Best NYC Specialist Retail Stores

I am preparing my purchase strategy for my cellar build. Are certain stores knowing for having larger inventory/being able to source certain regions or varietals, for recent vintages? For example, are there stores with inordinately best pricing/provenance/on-hand inventory of Burgundy, Rhone, Barolo, etc.? Should I assume Italian Wine Merchants has the best Italian stock in the city? And if so, who is analogous to them in Burgundy, Rhone, Loire, Spanish, Portugal, etc.?

Names I see tossed around anecdotally are Sherry Lehman, Crush, Millesima, Chambers, Flat Iron, Astor Wine, Zachy, PJs, Italian Wine Merchants etc. But let’s say you wanted to work with someone to assemble a few cases of 2014-16 Burgundy… would you have a “go to” retailer in that scenario? Or would you really end up working across multiple retailers in order to source enough selection to choose from?

Most keen to hear of folks thoughts for Italian and Burgundy, but open to all suggestions.

Between Chambers and Faltiron, you can ge your Italian fix worked out well. Flatiron is not the cheapest but up there in connections and assortment.

My experience is that there is no single source with the universal best depth in recent stock and prices. I buy from many sources. Really the best way to go is to assemble a list of producers you are interested in and start hunting on WineSearcher. And don’t exclude DC! Several excellent retailers there and east coast shipping is pretty easy.

If you don’t care about price it gets a lot easier, then you could go with a single large store. There are also lots of services which will buy on your behalf but that tends to be even more expensive. But if you don’t care that much about price, these are very convenient.

Thanks, Mike. Why BWC for Burgundy? Just eyeballing #s, the BWC has 75 individual burgundy red bottles. Flat Iron seems to have ~250? Is it service, type selection, the email specials (which I am noting now), prices, allocations or something else that makes BWC stand out to you?

If you are focused on Burgundy, I’d suggest Chambers St., Crush, Morrell, Flatiron, Astor and Burgundy Wine Co. And Zachy’s with the caveats below.

Here are my thoughts on your list.

Sherry Lehman: Once upon a time, S-L was the place to go for Bordeaux, old and new. Probably still is. Substantial Burgundy inventory. Pretty comprehensive regionally, but tends to stock larger producers across all regions, not small trendy ones. Nothing special for Italian or Rhone wines. Generally high prices, as this aims at a Midtown business and Upper East Side clientele. Great service, but this isn’t the place you go to find passionate sales people. Worst thing I’d say: I used to work a block from there and walked by it every night on my way home and I rarely went in. That said, occasionally, they had something interesting that wasn’t easily found elsewhere.
Note: Some of their inventory is in their warehouse so wines aren’t always available the same day.

Crush: Very good at smaller producers, offbeat wines and older vintages (which are in a cool room). Not a huge inventory, but very well chosen, particularly in Italy and Germany and Austria, and the staff are super knowledgeable. Selections skewed somewhat toward leaner, higher-acid wines, across regions. Prices are decent but not particularly discounted.

Millesima: A decent place, but not as comprehensive as most of the others on your list. Best on Bordeaux, as I recall, including back vintages. I’m not in that area that frequently, and it’s not a place I’ve felt to make a special trip for.

Chambers: Great on older wines, particularly Piedmont; very strong on Italian, German, Loire, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhone, Jura and new wave Californian. These days a high proportion of their current-release wines they import themselves. That means they offer a lot of offbeat types of wine and producers. They have a strong focus on “natural” and low-sulfur wines. Passionate, knowlegeable staff. If I had to survive on one store this would be it. Like Crush and Flatiron, selections are skewed somewhat toward leaner, higher-acid wines.

Flatiron: Not as big or as deep as Chambers, but doing very much the same thing. Very well chosen selection, covering the same regions where Chambers excels, except not so much Californian stuff. Ditto Chambers re leaner, higher-acid wines. A first-rate operation that, like Chambers and Crush, has an emphasis on top small producers.

Astor Wine: Doesn’t get the credit it deserves. This is physically the largest store in the city – even bigger than PJ’s – and very pleasant. (The owners own the building.) Strong on Italians, Burgundy (only in recent years), Rhone, Loire and California. The staff is young, but if you have specific questions, you can find someone knowledgeable. The California selection is strong on smaller producers. They have a region on sale every Tuesday, which is worth watching for.

Zachy’s: This is in Scarsdale, a 30-minute commuter train ride from Grand Central, opposite the station. Really huge selection across regions – I doubt any other store comes close.
The annoying thing about Zachy’s is the pricing. Most of the time, they charge full list – well above what you could find wines for elsewhere. Then they run sales, or perhaps I should say “sales” in quotes. These will tout wines 25% or 30% off, which often just brings things down to a competitive price. The same wine will fluctuate wildly in price week to week. Last year, for example, I bought some wine in a “last bottles” sale at a good price. A few weeks later they offered it for less on pre-arrival. To me, it was false advertising to label the first sale “last bottles.” It wasn’t a close-out. I felt jerked around and complained until I got the difference credited.
I don’t do much business with them now because I object to those games and because they charge for delivery to NYC. But sometimes there are some very good deals in the sales. Sometimes. I would be surprised if you ever found a non-sale wine that wasn’t substantially more than the competition.
Be aware that some of the wines they offer are not in the retail store and have to be brought from a warehouse. So they aren’t always available the same day.

