Tag Archives: Solo Vino

The Savvy Lush’s favorite wine shops in the Twin Cities.

I’m often asked, “Hey S.L., where should I buy wine in the Twin Cities?” I usually answer this question with a question.

“Where do you live?” because let’s be honest, you’re going to shop where it’s convenient. There are several stores all around the metro. I hope you have your go-to haunt with friendly staff who know you and your palate so well you rarely walk out with a stinker.

If not, or you’re wanting to switch things up, I recommend my favorite wine shops in the Twin Cities.  (The only one that didn’t make the cut was Costco – this is hit or miss. Don’t ask for help because it won’t be helpful; you have to do your own research but that research can yield you some great deals!)

Morelli’s – East Saint Paul

  • Morelli’s isn’t going to blow your mind. It’s not full of sexy gimmicks, or newfangled splendor. It’s a no frills, get in and get out kinda haunt. But, they’ve been doing it for decades and that’s gotta count for something. From what I could tell, it does. Likely [and appropriately] grandfathered in as both a deli and a liquor store, this cash ONLY place is delightfully old school down to the cute old man who delivers your libations to the car. Grab some Chianti in a fiasco (straw basket) and hit the freezer aisle for a made-in-house frozen pizza.

Solo Vino – Cathedral Hill, Saint Paul

  • Chuck and company will entertain you as much as they’ll direct you toward a wine you’ll love. Their rustic yet tidy shop is open and spacious allowing for a sizable tasting bar and room for your pooch to crotch sniff. Plus, they may have the largest Rose selection in the city. Chuck is a huge proponent of the “drink pink” movement. Want to know more? Their Rose Fest is on May 16.

Thomas Liquors – Grand Avenue, Saint Paul

  • An unpretentious store on Grand Avenue [no, really], Thomas Liquors isn’t a boastful booze mart- but it has every right to be. Peruse the narrow aisles and you’ll find an impressive selection of wines. I love it because of their knowledgeable staff. If you stop by, ask Peter for a recommendation, then thank me later.

Little Wine Shoppe – Como Saint Paul

  • This cozy little place isn’t joking when they call themselves “little”. Wee is more like it. This place reminds me of little bottle shops in Italy. They have a modest selection, but make no mistake: this place is about the people. Everyone is greeted with a hometown smile and impeccable service. Pam is a sweetheart. You’ll want to open your bottle right then and there.

Zipp’s Liquors – Seward, Minneapolis

  • Zipp’s has changed since my days of buying ½ barrels of Michelob Amber Bock. It’s just undergone another facelift and the store has never been better. Now under the direction of Somm. Erica, the selection is vast and never stale. She gets exciting new things in all the time. Belly up to the new tasting bar, and sip on samples.

South Lyndale Liquors – Southwest Minneapolis

  • This is a place I don’t get to often but when I do, I ask myself, “why don’t I come here more often?” Mitch is a personable and down-to-earth dude. It ain’t fancy but hot-damn do they get some bitchin’ wines! Ask Mitch for a Beaujolais reco or something he found on his recent trip to Italy, and he’ll gladly oblige.

Hennepin Lake Liquors – Uptown Minneapolis

  • Cute and charmingly cramped, this should be your go-to booze destination in Uptown. They feature a surprisingly diverse selection of vino, beer and now they even take credit cards! Way to be so “21st Century” guys.

Sentyrz Market – Northeast Mpls

  • This is the Northeast equivalent to Morelli’s. Booze and food married together, but done Eastern European style. Sure, you get some yokels buying up Fireball 100 and Colt 45, but Peter has a quietly impressive wine collection. I steer clear of the produce, but go in back to the meat market for a hunk of pig, then grab some Pinot to wash it down.

Byerly’s Ridgedale – Minnetonka

  • There are very few things that get me to leave the city. Byerly’s Ridgedale is one of them. This shop comes with Rodney Brown: a friendly, bellowing man who prides himself in caring for his customers just as much as he cares about wine. Remember, wine is personal. Do you let any Tom, Dick or Harry cut your hair or give you a physical? No, hell no. This is the shop to get privy about new or rare wines, deals on limited stock and any time Rodney says a wine is “stupid good”, I buy it. I’m such a push over.


Alois Family Wines, drinking like it’s the year 1700 A.D.

Cost: $14.99-$40.00

Where buy now: Thomas Liquors, Zipp’s Liquors, Solo Vino & France 44

Grapes: Casavecchia, Pallagrello, Falanghina, Aglianico

Region: Campania, Italy

Vintage: See below.

Alois Wines
Alois Wines


Any time an Italian man comes to town, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be bellied up at the tasting bar trying my hand at broken Italian, slurring the few phrases I can still recite from my two years of University study. I always begin with my favorite, “Guarde le stelle, la luna e tu; tutte le cose belle delle notte.” Translation: “Look at the stars, the moon and you; all the beautiful things of the night.

