There's no more daunting experience to a wine novice than entering a quality wine store. It's hard to fake your way through the process of picking out a wine, and the snobs can spot you a mile away as your eyes dart helplessly around the room. Face it -- you need the help of an expert, but the wine-store clerk is usually rivaled only by the record-store or bookstore clerk in the snobbery department. The Wine Merchant, though, is instantly relaxing. Inevitably someone will greet you and help
you. Not wait on you, or push you, or judge you, but help, and if you have questions, they'll answer them without condescension, at least most of them. On a recent visit, we tossed them this one: "A medium-bodied red, under $10, that's going to be drunk out of coffee mugs in the woods." The clerk smiled, furrowed his brow and said, "Follow me," as he offered a few choices. We settled on a great $10 Pinot and felt good doing it.