Friday, August 22, 2008

Snazzy New Store Simplifies Wine

Best Cellars, a chain of wine stores that originated in Manhattan, has come to West Orange on Pleasant Valley Way in the old Blockbuster video space. This weekend is their opening celebration, and tonight they poured an interesting selection from their well-priced wines. Starting with a sparkling white from New Mexico, of all places, which is actually made in the methode champenoise. Who knew? This fizzy treat was light and fruity. And speaking of fizzy, that’s one of the “I get it” wine descriptors that are the hallmark of the chain.
Josh Wesson originally founded the stores before selling them to A&P. He’s kept an active role as Senior Director of Wine, Beer, and Spirits. Josh was on hand tonight and I had the chance to speak with him about the store. He created the easy-to-relate-to labels for the wines, and it’s what makes his store perfect for those who are intimidated by traditional wine shops.
If you like one "fresh" white, like Sauvignon Blanc, and you’re looking to try something new, well, hey, there’s Pinot Grigio on the same shelf. Wines are grouped by color and style, not country or, even necessarily grape. As one helpful associate explained, Merlot could sit in three different areas: with juicy, soft, or big reds depending on the style of the wine, whether it was oaked, where was it grown, etc. Popular wines are well represented (there’s a section of top ten wines in a variety of styles), but also you’ll see some lesser known but delicious choices.
The Best Cellars staff pride themselves on tasting all the selections themselves, and, as Josh explained, the store offers a guarantee of satisfaction. If you don’t like the wine, bring it back. Since buying an unknown wine is always a risk, that’s a nice way to encourage people to try something new.
I should also mention that the store itself has a fun atmosphere, with punchy colors and a fashionable feel. It’s not so big that it would overwhelm you, but, like Noah’s Ark, there seem to be at least a couple of everything you’d need.
The other hallmark of the store is price. The major focus of the store is a wall of bottles arranged by style, all priced $15.00 and below. As one sales person said, “Many of them taste well above the price.”
For traditionalists and those who want to spend more, there is a smaller section of wine that is divvied up by country. These you could spend as much as $30 or so on. I saw a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc I thought I’d try, and I was pleased to see they carried Veuve Clicquot and Grgich Hills.
This weekend is a great time to stop by as the festivities continue tomorrow with WCBS-FM visiting and more free tasting and give-aways. Given the value, convenience, and intriguing selection, I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot more time here.

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