Best Wine Store

The Wine Merchant Ltd.

A stinky-foot smell greets your entry into the Wine Merchant Ltd. in downtown Clayton. It's just its cheese counter (and a stellar one, at that). Get past that and you'll find one of the finest wine selections in the region. While a supermarket might stock one offering from the famed French region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the Wine Merchant had no fewer than 27 on a recent count. But salesman Phil Peimann said that his shop is focusing on Burgundy right now, because the last two vintages have proved superb. As a certified sommelier, he knows. But by all means, come by and sample the Burgundies yourself every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. (Or sample other regions and varietals on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m.) If you seek something obscure, no problem: A quarter of the Wine Merchant's business is special order. There's a lot to learn at the Wine Merchant. The store holds four classes a week (for a fee). On one night you might learn about California pinots; the next, you pair those with barbecue from Pappy's Smokehouse. Peimann and his colleagues work hard to be non-pretentious and accessible.

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