Monday, December 29, 2008

Your West County Wine Tour Guide

Every now and then I grab Mr. Lush or a friend (or both) and embark on the West County Wine Tour. Its not an official tour, its an informal “wine store crawl” of the wine shops in West County on Saturdays, where the vast majority have free tastings. Although they (most) all offer free tastings, the level of detail and “fun” vary wildly, as Mr. Lush noted this past Saturday. Please take note of Lucy's Tasting Room Etiquette tips of course, and here’s a tour plan for your next free Saturday.

12:30-1:30: Lukas Liquor: It’s the Lush’s dream, really. The size of a grocery store, its got almost every wine, beer, and alcohol available in Missouri. Its set up a bit like a grocery store, and doesn’t have quite a cozy feel, although having space to navigate your shopping cart is a good thing, and trust, you need a shopping cart. They offer free tastings every half hour on Saturdays from 12:30-4 (maybe 4:30) of 8 wines. These are “class style” in a room off to the side, (although no chairs) typically done by a distributor (although last weekend the manager did them), you’re given an actual glass for your tasting, and someone talks about the wine, so you actually get a chance to learn about the wines. The wines in the tastings are usually priced from $10-28, a few whites, a few reds, and often a sparkling. However, last weekend it was a special treat and we got a chance to taste Franciscan Stylus, a $100/bottle Bordeaux blend. (it was good, although it really needed a few more years to age) Often there will another distributor or two (or three) showcasing their wines/liquors/beers in the main part of the store. All in all, a good start to the day. If its your first time or they have a lot of distributors, you might need more than an hour.

1:45-2:15: Wines of Wildwood: It’s a bit down on Manchester, however, a right turn out of Lukas’s parking lot, which if you’ve ever tried to turn left you know what a pain it is. Its much smaller than Lukas, although that’s to be expected. More focused on wine, little to no beer and very little alcohol. A few wine accessories, such as glasses, glass holders, decanters, wine stands, etc. They have 4 wines to taste from 1-4 on a little table in the back-you stand while you taste, and they also provide a glass to taste. I’ve been twice and both times it was 2 whites and 2 reds, and the price range is typically $11-25. There is someone there to talk about the wines, and the “tasting” begins when you want it to. Prices are relatively competitive, which is nice to see in a smaller store.

**Note, I do need to clarify, the glasses provided are for tastings only, its not like a winery where you get the glasses to keep**

2:30-3:00: Wine and Cheese Place off Clayton Rd. It’s a bit out of the way, and their tasting is a bit plain. They leave a few bottles out (usually 2-4) priced $10-35, with some plastic cups, and some cheese. It’s a serve yourself format from 1:00 to “whenever wine runs out”, and while some people would enjoy that, I personally prefer a class style. Their selection is average to better, with a good amount of wine, liquor and beer. And of course, their cheese selection is massive. I’d suggest stopping by once then deciding if its worth your time next trip.

3:15-3:45: Straubs on Clayton/Clarkson. (previously reviewed) They have some wines to taste on Saturdays, although it appears their main tastings are on Friday. Its in a plastic cup, and you stand, but there is someone there to tell you about it. Overall I recommend stopping for a few reasons, mainly because they have a bathroom, which lets be honest, we’ve been drinking for nearly 3 hours now, we have to go, if we haven’t already. Not that the other places don’t have a bathroom, but you don’t have to go through the back room by the broom closet to go. Also, it’s a good time for a little snack, as you know I recommend eating while drinking, and Straubs is a grocery store (hence, they have food). So go to the bathroom, go to the tasting, grab a snack and a bottle of water, and sit down in their dine-in areas. (or, you can get a glass from the bar or a bottle of wine and split it with friends, of course)

3:50-4:15: Wine Chateau on Clarkson. I almost hesitate to recommend this place but I’ll start with the good-they have semi-organized tastings with actual glasses from 1-4:30. Its starts when you walk up and someone is there to tell you about the wine. Their selection is nice, with much more focus on French wines and usually things in the above $25 price range overall. (there are some exceptions, but far less under $25 than over.) They have some alcohol, not much to any beer, if I recall. Now for the bad-I’ve never found their staff to be particularly friendly, nor have I heard anyone say anything good about them. I’ve actually found a few people to be downright rude. As with Wine and Cheese Place, I’d recommend trying it once and seeing if your experience is any different.

4:30-5:00: Wine Styles on Clarkson. The good news is that their tasting goes on until 6, so if you run behind on this vigorous schedule, you have plenty of time to make this tasting. The store is smaller and categorized by wine style (thus the name), such as “mellow”, “bold”, etc. They have a large tasting bar (with chairs *bonus*) and glasses. The tasting begins when you walk up, there is an info sheet (*double bonus*) and the staff will also talk about the wines, although be prepared your “pourer” might change, if they are called off for a recommendation. They pour 6-8 wines, priced from $15-$50. Prices a bit inflated, as are most wine stores sold by style and the selection is small, however, what’s nice is that every wine, in addition to being classified by style, also has a little info sheet next with the description. Overall, I’ve found the tasting and store to be the most fun- the staff is extra friendly- but I will note that this is after a day of drinking, so perhaps anyone would be extra fun. This concludes your West County Wine Tour and all in all it’s a good end to your day with a fun tasting and puts you right by 64/40 for an easy way home.

Let me know if you’d like to go but would prefer personalized instruction, I’m available as a tour guide on most Saturdays, as long as I don’t have to drive. ;)


LucyinStLou said...

Wow you were thorough! And, although I love to go, I just don't think driving would be a great idea after all of that :)

WineLush said...

Oh Lucy, that's less than or equal to what you guys taste (even with you splitting) on your 10 wineries a day super efficient tastings. (sigh, I can only dream of being so efficient.)

But its a bit of concern to be noted, which is why I suggest taking a water/food break at Straubs.

Mrs. STL Sarah said...

Great itinerary! We often do the Saturday tastings at Lukas & Wine Chateau, so maybe we've seen you there. My husband actually says WC is his favorite wine shop in town, but that may be because he's a huge Bordeaux collector and they have a great selection.

WineLush said...

Mrs. S-
WC does have a good bordeaux selection-better than most. Like I said, I've just never found them to be that friendly-one was outright rude to me when I inquired about an aroma tasting for my wine club.
But that's why I say try it opinion is just one.
You'll have to let me know next time you're on the West County Wine Tour-perhaps we can met in real world and not just blog world!