I love Parkers' bold in your face taste, I still haven't found too much of Tanzer I like.

I hate Tanzer because he doesn't have the point scores lined up in a column for quick scanning.

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At the Wine Library approximately 2/3 of all their wine had printed cards with ratings and descriptions of the wine from the source, i.e. Parker, WS, even Gary ?, the owner. (No clippings-consistent appearance in the presentation of the various sources.)

It's Google wine sales. You ask a question, the sales guy appears interested, then ushers you to your top Google result. Those guys are really good at mental Google.

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Honestly, I didn't even look. Part of the store has a gourmet section which they were still stocking although the vast majority of floor area was wine and this was finished. I'm guessing there's an enormous storage area also given the size of the building.

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Let's face it. Small wine retailers hate Parker/WS et al because widely disseminated reviewer scores make it harder to sell bottles that don't get reviewed or get low scores. And they hate big low-margin retail outfits for the same reason that neighborhood grocers (the few that are left) hate Costco--the big box stores siphon away business.

But a lot of the angst being expressed and echoed by those in the wine trade may be somewhat disengenuous. There are lots of high income folks in this town who are much too busy making deals and money to research the lowest price for wines they don't have enough time to read about. They're still going to buy expensive bottles from local retailers who provide boutique service. Lots of rich women still shop at ritzy little boutiques and Neiman Marcus, though some will go to the garment district in NY to find the same designer duds at a discount. It all depends on time and priorities...

As for me, I have time but no money and inadequate storage. I buy wine on a regular basis, but I'm small potatoes compared to Joe Heflin. I can't take advantage of case discounts or case purchases on the net because I have no place to put the stuff. But, like Joe, I consider myself a savvy shopper and I buy on sale or from wine merchants who will meet other merchants' advertised price.

The capitalist system is stacked against us little guys in so many ways; we all need to find any little edge we can. That includes small retailers, of course. So why don't you guys get creative and think about ways you might attract buyers like me, if you really want my business as much as you say you do? Clearly, that means more than just giving "good advice" or special ordering things that aren't on the shelf.

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Do you drink much top-notch Muscadet? Ever experienced the joy of a delicate, filigreed Riesling Kabinett? How about the nervy whites of the Sudtirol? The bright, orange/rose/clay-infused Nebbiolos from Ghemme, Spanna, Valtellina (if you want more power), or Gattinara? The sweet earth and herb undertones of the perfectly-balanced fruit of great Cornas? You're never going to, either, if all you're looking to buy is the stuff the big guys discount. And most of that list is going to be under $20. Need under $10? How about Domaine de la Pepiere muscadet (which, admirably, Wine Library carries)? Or the exuberant-but-balanced Andre Iche "Les Heretiques" that the same person imports. Or QbA rieslings from the Cellars International portfolio? Or the bright and fresh, but rich Beaujolais-Villages (and even better Beaujolais Blanc) from Jean-Paul Brun?

If a wine gets a great review, it only gets discounted if it's (a) verrry large production or ( :) the retailer happened to secure a sweetheart deal. For those guys that are able to make those deals, more power to them. And here's a non-secret: some of the best small guys do that very well, and it's how they can stock the more interesting wines. But in either case, chances are the wine isn't going to be nearly as interesting as a single-taste note on a shelf-talker will let on. And let's face it, nobody's giving big points to the kinds of wines I've listed above. Matter of fact, some reviewers (this is pre-Schildknecht at the Wine Advocate, so we'll see, but they're not the only one) have said that there is an upper limit to what score they'll give a Kabinett.

But do you eat steak every day? Do you care about matching food and wine? Do you care about wines being well-made in a style reflective of soil and cepage, not toasted wood? Do you care about knowing anything about what you're drinking other than what kinds of berry jam and spices it smells and tastes like and that you can't drink more than two glasses because it's 15% alcohol? Do you care about learning more about wine with each bottle you buy? Do you care about trying new wines in new styles with new foods? You're a well-established, valued member of this board, so chances are that, if I asked any of the above questions about restaurants, you'd say yes. Why hold wine to a lower standard? Why stunt your development as a wine drinker? Because if you buy Google wine, that's what you're doing.

ETA: We live in the DC area. This area gets the best selection of wines in the country, because of the permissive DC import laws and the relative ease (compared to NYC and Chicago) of delivering wine. You, Rockweilers, have no excuse to buy Google wine.

Edited by jparrott

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[in this and the preceding message, please think of "you" as referring to any of you, not the particular people in this thread.]

