Tag Archives: Thomas Liquors

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.