Best Wine Store - 2007
Readers' Choice: The Wine Merchant
It is, perhaps, the most memorable scene in the annals of American cinema: Steve Martin as Navin Johnson in the 1979 classic The Jerk, on a date in a fancy French restaurant, all hopped up on his newfound wealth. "Would monsieur care for another bottle of Château Latour?" the waiter inquires. Replies Navin: "Ah, yes, but no more 1966. Let's splurge! Bring us some fresh wine! The freshest you've got this year! No more of this old stuff." Walking into Corral Liquors is like that, only the other way around. See, most wine shops sell mostly the new stuff not so much by choice as because it's all that's available from the distributor. Corral, on the other hand, is rife with old stuff. For the wine lover, a trip to this unassuming boozemongery can be a journey back in time, to the late 1990s or early '00s. It wasn't planned that way. "It's just what happened," says Corral's wine buyer, Joe Billhartz, who came onboard in 1999. "It's more like: I brought it in at that time why the heck do I still have it?" We'll tell you why he still has it. He still has it because when people in the St. Louis area think wine, their next thought isn't Granite City. Plenty of folks cross Corral's threshold, but not a whole lot of them come for the wine. (A bunch of them probably come for the beer, a whopping array of malt beverages from around the globe.) That's why you, fellow wine drinker, can rustle yourself up a passel of late-1990s bottles at late 1990s prices. Our top find so far: the 1996 Montpeyroux from cult-fave winemaker Sylvain Fadat of Domaine D'Aupilhac, priced at $15. Ten years ago this was probably a tannic monster. It's still a burly bear of a wine, but that bear's wearing a silk smoking jacket. Of course, now that we've let the cab (ha!) out of the bag, Corral's back-stock might begin to dwindle. Fine by us. Billhartz is clearly a savvy wine buyer, his inventory of younger wines well worth a drive. Oh, and if you do go in search of the "old stuff," don't bother asking Billhartz for the Montpeyroux. Because, you see, we bought his last six bottles.