PJs: Often overlooked because it’s at 204th Street, but it’s a great source and their prices are rarely beaten. It’s unlike any other store in the city. (You don’t see customers lined up at the Sherry-Lehman cash registers with shopping carts of gallon rum bottles. :slight_smile:)
By far the best selection of Spanish wines in the area, and surprisingly good on Loire, Burgundy and the Rhone and Italy. The staff isn’t particularly knowledgeable outside Spanish wines, I don’t think. But it’s a great place – well worth taking the A train up there. (The store is just down the block from the 206th Street terminus of the A.)

Italian Wine Merchants: I haven’t been there in several years and have rarely bothered in the last 10 years. Limited selection at very high prices. They seem to focus more on events these days.

Burgundy Wine Co. They have a decent selection of Burgundy and Rhones, but I’ve never been that keen on the producers they stock and the never seem to have any deals. I don’t know anyone who shops there regularly. Not sure why, but they sort of dropped off the radar, at least in my circles. My impression is that they offer exceptional service to a loyal clientele and survive on that.

Others to add to the list:

Morrell: With its Rockefeller Center location, you’d expect the worst, but the selection is very, very good, and the prices often aren’t bad. I’ve regularly bought there for tastings because they had the best price or were the only source. Very good in Burgundy, if that’s what you’re after, and very good on Barolo/Barbaresco these days.

Grapes, The Wine Co.: Sometime WBer Dan Posner’s shop in North White Plains. Wide-ranging selection and free delivery to NYC, even for a single bottle. The stated prices sometimes are on the high side, but they offer good case discounts and they blast out great offers daily, so I find more great deals there than anywhere. I don’t go to the shop that often, so I can’t generalize on the stock as easily as I can for the stores I visit more often. The website works well, though, so you can check it out.

67 Wines: Pretty good on Burgundy and California, in particular. Doesn’t get the credit it deserves, and there are some very knowledgeable people there.

Garnet: The new owners (three? years ago) have made an utter mess of the store, and the shelves have lots of no-name wines they sell because of high margins. But they still have great prices, and the selection in Burgundy, Italy and Germany is still very good. You won’t find anyone there who knows anything, though. You’re totally on your own.

One I avoid:

Acker Merrall: Because of the crucial role that Acker’s auction operation played in sustaining and covering up Rudy Kurniawan’s fakery, I try not to patronize the store, even though the selection is high quality.


Great summary John, saving this for my next visit to NY.
Any thoughts on Rochambeau in Dobbs Ferry? Worth a trip?

Yes, a small, cramped shop, but they have some interesting stuff. I found Navarro chardonnay there a couple of years ago – almost impossible to find around here. I try to stop in on the rare occasion I’m in that part of Westchester.

I pop in occasionally when I’m in Westchester, and they always have interesting stuff, particularly Burgundy. On the high end, last time I was there they had 2014 Roumier Bonnes Mares for under $700, which is apparently a good price in today’s market, among other Roumier bottlings. A number of Hubert Lignier wines IIRC. Can’t recall others, but someone in the market with $$$ to spend on Burgundy can easily walk out of there with a few cases of good red Burgundy. Whites too.

[quote=“David Glasser”]Great summary John, saving this for my next visit to NY.
Any thoughts on Rochambeau in Dobbs Ferry? Worth a trip?[/quote]

David, I live a 1/4 mile away from Rochambeau and can attest that it’s definitely worth a visit. Great selection of higher end Burgs, California, Loire & Spirits (emphasis on this specific group…their Bourbon, Mezcal & Gin offerings are phenomenal).

Thank you all for your thoughts, and thank you John! [and for writing something up that will be helpful for others looking for the best retail shop/store recommendations for New York/NY/NYC].
Do you have any thoughts on Manhattan Wine Company (MWC)? Seems to be a well curated selection.

Yes, it is. The mentality is the same as Chambers/Crush/Flatiron – a real passion for small producers. They’re in a very inconvenient location, or I’d go there more often. They’re relatively new, too, so I just wasn’t thinking about them.

Wow- talk about bringing back old memories. Once upon a time, before winesearcher, before internet forums- indeed before the internet itself- Burgundy Wine Company was one of the most important sources for burgundy in the United States.

They got so much DRC back then that in addition to offering Assortiments as well as individual bottles, they made up and sold assortments of their own- one I remember in particular was 6 bottles of La Tache and 6 bottles of Richebourg.