Off the record, in my early 20s, this phrase garnered lots of Italian tail. (By the way, that’s not true. At all.)

Ahem, I digress, I’m here to tell you about an Italian winemaker, Massimo Alois (Ahl-oys), from Campania, Italy. He was recently in town pouring samples of his family’s wines at Zipp’s Liquors.

Here is  Fred (from Rootstock Wine Company, responsible for Massimo’s precious cargo) & Massimo.

Fred & Massimo
Fred & Massimo

Here is Massimo, Peter (from Thomas Liquors) and me. Psst – 25% off sale right now through Oct. 18!

Massimo, Peter & Me
Massimo, Peter & Me

Massimo is a lovely man who speaks terrific English. He’s ready and willing to answer any questions and explain about the wines, family history and vineyards.

Massimo, along with his father, Michele Alois, have a rich history. I’ll spare you the full-on nerdery in favor of the Cliff’s Notes version.  After all, there’s wine to drink, people.

The Alois name is synonymous around the world for it’s rich silks and tapestries. This is evident in places such as the White House, Italian Parliament and even the Louvre. The Alois factory, located in Caserta, began in 1885 and continues to this day. In 1992, Michele decided to begin foraging and planting native grapes. In concert with the Universities of Napoli and Firenza, he started cultivating a forgotten strain of indigenous ancient Roman  grapes. I think it’s incredible that grapes such as Casavecchia or Pallagrello (Ferdinando IV of the Bourbon family, King of Naples from 1751 to 1825, fave) survived the Phylloxera outbreak of the late 1800s! [Man, I LOVE that Brad Mitt movie!] Today, the Alois family still has ties to the silk factory; however, winemaking has become the main family passion.

The vineyards are situated about 15 miles from Mt. Vesuvius, which is still an active volcano. (Yikes!) Because of this proximity, much of the vines grow from volcanic soil, giving the wines an added layer of minerality. Some say “ashy”,  but I think that sounds gross, and frankly do not detect that in these wines.

I would have bought them all if I wasn’t saving for a NYC vacation. Alas, I came away with these three:

Caitî 2012 – 100% Pallagrello Bianco. Gold in color, rich in tropical fruit, and followed up with balanced acidity. This reminded me of a tart Chablis. Patio perfect to have alongside a nicoise salad, grass fed llama reduction foam, or tuna tartare. (Who am I kidding, I’ve never eaten any of that on my patio.) Drink it with any salad or a tuna fish sandwich. Very palate pleasing!

Settima 2010 – Blend of Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. Oh Madone! This gal is a-spicy little a-number. Hints of smoke swirl among the spices, red berries, toasted plum skins and strong tannins. Drink this Old World hottie up with fatty sausages or meatballs.

Murella 2008 – 100% Pallagrello Nero. This red wine is smooth, voluptuous, even. If Helen Mirren was a wine, she’d be Murella. This wine has such finesse and grace. She doesn’t need to slap you across the face; she, alone, draws you in with her charm, leaving you wanting more.

The real importance here is your bragging rights to say “I am drinking like a king.” Thanks King Ferdinando IV!

The tides are turning along with the leaves, get out your pot (cooking vessel) and make a big ‘ol vat of chili, Italian “gravy”, beef stew or some other classic stick-to-your-ribs dish. Ladle it up in a bowl, tear a hunk of bread and pop one of these wines.

Now, for a taste of full-on nerdery, including a regional map, list of varietals and wines, read below. Otherwise, as my husband might say: “BON APPETITO!” (He has literally never once said that.)

Read in detail here.

Rosé Light District?

Rosé Exploration

I did something I am awfully ashamed of. Something that I never wanted to do and I cringed knowing that, mostly out of necessity, these are the ways of many other bloggers, critics, reps, shoppe owners and sommeliers.

I tasted wines like they were dirty, dirty whores.

I lined up those pink bottles all nice and pretty like a madame would her young: objectified maidens waiting to be plucked by some vile creature. Then I proceeded to open each one without anticipation, just sampling, wanting to get through it. I was going through the motions in a sadly mechanical [albeit warmly buzzed] way. They looked cold, forlorn, discarded; looking at me as if to say, “What did I do wrong? I just wanted to please you.” Or worse, with dead, lifelessly blank looks that told me they’d been through the process too many times before.

Is this what I’ve become? Did I do the right thing?

A day later, I looked upon my notes and corked up wines in the refrigerator. I felt slightly less remorseful knowing the wines wouldn’t go to waste. Perhaps only through these crude methods could I cover the delightful plethora of Rosé.

Wait, did I tell you that the 5th Annual Rosé Tasting is happening this Sunday, May 19, in Solo Vino’s parking lot? Okay, so I went on this guiltful, dramatic diatribe without explaining why I was whoring out wines.