I want to clarify a little bit. I don't want anyone to buy the kinds of wines I cite because they're "helping out the little guy." Buy them because they are the soul of wine. Buy them because you can't vinify melon de bourgogne anywhere other than the Clos des Briords to get that nervy edge and immense aromatic depth. Buy them because you think it's cool than the Brauneberger Juffer and Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr vineyards have been appreciated for their differences through the centuries. Buy them because you want to know what happens when you rack sauvignon blanc into a little used wood. Or when you don't try to artificially restrain how chenin blanc takes in oxidation during fermentation. Buy them because these observations are the soul of wine. They are what separates vinification from distillation, or chemical engineering. They are what separates winegrowing from canned tomato-growing. They are natural beauty, in a handy carrying case, that tastes good, that inspires you as a cook, that celebrates its diversity and inability to be cast along single-dimension measures such as "hedonism" or "fruitiness."

So here's the non-secret behind why I'm saying this. The more you care about what's in your glass, the more you engage with your wines, the better we little guys do. We little guys can't win on Google wine. We're not after market share. We're after customer share. We feel that, if we pique your interest just a bit, you'll pour our wines for your friends, and talk about what you've learned. Maybe that piques their interest a little bit. Now we've got another person who cares, and you've got a friend to help you explore the world. Symbiosis! And since no one sees the total wine market in the US contracting any time soon, our syllogism goes, the rising tide will gather all boats, and our revenue will increase. And whilst that tide does its thing, your friend is sharing bottles with you and their other friends, and the cycle goes again. You and your friends drink better wine, you and your friends care more about your wines, you and your friends become more demanding of your wines, and our wine culture improves. As time goes by, a larger and larger critical mass of people who see through the Google wine edifice emerges, and we will demand more of our wine critics, our wine shops, and our fellow wine drinkers, and the culture will continue to improve. Sure, we'll do a little bit better, but the wine world will be a lot better place.

</soapbox>

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Do you care about matching food and wine?  Do you care about wines being well-made in a style reflective of soil and cepage, not toasted wood?  Do you care about knowing anything about what you're drinking other than what kinds of berry jam and spices it smells and tastes like and that you can't drink more than two glasses because it's 15% alcohol?  Do you care about learning more about wine with each bottle you buy?  Do you care about trying new wines in new styles with new foods?  You're a well-established, valued member of this board, so chances are that, if I asked any of the above questions about restaurants, you'd say yes.  Why hold wine to a lower standard?  Why stunt your development as a wine drinker?  Because if you buy Google wine, that's what you're doing.

ETA:  We live in the DC area.  This area gets the best selection of wines in the country, because of the permissive DC import laws and the relative ease (compared to NYC and Chicago) of delivering wine.  You, Rockweilers, have no excuse to buy Google wine.

The only thing, in my estimation, that stunts my development as a wine drinker, friend, is my pocketbook. And frankly, I buy more often on the basis of importers I trust than I do based on Parker scores. But I value Parker reviews, because I trust him not to tout lousy wine. I've had too many disappointments based on the recommendations of wine salesmen, over the years that I've been drinking wine.

I used to drink a lot of Muscadet back in the 1970's and 80's because it was the best cheap white wine I could find at that time. And I read books about wine, read wine discussion boards and explore different regions, grapes and styles to the extent that I can, based on my budget. But there's a lot of crap with Muscadet labels on the bottle. If I'm going to buy Muscadet these days, I read reviews to try to suss out the good ones. And I taste wines that are offered in wine shops, when I can.

Comparatively, I don't buy a lot of white wine. Kabinett riesling, occasionally. Prefer dry muscat, viognier or torrontes with dishes where a riesling would be appropriate. Recently, curiosity about cab franc led me to explore Chinon and Saumur Champigny. Drink a fair amount of Cotes de Rhones and Languedocs--I'm afraid that Cornas and the best CNdPs and the Northern Rhones like St. Joseph and Hermitage are beyond my budget. Beaujolais is my poor man's pinot-equivalent, for roast chicken and salmon. I stocked up on 2003 Fleurie and Julienas when they were on special, based on WA reviews. I have been getting into Italian wines more, enjoy aglianico a lot, chianti classico, dolcetto and barbera not so much, at least not the ones in my price range. I've been reading about Nebbiolo lately, and would love to explore Ghemme, Gattinara and Valtellina not to mention Barolo, but they are out of my price range--although I just drank a wonderful 2000 Seghesio Barolo for my birthday dinner, on the recommendation of Tom Hanna at MacArthur's (YES, I DO OCCASIONALLY LISTEN TO WISE WINE CONSULTANTS OTHER THAN ROBERT PARKER).

But I definitely read Parker for Australian and Spanish recs. I certainly don't like everything he recommends, but there is just so much cheap swill coming out of these two places that it definitely pays to be cautious. And there have been occasions when I have had an opportunity to buy a wine that Parker loves (Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz, for example, which is delicious) via mail order at a per-bottle price, including shipping, that no local retailer could match. On a couple of occasions I have ordered and split a case of Australian wine with Joe Heflin. But mostly I buy local. Usually, but not always, if the bottle is also discounted.