Like Premier Cru, they issued a periodic newsletter- and you could actually get it in the mail, mull it over for a few days, call in- and most of the time you could get what you wanted. Different times.

And it was not just about wines like DRC- though they usually had several vintages of everything but RC and Montrachet available at any given point. A number of the wines we consider mainstream blue chips today were little-known treasures that BWC introduced to this market and worked very hard to promote.

Sadly, they did not do a good job of handling the very sudden change in the marketplace that happened in the late 90s- or at least not in my case. 1995 was the vintage where Bordeaux captured the attention of an unprecedented audience in the United States- but to a lesser extent it was happening with burgundy as well. 1995 was the vintage where a lot more customers and stores took an interest in fine burgundy- and once massive allocations taken by a few stores with little competition were suddenly being spread around.

There was one rare Montrachet in particular I used to buy from them- and I got 6 bottles of the 1994 vintage. When the 1995 came out, I was not even allowed a single bottle. I remember a very unpleasant conversation with, I believe, Geri at the time who pretty much laughed in my face and blew me off. And so I cut them off cold.

Then, in the early days of winesearcher before merchants knew to be careful about what they posted on their websites, their allocation of Roumier was posted for sale. I remember calling in and having a good laugh with a salesperson who was very understanding in explaining that they had never intended those wines be listed. I knew the odds were against the wines actually being available- but it confirmed they were still getting very good allocations of the rare wines even though they had lost their national presence to a great degree.

About 12 years ago I started getting phone calls from them- outreach efforts to their prior larger customer base. The really high end wines were not available, but I made a number of purchases- most of them gifts for burgundy friends in NYC- and they were always well received. And then once I started traveling to NYC regularly and discovered Crush and Chambers, I slowly slipped away.

John, I suspect you have it right- that much of their business is serving a long-time loyal local clientele. And with the market as it is today, they probably sell with great ease every blue chip bottle they have right in their own backyard. Still, I do recommend them to others. True most of what they offer the public are not well known names, but despite their shitty treatment of me once upon a time, I really do think they still pay a great deal of attention to the region and make an effort to source a lot of solid to very good wines which are not easily found here.

One more store I would add to your excellent list is Wine Connection in Pound Ridge. There is not much on the website, but the store offerings are incredible and reach back quite far. Provenance is exceptional. It is not a cheap place to shop, but there is a real treasure trove there of well-stored bottles, and Max- the owner- is one of my favorite people in the wine business.

Yes, Max has a great selection and generally very good prices. And Max is a super guy. He used to post regularly on eBob. I guess he found better ways to spend his time. Too bad for us!

I can attest to Empire State of Wine on West 20th. It’s a wholesale, limited, non recurring inventory model so there are always interesting bottles at good prices that pop up. The owner there is a pleasure to speak with too.

The scary thing is that I’ve been to most of the places on John’s list. Maybe I have a problem?

haven’t been to Flatiron, so I am putting that front and centre for my next trip to NYC. Empire State of Wine sounds worthwhile too, David, thanks for chiming in with that. And Manhattan Wine Company. Ahhh, to be monopoly-free :wink:

As an aside, Astor’s single malt collection has always been excellent IIRC.

Here’s an example of what’s irksome about Zachy’s. I just got an e-mail touting prices up to 50% off. I was looking at Barolos:

They have the 2013 Vajra Albe marked down from $40 to $35. That’s only 12.5%, and there are three places in the NY area offering it for $29.

They show the 2012 Marchesi di Barolo Coste Rose marked down from $95 to $45. Sounds good, until you check and find that other retailers offer more desirable vintages for $43-$60.

The 2013 Vietti Castiglione is “marked down” from $75 to $50. The problem is that there are five other retailers in the NYC area on Wine Searcher that offer this for $43-$45.

The “regular” prices there are consistently a sham. And you always need to check the sale prices, because many times they’re well above the market.

I unsubscribed from the email lists after the whole auction thing. Haven’t missed them despite the occassional blow out deal.

There are deals, but they are fewer than they usd to be

Awesome list John. I shall add a few more:Verve wine: Focus on top producers from every region. They hold excellent tastings. Dustin (who is in the Somm movies) is often there, great to chat with and pick brains on. Prices are tad on the higher side. But the service, selection and people make up for it.

Manhattan wine company: Hard to get to, but a great store focused on up and coming producers and regions. Tastings are sporadic but worth checking out. Delivery and service have been excellent.

Le Du’s wines: Was run by Jean Luc, still carrying on well with great tasting events. Strength is in France: good selection in Loire, Jura. Loved their wine tasting events, had many of my discoveries here. Lovely people as well.

Despana Vinos y Mas: As the name suggests, its all about Spain. If you want to explore new Spain, this is the place. Comando G, Envinate, Guimaro and other cult producers wines can be found here.

For Loire wines it’s hard to beat Chambers St. (though places like Flatiron and Crush give them a run for their money).