Last year, I discovered the mecca of pink wines, the Solo Vino Annual Rosé Festival. 2013 marks the 5th Annual event Chuck Kanski of Solo Vino fame will host. This year’s event plans on being bigger and badder than ever. The tent size will increase from 1500 to 2500 square feet. Yep, Chuck’s not screwing around. He’s topping the event out at 400 attendees, so you still have a chance to buy your tickets, but there’s not many. Buy tix here: hhttp://on.fb.me/127sxCT/Solo Vino Rosé Festival

I learned that 2012 Rosés will be limited in quantity due to the low yields in all of Europe (except for Spain). This does not mean inferior Rosé, quite the opposite. “They” are saying that 2012 Rosés are to be some of the best but their scarcity makes them more precious. Oooh! I love the hype already!

I grilled Chuck and his shoppe partner Rob on their top five favorite Rosés under $20. After feverishly writing down names, varietals, countries, prices (whew!) I came away with five, nope, six stunning selections:

1 – Zestos Rosado – $10.99, 100% Garnacha (Madrid, Spain):

Zestos Rosado

I figured I’d love it as I love their Malvar http://bit.ly/MtJDXI//Zestos Malvar. This is easy drinking, with typical Rosé traits such as strawberry notes, citrus and floral scents and flavors backed up by a crisp finish.







2 – Bieler Père et Fils- $12.99, 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon (Provence, France):

Bieler Père et Fils

This is a dry Rosé, drier than the Zestos. The wine had fairly typical Rosé tasting notes but more pithy, tangier, and with a spicy minerality. I enjoyed this, but think this is more of a food-friendly wine than a patio sipper. It has a slightly weightier finish that would hold up to some grilled food stuffs.






3 – Domaine d’Arton – $10.99, 100% Syrah (France):

Domaine d’Arton

Another outstanding showing from this winery! You may recall I sang their praises: http://thesavvylush.com/red-wine-of-the-week-|-red-wine-reviews/domaine-darton-ysl-rose.html Another top notch bang-for-buck Rosé. If you start anywhere on your Rosé journey, start here. It’s all bright strawberry and citrus fruit fun. As my husband said, “There’s something comforting about the Arton Rosé…it’s like coming home.”




4 – Proprietà Sperino Rosado – $17.99, 85% Nebbiolo, 15% Vespolina (Piedmont, Italy):

Proprietà Sperino Rosado

This reeked of freshness- strawberry with a light honey sweetness on the nose. It’s luscious in feel and taste with a fairly round body, but balanced by it’s off-dry richness. This is the Sophia Loren of Rosé.







5 – Endless Crush – $19.99, 100% Pinor Noir (Russian River Valley, CA):

Endless Crush

Originally made to celebrate the wine maker’s 20th Anniversary in 2004, this Rose is produced every other year. It had an Ogilvie home perm whiff, floral and guava scent. Echoed was this guava, light grapefruit and strawberry flavors in addition to a mineral snap back. This had a long standing aftertaste, which would lend itself to a great food wine.





6 – Triennes Rosé – $18.99, Cinsault blended with Grenache, Syrah and Merlot (Provence, France):

Triennes Rosé

The palest pink and most delicate of the lot. It was all perfume, with a floral nose and fresh strawberry flavor. I felt this wine best exemplified terroir, it’s minerality transported me to the fields of Provence which really opened up the longer it sat in my glass.

I’m hard pressed to find a Rosé I don’t like but the one I ran back to was the Proprietà Sperino Rosado. It made my tongue do the jitterbug. These and 100+ others will be on hand to swirl, sip and swallow on May 19.

Both Chuck and Rob exalted that this season’s best Rosés will hail from Germany. Much to my chagrin, guess what wasn’t available but the two German Rosés: Meyer Näkel, a 100% Pinot Noir from the Ahr Region of Germany and Becker a Pinot Noir, Cab, Dornfelder, Portuguese wine blend from the Pfalz Region of Germany.

Becker & Meyer Näkel

These two wines will arrive at the end of May. I plan on being first in line to purchase because if the Rosé’s I tasted were stellar, I can only imagine these two aforementioned Freundin der deutschen Roséwein will titillate the senses.

Lastly, what’s great about Rosé is that it’s quite food friendly. Great for grill outs, patio sipping with chips and salsa, corn-on-the-cob munching, truffle risotto slurping, or to suck down with those evil chocolate covered Goji Raspberries (Costco Members beware). Still on the fence? There’s no better opportunity than this Sunday’s Rosé Tasting at Solo Vino.

Slowly and surely, my guilt and shame has dissipated. I realize I was no Rosé madame, a Heidi Fleiss sort objectifying the goods. Rather, I was liberating it. Perhaps more akin to Georgia O’Keefe, giving you a bee’s eye view of Rosé in all it’s beauty, splendor and pleasure. Drink it in and enjoy it.