For those of you who noticed my absence, 8 straight days of travel and/or 18-hour days seriously cuts into my blogging time (it took me a week to write this one...)!
In addition to its interference with the upkeep of my blog, business travel never affords me the opportunity for serious sightseeing, but I frequently have a small window of time to step into the local wine shop and look for hidden treasures.
As evidenced by the paucity of recent posts, I just returned from a visit to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and while there I took advantage of some down time to go with my father-in-law to see something 'novel' (for a Montrealer) - privately run liquor stores. For those of you residing in (or planning a visit to) Winnipeg, here are my general impressions from our tour of some private liquor stores. Note I did not have much time to discuss the selections with the employees, so I won't comment on the level of knowledge.
Fenton's Wine Merchants (at The Forks): Fenton's is centrally located in The Forks, and ideally situated next to a number of specialty food shops, so you can really plan a meal around your wine selections here. I noticed a wide selection of carefully selected (i.e. lots of labels I have never heard of) wines at reasonable prices. Given that the owners have clearly tried to stay away from mainstream labels, you will have to rely on the staff. Locals should go in and get some recommendations and to see if they can deliver.
Pros: Wide selection, nice location and atmosphere.
Cons: They had very little of the fancy stuff, and what they have sits standing up on a warm shelf under spotlights.
Pembina Fine Wines: While residing in a nondescript strip mall, it was a fine store, with an excellent geographic selection and depth in each region. Probably the best all around, with a selection of older vintages and off size bottles.
Pros: Best global variety and with some depth in each region.
Cons: Some wines in the sunny windows, older vintages not stored in a temperature controlled room.
Piazza De Nardi (La Boutique del Vino): This wine store at the Piazza de Nardi is located in a building with a Mediterranean food market. An excellent place to buy Italian. They also have the best set up for wine - no windows and a temperature controlled cellar for better wines.
Pros: Awesome selection of Italian, nice location and proper storage.
Cons: Perhaps a bit light on French wine.
Kenaston Wine Market: Located in a busy strip mall, this is one of my favourites from previous visits in Winnipeg. It has a wide selection, kind of a mix between Fenton's and Pembina. Great collection of staff picks.
Pros: Very wide selection, some store exclusives.
Cons: Storage - the fancy stuff sits next the regular stuff.
DeLuca's: A good, broad selection, if not deep. The only shop with an open bottle for sampling (some Aussie red and white) - for shame (to the others). A lot going on in a little store.
Pros: Nice atmosphere, sampling ongoing.
Cons: Limited selection.
So where would I go if I lived in the 'Peg? I would probably visit all of them on a frequent basis, with DeNardi and Pembina visited more frequently. It pays to watch the prices, as they can vary substantially from store to store, without and specific pattern that I could identify. Thanks to my father-in-law and A over at Wine in the 'Peg for some suggestions.
Notable miss: I hear that a new store, Banville and Jones, is pretty good. Next time...