You know the situation. A last minute need for a good or particular bottle of wine, because the cellar is bare. Unexpected friends from out of town are coming for a visit. You just read about a great wine you are unfamiliar with. Where do you go in your local area to get it?
That happened to me about 2 months ago. We had just watched "Bottle Shock", and wanted to try something from Chateau Montelena. There are a couple of wine shops in our area (Lansing, MI) that have extensive offerings. I had some time on a Saturday afternoon to go out and grab a bottle. After calling 7 stores, we located a single bottle of 2005 Cabernet. They held it for me. Asking the wine guy about getting more, he said because the supplier is out of Detroit (90 plus miles away), Lansing seems to get the leftovers of the higher-end selections, and it is hard to get.
If you are in the mid-Michigan area, what are your favorite wine shops? Where do you go for a difficult to find bottle? Where do you get the most wine for your dollar? Who seems to have a good "wine guy" to help you out?
I find the best every day value our local World Market/Cost Plus in East Lansing. On a given week, their sale prices may bring my favorites down a buck or two. The Meijer supermarkets have a good wide selection, often with sale prices offering $5 savings or more per bottle.
For harder to find wines and a big global selection, Goodrich Shoprite near the MSU campus is a good place to go.
If in the Detroit area, Trader Joe's in West Bloomfield or Livonia has some great deals on some everyday wines for $8 or less, including "3-buck chuck" ($2.99 in Michigan).
There are a couple more I will add at a later time.
Favorite Wine Shops in Michigan
- Reply by rhill2990, Aug 25, 2009.
Lately I have only gotten as far north as Ann Arbor. I found an excellent place there called Morgan and York. They carry a nice selection of fine wines and in addition they have a delicatessen. They have some cheeses there that I have not found elsewhere in my area. I found a nice Tommes de Savoir, a french cheese that I really enjoyed.
- Reply by Greg Tatar, Aug 25, 2009.
West Bloomfield is in the Detroit area? It is if you consider most of SE Michigan the Detroit area, which I guess makes some sense.
Anyhow, years ago there was a store called Merchant of Vino that opened on Northwestern back in the 70s. They eventually opened a few others then sold the chain and some of them have since closed. However, the original owner kept one store called simply Merchants on Micigan Ave in Dearborn. It's one of the better wine stores down there. And the guy who owns Westborn Market has now opened a few and they have pretty decent wine selections, although I think Merchants' selection is larger.
In and around Royal Oak there is a cluster of shops that have opened over the past few years. There is Cloverleaf, and Ellie, and Simply Wines is very close by right on Woodward near 9 mile. You should also check out WIneBuys. I don't know if they have a storefront yet or not but they're also in Ferndale and they have an interesting collection that's unlike anything out here in NYC. It's not nearly as desolate as it used to be.
The guys at WIneBuys are pretty good actually. They're also in The Gang of Pour. I've not ever met them but we've talked over the phone.
Michigan is rough for out of state shipping but that's the way to go if you can't find bottles in -state. The pricing over there is a little weird - some things are more costly than elswhere and other things are really well-priced. But at least they're available these days. Good luck.
- Reply by Muchkabouche, Aug 25, 2009.
Thanks, Greg, for the observations. Yes, West Bloomfield is one of the areas on a Michigan road map that is on the zoomed-in portion featuring Detroit and vicinities. Merchant of Vino was one of my favorites...nice variety of single malt scotches they carried, too. WineBuys out of Ferndale has a website that has an extensive selection. Prices are good, too. For example, the 2005 Montelena Cabernet that runs between $43.65-48.50 in Lansing off the shelf, they list for $37.82 (before shipping).
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 25, 2009.
There is a great shop in Ann Arbor, the name escapes me at the moment but hopefully it will come to me. I used to receives their newsletters years ago but they wouldn't ship to NY so I can just admire their selection from afar.
- Reply by Greg Tatar, Aug 25, 2009.
Yeah but culturally, West Bloomfield ain't Detroit. Or at least it wasn't. I have no idea now as I don't live there any more. When I lived in Royal Oak they didn't have any of those stores at all. It was a pretty dead place. Then it became kind of trendy and then all those wine stores and restaurants and things opened and it's quite nice now.
But forget about wine - what happened to the bread in the Detroit area? I started baking my own because I couldn't get any. Then for a while they had a revival and some of the supermarkets even started with good bread and a few little bakeries opened. Last five years or so there's nothing! What's going on? You're getting a screwing in Lansing for sure at those prices!
If Greg remembers the name of the place in AA, maybe they'll ship to you? I think it's legal to ship in-state, no? Incidentally, does Zingerman's carry wine? Or Whole Foods? Or Costco? In some states they actually have decent wines. Never been to thrilled with Trader Joe wines tho.
First wine collector I ever knew lived in Huntington Woods. I thought it was the most eccentric thing. He'd travel to different states to meet friends to exchange wine because there was none in MI. He was a friend of my roomates parents. Was a biochemist and every time he went to a convention, he'd bring back wine. In Lansing you have the college kids but you also have the profs and the government and it seems like the city could support a few decent wine stores?
- Reply by Muchkabouche, Aug 26, 2009.
Lansing is a conundrum to me. I moved here with my wife in 1992 from Brooklyn, NY. She was raised in Lansing, always an affinity for mid-Michigan. When we arrived, I immediately thought, "What a SMALL big town". Especially now with the economy, a lot of specialty niches are just gone. What I can't seem to get my head around is how the mom and pop run restaurants, especially the ones that target a limited cusine offering, just don't last. What eventually moves into their building, and stays, would be Applebees, Chuck E. Cheese (yes, they are alive here in Lansing) and another McDonalds. Please.
