Tag Archives: Wine

Best Bets: Baltimore’s Best Liquor Stores

Sometimes you just want a six pack of Heineken. That’s a problem easily solved. Other times, all you need is a bottle of Beam. You can find that just about anywhere. Occasionally though, you need to go above and beyond. If you’re planning for a large party, stocking your bar from scratch, or starting your wine collection you’ll need a liquor store that goes above and beyond.

The shops mentioned here aren’t so much liquor stores as they are liquor wonderlands. They’re like candy stores for grownups. They’re the places you keep coming back to, because they’ve got more different bottles in there than you could ever possibly drink, try though you might. They are, simply put, the best.

A visual approximation of the Chop buying a bottle at one of our favorite liquor stores.

Beltway Fine Wine. You’ve probably driven by Beltway at a pretty high speed and not thought much of it. It’s easy to miss, being jammed underneath an Ethan Allen furniture store. What you don’t realize from the road though is that it’s got the same square footage as the giant furniture store above it. It’s huge. There may be some strange obscure liquor somewhere in the world that Beltway doesn’t have, but we kind of doubt it. 8727 Loch Raven Blvd, Towson.

The Wine Source. As liquor stores go, the Wine Source is the Chop’s home base. Simply the best inside Baltimore City, as the rest of the stores on this list are all out in the suburbs. If the Wine Source had a walk-in beer cooler and a better parking situation, it would achieve liquor store perfection. 3601 Elm Avenue, Baltimore.

Dawson’s Liquors. We’ve never actually been to Dawson’s, because it’s in Severna Park and we only pass through that way about once every 10 years or so, but we were tipped off to it by our man over at I Hate JJ Redick who’s always on point, so we’re going to take his word for it. We hate to judge a store by its website, but theirs is pretty damn good, and crappy stores don’t usually invest in outstanding websites. 589 B & A Blvd, Severna Park.

Midway Liquors. If you’re traveling that far out Route 40 East, you must make a point of stopping in at Midway. Even if you have to pull a u-turn to do it. We’ve only been in there once, but we walked out with three good bottles of Scotch for $100. Those bottles would have cost $150 most other places, and that’s the beauty of Midway. You could say the same about anything in the store. 12320 Pulaski Highway, Joppa.

Honeygo Wine and Spirits. with their ‘Wall of Beer’ Honeygo is known as a go to spot for fans of microbrews and imports, and is even favored by one of Baltimore’s foremost beer experts. Of course, as any great liquor store does, they excel in their selection of wine and spirits as well. 5004 Honeygo Center Dr, Perry Hall.

Shawan Liquors. Shawan Liquors is in Hunt Valley. Like everything else in Hunt Valley, it’s pretty much by rich people, for rich people. So if you’ve got a taste for a well aged Islay or a Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape, Shawan is the place for you. If you want a 30 pack of High Life, well, they might have that gathering dust in the basement too. 11337 York Road, Hunt Valley.

Ronnie’s Fine wine and Spirits. Last but not least is the pride of Harford County, Ronnie’s in Bel Air. They’ve got a wonderful walk in beer cooler, as well as a ton of microbrews, a good selection of kegs, and a 3-for-$12 wine bin. They’re also known for their occasional blowout sales which draw large crowds looking to stock up. Putting every bottle in the store on sale once in a while is a policy we’d like to see more stores adopt! 1514 Rock Spring Road, Forest Hill.

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How to Build a Home Wine Collection

A couple of months ago, we did a post on How to Stock a Home Bar in Two Parts. We laid out an easy blueprint of follow for stocking an impressive bar on any budget, and steered clear of the shortcomings in most bar-stocking advice. One thing we mentioned then, that most writers on the subject neglect, is that wine does not belong on the bar. It belongs on the wine rack, separate from the bar.

Looking at an empty wine rack waiting to be filled can be an intimidating thing. We’ve found that when stocking the bar, the basic process is to stock one of each staple and then add and upgrade over time. A wine collection requires a bit of a different strategy though. For one thing, there’s just too much wine out there. A bar can be fairly comprehensive, but without a sizable cellar you can’t even begin to sample all of the wine in the world at once. Another key difference is that wine disappears much, much faster than liquor once it’s opened. That bottle of Cognac might last you a few years with nip here and a taste there… but a bottle of wine is gone the same day it’s opened.

