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Why I love the little guy…

Okay, so Total Wine and Spirits opened in Vegas recently and they’re doing weekend tastings. After being repeatedly asked by just about everyone we know if we’d been over to Total yet, we finally decided that today was the day we’d check it out.

And the verdict is meh.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, per se. The tastings were fine – much more geared to the mass market than a lot of the tastings that we go to, but that’s to be expected.

The sweet tea “wine” thing was… interesting. And certainly nothing like my regular places would pour (or stock)…

The racks and racks and aisles of wine were awesome. Rhone? Yup. Spain? Of course. Portugal? Yeah, even a basic selection of that, too. That was pretty neat.

But after poking around a bit, the flaws started to show.

Aside from being grouped by country, there’s no rhyme, reason or order why things are where they are. Pinots are ordered by name. Not by region, country, style or any wine based classification… alphabetically.

Some meritage or other blend wines were in their region. Some organized by major varietal component (we picked up a bottle of Claret, which was tasted. When I asked where it was, I was told over in the Cabernets. Okay, fine, it’s mostly Cabernet. But if you’re looking for a Claret, you’re not really looking for a Cabernet. And if you’re a California Cab drinker, Claret is probably not where you’re headed that evening.) Others were in a section called “interesting reds”. If you find something you like, memorize where it is, because the postmodern shelf placement is going to make it hard to find it again next time.

But it’s the last thing that really matters: Joe on aisle 2 isn’t likely to get to know you. Claire over on the register isn’t going to remember that you really liked that sweet little Paso blend that you tried last week, and suggest that you taste a similar one that came in yesterday. Most of the people who staff the superstore place don’t really know or care much about you or about wine. It’s about the volume and the turnover.

No one in the store has tasted everything on the shelf. It comes in, they take it out of the box, their manager tastes some stuff around maybe once or twice a week and it goes on the shelf.

There is a place for the superstore concept. I can’t deny that the prices were good.. better in most cases than my small shops will be able to match simply because they’re not buying 1500 cases. But not so good that it makes up for the little disappointments.

I will admit that we bought a mixed case. It’s hard not to find 12 bottles when you’re presented with 8000 choices. And I’m sure we’ll go back. But, Bob & Kristin; Jeff and Rhonda you’ll still get most of our business. You may not be as cheap, but I know that if I ask if you’ve got anything new that will go with braised lamb with rosemary and roasted potatoes, you’ll make a recommendation that’s good because you know me, you know my palate and you know your wine.

To me, that’s worth the extra twenty bucks.

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