Given that a lot of the greater Lansing area is gainfully employed by either the State of Michigan or MSU (sorry former GM employees) or even one of the area's hospitals, it would seem that some discretionary $$ would be out there to support some decent eclectic restaurants or wine shops. Granted, the area immediately surrounding MSU is very diverse in the businesses. In the past, small stand-alone wine shops have come, and gone. Currently most of the better selections are integrated into other businesses. Horrock's farm market on the west side of Lansing has quite a range of wines, although increasingly shrinking from what it once was. Goodrich ShopRite just off of MSU campus has a nice variety, ranging from $3.99 up to over $200.00, with lots in between. I just picked up a 2004 Perrin & Fils Chateneuf-du-pape les Sinards yesterday for $26.59. The Big 10 Party Store in Okemos has a great selection, even carrying Opus One. From my experience there with higher-end slow moving bottles, is that they more than twice have seemed to be oxidized. Stored upright on the shelf, with the dust accumulating over who knows how many months, I just don't shop them for the primo aged wines any more. Tom's Party Store has a good deal of space dedicated to wines, and is merchandised fairly well, with a good "wine guy" that has tasted every bottle of what he carries. Some of the buyers at these places have offered me a 10-20% on case quantities. That may be the way to go locally, anyway.
- Reply by Greg Tatar, Aug 26, 2009.
You're probably one of the few who'd buy decent wines at the case level. There's a guy down at Merchants who I talk to every time I'm in town. Blanking on his name right now but he'd be happy to have you come in too.
I moved from Detroit to Brooklyn a couple years before you made the reverse move. I know what you mean about the food/wine in Lansing. All of Michigan really. Detroit itself is a really big, small town. It's why the auto industry is dead now. Applebees, Olive Garden, etc., are fine dining.
Although to be fair, NYC is very much like that too. There is a gloss over it because of all the wealth and the high-rollers and the ethnic enclaves, but much of it, even in Manhattan, is pretty similar to places elsewhere, at least in terms of mind-set.
For example, my neighbors are overwhelmingly Irish. They're great people but don't really obsess over fine dining. They remind me of all the Polish people I knew in Detroit. Why pay $20 for a bottle of wine in this overpriced store? Let's go to Krogers where you can get a whole gallon for $6. Wine was wine. Of course that gallon would be opened and sit there for a few weeks until they got around to finishing it because wine wasn't the daily drink of choice.
Anyhow, one winter I stayed home over the holidays because I had the flu. After about a week I was feeling better, but I was alone and so my neighbors asked if I'd like to go out to eat with them.
Sure. Where were were going? Oh, to a nice Italian place they said. Their daughter found it and they'd been going there from time to time.
So we drive down to to the restaurant and we pull up to a place offering paella and things like that. Other than a few pubs, that was the only restaurant on that particular block so I was curious.
"Is this it?" I asked,
"Yep. Nice place." they replied.
"But this is Spanish, no?"
"Ahh, Italian, Spanish, what's the difference?"
It was a great answer and of course I figured I'd just go with the flow. Almost didn't even care if the restaurant was any good, I was enjoying myself so much. These people had absolutely no pretense - it was just about going out with family and friends.
So I asked to look at the wine list and inquired as to whether anyone wants wine. Not really, they'd stick with beer.
On that wine list was a Gran Reserva Rioja from 1982 at $40! From a solid winery! Holy crap. I asked the waiter if that was really true and he said yes but then begged me not to order it.
"Why?" I inquired.
"Because those older wines, the corks are so hard to take out. Maybe you would like this one," he helpfully suggested, pointing to a bottle of plonk that was much newer and a bit cheaper. Wine was wine! I knew all about that from Detroit.
"I'll tell you what. If you can't get the cork out, I'll help. Let's give it a try. What do you say?"
Three guys worked on that bottle as carefully as possible and the cork came out in one piece. Perfectly stored, the wine was awesome. My dinner companions wondered why I'd pay $40 for a bottle. I explained that you would never be able to find that wine in any store and if you could, it would have been several times as expensive. Now everyone was curious about it.
Anyhow, the food was pretty good too, the companions were great, the wine was wonderful, and there you are. Who knows what you might uncover in Lansing. Good luck.
- Reply by Mark Angelillo, Aug 26, 2009.
Great story, Greg. I know I've heard gr and RBoulanger musing about the bottles of older wine and liquor you could find driving between the anonymous Wine & Spirits Shoppes of rural America. I guess restaurants are no different.
- Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 26, 2009.
Village Corner is the store I was thinking about. Not sure if it's still a good shop or not but it certainly was back in the day. It certainly seems to have a great selection and intelligent information on their website.
- Reply by lolagirl, Aug 26, 2009.
There are a few really good new wine shops in the Metro Detroit area. In Royal Oak, you have Cloverleaf and Holiday Market, in Birmingham you have Simply Wine (excellent selection and easy to navigate), Red Wagon (HUGE extensive collection) in Rochester, Cost Plus Wine Market at the Eastern Market (downtown D) and Champanes my all time favorite in Sterling Hts. If you go to Champanes plan on spending the day, it is colossal! A little out of the way but worth the trip!
Here is a link to their site.