A visual approximation of the wine cellar at the Chophouse.

In stocking the bar, we recommended that you first decide how many bottles your bar will encompass and pursue your buying strategy accordingly. The same holds true with wine. Our own rack is a Sloane model from Crate and Barrel, which is designed with storage for 15 bottles. We usually keep about 3 bottles on top as well, so we’re going to use 18 bottles in this example. 18 Bottles gives a little more variety, and represents 1 1/2 cases of wine.

Of 18 storage slots, we keep three of them filled with specialty wines. We like to keep on hand a bottle of Sake, a bottle of tawny port, and a bottle of Champagne. You never know when a dinner guest might drop by with sushi… and stay for mimosas in the morning. It’s best to be prepared.

Of the remaining 15 slots, we recommend dividing those up into threes. If you’re sharing wine with guests, you’ll need more than one bottle to ensure that there’s enough for everyone to be drinking the same thing. If you’re drinking alone and find a bottle you like, it’s better to have two more on hold than to have to go back to the store and find it again. With our decided preference for red wines over white, we elect to dedicate 9 of those slots to reds, and only 6 to whites. You may be the opposite, or may drink one or the other exclusively, in which case you’d adjust your ratio accordingly.

There are 12 bottles in a case of wine. We recommend buying wine by the half case or splitting a case in half. Most wine shops will give you a discount of 10-20% for buying 12 or more bottles, and some will give a smaller discount for buying six. Buying six of a variety at a time may not be ideal for your weekly paycheck, but it has the distinct advantage of allowing you to have your cake and eat it too. By drinking 3 bottles and keeping the other three, you’ll slowly be able to fill your rack with a selection of wines that’s big enough to provide variety, but small enough that you can be intimately familiar with each label. For the novice, continuing to buy and drink in this manner will allow you think and talk intelligently about a few wines right away, and over the course of time will enable you to actually learn quite a bit about grape varieties and growing regions, in a way that drinking one bottle or glass at a time never could.

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The Perfect Wine for Thanksgiving: Tawny Port

You’ve all probably figured out by now that the Chop really likes our liquor. We’ll always embrace the chance to try something new or compare two whiskies side by side. What you may not have realized though is that we also like wine quite a bit.

The difference between lies in the fact that while we harbor some nerdy, snobbish tendencies about liquor, we’re not at all picky about wine. We fall squarely into the 15% of consumers who are ‘Savvy Shoppers’ on Constellation Brands’ six types of wine drinkers list. If it costs $10 and doesn’t smell like vinegar, odds are we’ve gone home with it at some point. (But enough about our sex life…)

A visual approximation of the Chop's Thanksgiving dinner.

So when a wine magazine editor writing for the Huffington Post recently called Thanksgiving “the clusterfuck of wine holidays” we were inclined to agree.

The Chop has a very large extended family. For thanksgiving we traditionally pay a visit to our singularly Republican aunt and uncle who are enthusiastic wine cellar-ers and have been for many years. In typical selfish, undemocratic GOP fashion though, they keep most of the cellar locked up, and buy a bunch of crappy Vendange or Turning Leaf for the family, thinking we don’t know the difference. No matter. Picking and pairing wines for thanksgiving dinner really can be more trouble than it’s worth.

So when you’re standing around the wine shop this week, wondering what bottle to bring as a gift or which will make the best digestif, we’d like to plant this thought in your head: Thanksgiving is the best day of the year for drinking Port.

All of the best drinkers throughout history have embraced Portos. From kings and noblemen to oenophilic tastemakers to the fathers of Maryland to hobos and winos, and of course, the Chop, anyone who knows wine knows it’s better when it’s fortified. With the perfect mix of lightness and body, fruit and oak, and caramel and spice, a good tawny Port is the perfect choice for a tipple after a feast of yams and turkey. It even pairs sublimely with pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

The bottle in our rack right now is the Sandeman 10 year old. We picked this out from among the large and varied selection of Portos at the Wine Source for about $25. To our mind Sandeman is roughly the Johnnie Walker of Portugal, from their wide range of Portos and a consistent quality near the bottom of their line, right down to their exporting machine and the shadowy figure in the logo. That’s not a knock. We’ve got nothing but love for Johnnie Black, and we’d recommend keeping both the Walker and the Sandeman on hand for the holidays, and all the year round.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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