So back off the high horse, just a little. This is not about blindly following a herd mentality. We are each on our own odyssey of exploration in the vast world of wine, to the extent we are able. Just because we are interested in getting the best value for our hard-earned money does not make us simple-minded or unadventurous.

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So I had a long post, but DR.com ate it. Zora, it's clear that you are miles above a Google wine buyer. And anyone that drinks Chinon is a friend of mine. But there are plenty of people out there that are. And the guys that discount the Google wines are trying to keep those people right there. They want Google wine buyers to only view wine in one way--the Authorized Critic's number and the particular blend of jammy berries, vanilla, and smoke that this particular barriqued clone exhibits. If the Google wine suppliers keep the Google wine buyers thinking that way, the Google wine suppliers' job is easy and they make money. And the Google wine critics make more money because Google wine buyers tell their beer-drinking friends that the Google wine critic is the only thing you need to know to get through buying that gift bottle of wine. But the Google wine buyers never progess as wine drinkers.

I'm not going to speak for Riley. But when I pour you (the general you) a wine at a tasting, the last thing I want to do is take an iron grip over how you think about the wine. I'll throw out a few different kinds of facts--food match, flavor profile, soil, personality stories, all the while looking for verbal and non-verbal cues as to what sticks. Now, I can help you think about my wines in a way that makes sense to you. And, I'll also throw in a few extra things to see if they pique your interest. A focused firehose, as it were. But when I encounter a Google wine buyer and I begin this dance, all I get is a blank stare and "this wine is too dry. I like my wine sweeter." Note that said Google wine buyer need not be a consumer. I get plenty of that from retailers and distributors too. But if I do make that connection, then that person's going to buy some wine, pour it for their friends, and begin a process of expanding the circle of non-Google wine drinkers.

So there are two competing cycles here. We non-Google suppliers are trying to draw people and their friends out of the stranglehold of the Google wine critics and Google wine suppliers, and the Google wine critics and Google wine suppliers are trying to get the Google wine buyers to spread that Google gospel. Of course it's in my self-interest and in the interest of our wine culture as a whole to break the stranglehold of the Google wine suppliers over the wine psyches of consumers. You've gotten there, Zora. But plenty of people haven't.

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The only thing, in my estimation, that stunts my development as a wine drinker, friend, is my pocketbook.

Just because we are interested in getting the best value for our hard-earned money does not make us simple-minded or unadventurous.

This is it in a nutshell. We drink wine with dinner EVERY night. For us, a glass (or two) with a meal is a requirement. We fancy that we are misplaced Europeans in that regard--nevermind that our ancestry is Swedish, Irish and British: all places known for their wines! :) {How many of you reading this have ever had Welsh, I said, Welsh, wine? :oB):lol: }

I don't even want to know what wine that costs $500 a bottle tastes like, unless I win the lottery and can forgo worrying about the price.

We are on a hunt for delicious stuff to drink with meals which doesn't cost very much. The wine experts here may consider this a fool's errand, but I don't. Serendipity has played the greatest role in coming up with a list of our "go to" wines with this exception: Jake picked out a wine at a DR.com event which was better and $10 cheaper than the same type of wine someone else recommended some time ago. There is NO way we would have discovered this otherwise. So, Thank You Jake!

Most of us need help. I am fortunate that in the city there are a few places where this kind of help is sometimes available. I find the wine columns and other published advice to be too subjective to really be that helpful. However, there doesn't seem to be much else out there.

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I nominate Barbara's post as the first draft of the "Rockwellian Wine Creed" and offer no edits. Except for the bit about my picking out a wine--'cause all credit for that goes to Tom Power.

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Just FYI: Wine Library has some free shipping codes out there from time to time. You can usually find them on the forums at a place like fatwallet.com. I ordered from them a couple times last year when they were offering it (currently they haven't done it this year yet). If you know what you want and they have it, the prices with free shipping can be way too low for some of us to ignore.

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Wasn't aware of that. I read the various posts on fatwallet and noted at least three different codes over a period of months last year. Factoring that into the already remarkably low price puts this way over the top. Last week their #1 selling wine was the 2003 Altos de Luzon for $12.99. I saw this at MacArthur a few weeks ago for something like $18.99. It's fantastic! At this price raises the standard for everyday wine to a new level! Also interesting to read that they market heavily in New York-one code was 1050 from advertising on a radio station at that part of the dial. They've got to have an awfully small margin but the volume they are doing must be just incredible! For those who are able to visit this new store (at this location) it is just incredible-I'd expected a cinderblock warehouse and its the complete opposite.

