Just sharing a little something I started with a few friends two years ago. I live in North Central Minnesota, almost right smack dab in the middle of the continent. There's not a lot of options around here if you're into wines or especially collecting wines. This year will be our third wine tour, or rather, wine buying tour. Basically what we do is jump into a minivan, head out the door at 8 am (since most liquor stores in our state don't open until 9 am.) and make a big loop through Minnesota, hitting every single wine shop and liquor store along with way. I have a cabin near Grand Rapids, MN that we stop at as the halfway point and then meander our way back home on day 2, again hitting every liquor store along the way. The cabin is about a 3 hour drive from our start point, so we tend to wander off the main path a bit on day 2 rather than sticking to the shortest route.
Last year we scored some pretty good deals. Here's the cool thing about the area we are traversing, most of these little towns in Northern Minnesota have municipal liquor stores. Now, the muni's are obviously owned by the city so the employees that work there are hired by the city. 99 times out of 100 they are just there for the paycheck. Because of this, they often have no idea what it is they are selling. For someone who is out wine shopping and not sure what to get, this is a bad thing since any advice they offer will likely be what they were spoon fed from their distributers when in actuality they have no idea what they're talking about. On the flip side, if you do know a thing or two about wines, it can be a very good thing. The reason for this is because the muni's don't keep tabs on wine prices if they go up or down (we're concerned mainly with up). Case in point, the municipal liquor store in Park Rapids, Minnesota has some 2005 Opus One for $139.00/bottle. That sounds like a lot until you look it up and realize that it's worth $250/bottle. I got a bottle of 2006 Antinori Cervara at this same liquor store last year for $8. It now retails for around $50.
This year's trip will be the week after next. We plan on looping North this time and hitting some of the smaller towns on the US/Canada border. This may not sound like the best route to take, but considering that Polaris Industries is located in Roseau (a multi Billion dollar company) and Warroad has Marvin Windows and Glass (another huge company) the muni's in these towns just might be carrying some higher end wines and I've got a feeling there will be some super good deals just waiting to be found.
The main point of the trip isn't the wine buying though. It's about sharing a good time with friends that are passionate about the same thing. When we get to the cabin at the end of day 1, we'll fire up the grill and throw on the steaks, then each of us picks one bottle from that day's finds. Since this is year three, it has officially become a tradition and we have vowed to take a new route each year for as long as we can.
Annual "wine tour"
- Reply by gregt, Nov 30, 2012.
onin - I guess you know about internet shopping although I have no idea about the shipping laws in Minnesota. And not being familiar with the state, I don't know how your wine stores are either, but what you describe is about what I'd expect in terms of knowledge and service.
So while in a way I feel sorry for you, having to tour the whole state to buy some wine, the solution you've developed to cope with the situation seems like a perfect was to make the best of a less than perfect situation. Sounds like a great idea.
Best of luck on your travels! Cheers!
- Reply by JonDerry, Nov 30, 2012.
Gotta love those finds at various off the grid liquor stores, except it's usually the storage that can't be accounted for, a pretty big piece of the puzzle. Good luck on the trip though, sounds like a great time.
- Reply by EMark, Nov 30, 2012.
I agree that this, actually, sounds like fun. You are making the best of your situation. The steak grilling rite sounds awesome.
What about the Twin Cities? I would think that there would be major sources there for you to check on.
- Reply by Onin24eagle, Nov 30, 2012.
GregT, I do shop online for wines quite a bit. The purpose of this trip is more about having a good time than scoring great wine deals. Just getting away for a few days and visiting towns you would not normally visit is enough to make the trip worthwhile. Minnesota is full of towns with odd tourist attractions. You can visit the huge Smokey the Bear statue in International Falls, A giant duck in Blackduck, a giant Turkey in Frazee or even see the "world's largest prarie chicken" in Rothsay. They're all extremely corny and stupid, but one of our goals, which I didn't mention above, is to get a picture of us with every single dumb tourist attraction in the state. There are easily over 100 of them.
Jonderry, Yes, we passed on some pretty good looking deals due to uncertainty about the storage. There are a surprising number of stores that actually store the bottles on their sides though. The muni in Park Rapids that I mentioned is a good example. Most bottles are stored properly at that location.
Emark, Twin Cities/St Cloud is on the slate for next year.
- Reply by napagirl68, Dec 1, 2012.
onin24eagle- this sounds like GREAT fun! Yes, there are online sources, but many shops do not list their wines online, and you can bet that the ones that do, absolutely KNOW the value of the wine in their possession.
I also love the hunt... not just for a great wine at a great price, but antiques and other treasures as well.
Here in CA, we are pretty much inundated with wine. But a couple years back, one of our local discount grocery chains was able to attain some AMAZING wines during the worst of the recession- at rock bottom prices. So we took a day and drove round to ~8 stores in this chain, seeking out those few gems amongst the pedestrian. We ended up with some great wine, at ~20% of what it should have cost.
Times must be improving...not seeing those deals so much anymore.