BEST WINE AND LIQUOR STORE - 2002
Using the same logic we apply to restaurants--the best restaurant is the one that we'd rather go to, not the one with the most appetizers or biggest staff--we're going to hand this prize to itsy-bitsy underdog Solo Vino. Opened just last Halloween by a trio of longtime local sommeliers and wine insiders (namely Sam Haislet, Chuck Kanski, and Robert Strunk), Solo Vino sells wine the way we'd like it sold: with hands-on experience and an eye toward customer value. You can go in searching for a white Bordeaux, and they'll have it, but they're just as likely to steer you toward something you might like better, like a Bergerac or Montravel, regions just east of Bordeaux. Ask about a particular wine and they're likely to--gasp!--open it and taste it with you. Why? Because they like wine, and they consider buying and selling it a pleasant activity. Want further proof? Direct your attention to the food-friendly bargain rack near the register, filled with everyday wines priced under $10. When you walk into a store and explain what you're making for dinner--roast chicken, pasta carbonara, steak, pizza--and walk out with an $8 bottle recommended by a former bigwig sommelier, everyone's happy.