Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vintages: Adventures in Wine

I am on numerous wine store mailing lists as I like to keep updated on what is going on in the local wine community. I learn about intriguing wine tastings or wine maker visits. For a time, I have been receiving emails from Vintages: Adventures in Wine, a wine store with locations in West Concord and Belmont. Though I have found the emails to be fascinating, it was only until very recently that I stopped by their Belmont location.

I don't get to Belmont enough, though I should, especially now that the new Il Casale restaurant has opened there. So, when I needed to make a trip to Belmont, I planned to stop by Vintages to check it out. Vintages is owned by Eric Broege and Carolyn Kemp, husband and wife. They first opened the West Concord store and last year opened the Belmont store.

Based on their website listings, I had a preconception that most of their wines were Italian, with a small bunch of French wines and a few Spanish ones. I wondered how it would compare to Italian Wine Merchants in NYC.

As you step into the small store, about 600 square feet, there is a large chalkboard to your left with a list of new arrivals and specials. Plus, there is a refrigerator with cheese and other gourmet foods. That is a nice addition as wine and cheese often go so well together.

Wines are primarily shelved on both the left and right walls. Down the center of the store are counters with other wines, and refrigerated storage units within the counters. They certainly have made full use of their limited space without making the store appear over crowded. They display around 700 or so wines, close to 50 wines in each shelving section. That is certainly a good amount of available choices.

My preconception was not fully accurate. There is more diversity in their wine selection than the website seems to indicte. There are a number of omissions but they are intentional. Most of the right side of the store contains Italian wines, from top producers like Gaja and more unique wine makers like Gravner. Yet Italian wines actually make up less than 50% of their selection. They carry a significant number of French wines, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Champagne. They even carry some California wines, apparently mainly from small producers such as Sutton Cellars. In the photo below, you can see all of the Spanish wines they sell. They even carry plenty of dessert wines.

What about their prices? No worries there as prices are reasonable and comparable to most other wine stores. You are not going to overpay here for either low end or high end wines. And you will find plenty of inexpensive wines here, despite the numerous high end wines the carry.

It is interesting that the store fails to carry wines from a number of different and popular regions. It feels very much like a personal store, stocked with the wines the owner loves. To me, it is indicative of the passion of the owner, and his desire to share that passion with others. This is not a wine store that will appeal to everyone, that will cater to all tastes. But, if you share the tastes of the owner, if you really enjoy French, Spanish and Italian wines, then you will very much enjoy this store.

In the regions it does carry, it has plenty of diversity as well as carrying some of the top wines of those regions. I am a fan of these regions, so this store really appealed to me.

Vintages gets my hearty recommendation!

53 Commonwealth Ave.
West Concord, MA
Phone: 978-369-2545

32 Leonard Street
Belmont Center, MA
Phone: 617-484-4560

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

It's truly refreshing to hear about a wine shop that emits an owner's passion and care for their product and business. Vintages looks like my kind of shop.