A good wine shop -- say, K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood -- ages well. The selection doesn't become stagnant, the choices are varied. There are always stellar surprise finds and some "Oh wow, this is a great deal" familiar wine bottle moments.
And as the seasons change, the wines subtly change, too. You'll notice a few more Alsatian Rieslings and summer cocktail-friendly floral spirits. Which gets us to the first summer edition of our ongoing Wine Shop Report series.
The Wine Shop (or aisle): K&L Wine Merchants, Hollywood
The Selection: A well-edited and regularly-changing selection of wines from around the world. Staffers routinely taste wines, and even better, post their sometimes conflicting opinions online (flavor is subjective, after all). That means there is always an impressively broad range of wines here. This time of year, K&L is one of our favorite sources for lighter summer wines, from a classic Alsatian Reisling (Trimbach, $16) to California-bred Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer (Breggo, $25).
And sure, if you happen to have an impressive collection of cellared wines you want to auction off, or have the budget to "invest" in Bordeaux and such (lucky you), you can do that, too. This is as much a rare wine find shop (Read: More expensive than our monthly rent) as it is one with some great bargains. But even when an inexpensive mass-produced wine hits the shelves here, it's because the vintage is good and the staff gave it a thumbs up. We've seen big French wines at K&L one year, gone the next, then back again.
Other than wine, the spirits corner (literally the back corner wall) is more impressive than it looks on first glance. You'll find $20 bar staples (better-than-average tequila, rum, vodka, etc.) as well as very niche spirits, from Tempus Fugit's delicately scented liqueur de violette (about $28) to that $50 Corzo with such a masculine vibe you have to wonder if it's anejo tequila or testosterone in there (well, Father's Day is right around the corner).
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The Verdict: Despite all those library wines, we are firm believers that K&L's strength is in the $10 to $25 category (the price range search engine is on the bottom left of the website). Sure, there are wines under $10 here. And we've snagged some we've liked. But if you can spend $12, occasionally $18 or so, this is a wine geek's Candyland.
The Hollywood store is pretty small, so check the website if there is something you really want to make sure it is in stock. If not, it likely can be ordered from the main warehouse in Northern California -- despite the size of the Hollywood shop, this is a pretty big wine retail operation. Which gets us to our one K&L complaint. Things go quickly here. So quickly that if you, like us, prefer to buy a mixed case to taste over a few weeks, it's likely your favorite bottles will be gone by the time you go back for a full case. Granted, we tend to stick to pretty inexpensive wines that go quickly.
For that reason, much as we are by now thoroughly annoyed by all the Groupon and other such daily email "deals," we think the K&L email list (go to "Email Preference" here) is worth the buzzing iPhone headache of yet another email. They range from the latest cult wine releases to discounted bargains. We've learned to call or email right away if we spy a good value that we want -- they will set a case aside at the Hollywood shop or ship it.
The Grade: Solid A.