To be honest, I do not believe I would buy from them during the summer. I'm still not convinced that wine can be protected from extreme heat in shipping. I wonder if their sales fall down certain months because of this?

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Most stores that routinely ship will hold wine over the summer free of charge. But there is a service element to scheduling the eventual shipment, and some places fall flat on their faces then.

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My trusted wine outlet (Rick's wine and gourmet, Alexandria) consistently provides me with great service, educated suggestions, and interesting selections. They will always be my go to shop for most of my purchases. They give a 10% discount on all mixed cases, and a 15% discount on full cases. Their prices are reasonable and I appreciate them, especially now that I live in Fairfax. I wouldn't feel right if they turned me on to a wine I was unfamiliar with, and then buying from someone else.

To me, it breaches the trust of my relationship.

However, if I went to a restaurant and found a bottle of wine I enjoyed, you bet I'm checking to see if it is available at the Wine Library first. Price, in this instance, is paramount.

A big thank you to Joe H., as I hadn't heard of this place and you probably just saved me a few hundred bucks over the next 12 months.

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I had the same loyalty, respect and trust as you to a local shop called the Wine Cabinet in Reston. I really like the two owners, relate to them and felt that they were flexible in their pricing policies. Several times I've "assembled" a group of neighbors to "qualify" for a 20% discount by buying X number of cases. I've also spent a fair amount of money there over time.

I paid $89.95 for a bottle of Elderton Reserve Shiraz at the Wine Cabinet. $39.95 at the Wine Library. When I asked how much Altos de Luzon was for a case the answer I was given told me that I could buy four cases from the Wine Library (or a half dozen other stores on Wine Zap) for the price of three from the Wine Cabinet. When I asked how much for Sierra Cantabria Cuvee Especial the answer was almost double for what I paid from New Jersey.

I could go on.

But I've never bought "only" from the Wine Cabinet. For years-many years-I've bought off the internet, drove monthly to C/W, Magruder's/Schneider's/MacArthur/etc., even stopped at State Line and, because I spend 30-40 days a year in Europe on business, ALWAYS brought back at least 8 to 10 bottles in my luggage because of the exchange rate which several years ago ranged between .83 to .89 to the dollar. Today it is 1.21 and rarely worth carrying anything back. Also, for over twenty years, when travelling I would visit wine shops and liquor stores around the U. S. and Europe.

I also cannot tell you how many bottles of wine that I bought from the Wine Cabinet which were promoted by them that I did not return to buy a second bottle of. Yes, they turned me on to Clio at $49.95 with a 10% case discount bringing it down to a few cents under $45. On winezap.com there is not a single LIST price this high! And, I can buy it from a half dozen stores for $31.99 or so plus $2.00 shipping.

How much do I pay for loyalty and the occasional bottle that I really like when I am being ripped off? What percentage of bottles do I buy that are not on someone else's recommendation? Rather, on a hunch, points, knowing the winery, something I read, had a different year and liked it, know the area where the grapes are grown, etc. 90%? 95% There are only a handful whose taste and opinions seem to approximate mine. Frankly, one is Parker and I pay for his opinions; still, they are only a guide as are other printed sources. Gambero Rosso categorizes particular wineries and their wines. This is as trustworthy as any reference. And this is a book that I buy in Italy.

Still, having said all this, at some point the percentage of wine that I bought from "other" sources fell dramatically and the amount that I bought from the Wine Cabinet rose to, perhaps, the majority of my wine purchases.

I spend more money on wine than perhaps I should. I am willing to pay an extra 5, even 10% because of personality, store, my source for the wine, they turned me on to it, etc. But I also am not going to let someone take advantage of me. All I am doing is returning full time to what I did for several decades before this one store opened: going to where I can get the best price for wine that is in excellent condition.

A 15% discount on a mixed case seems eminently reasonable. But if that mixed case has "list" prices 20% + higher than what the list price is noted as elsewhere, well, so much for my buying wine from them. I've found that not all "list" prices are the same. I also respect that this is an extremely-ferociously-competitive market. But I've never had "only" one store that I bought from. Until recently never even came close. Now, I am merely returning to the same judgments and values that I had before.

Anyway, all I wanted to do (as I did for four years on Chowhound) was pass along an occasional wine that I really liked at a price and source that was worth pursuing it. I've had a lot of private e-mails over the years thanking me for this and I just want to share with others. Please note my post about "three Spanish wines at three price points.." I have no loyalty to the Wine Library other than their pricing and REALLY liking their store. For the moment, I trust their shipping and their pricing. Of course like the local Wine Cabinet this is subject to change...

Having said all this, if Zora didn't like the Altos.....

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