Depending on where you buy wine, beer and/or spirits, your shopping experience may be changing -- or has already changed. There are a number of stores getting some cosmetic work done -- everything from small tweaks to complete facelifts.
In the latter department, see De Luca Fine Wines. Formerly a small, dark and somewhat narrow private wine store, their renovations were completed last month. They now occupy a much bigger, brighter corner space in their Portage Avenue building.
The difference between the old and new stores is night and day. In addition to plenty more sunlight and elbow room, the new De Luca's features, to my knowledge, the only dedicated Uruguay section in a wine store (if there are others, they pale in comparison). A new glassed-in section for reserve wines looks sharp, there's an Enomatic wine dispenser in the store so customers can try a handful of wines before buying, and the basement features The Cellar, a space available for rental (if you pay extra, it comes with a "wine specialist").
When the Grant Park Liquor Mart is finished being renovated (estimated to be late-July-ish, with a September grand-opening target), its size will dwarf all other shops in the city. At 16,000 square feet, nobody will come close to packing in the number of wines, beers and spirits as Grant Park.
Included in the reno/expansion are many new features to Manitoba Liquor Marts: complimentary WiFi and a seating area to lounge/surf; wider aisles; a glass walk-in/showcase area for higher end wines (complete with its own checkout); an education centre with a full prep kitchen; and a wine station where customers can sample products before buying.
The store will also be adding an extra product consultant, taking the number from two to three.
Grant Park isn't the only Liquor Mart getting an overhaul. The Kenaston Crossing location is also under renovation, and will be doubling in size -- in part to accommodate the Bottle & Cork program, which will be moving from the Madison Square location. Naturally, this will mean there will be some tweaks to the Madison Square store. The Southglen Liquor Mart will also be doubling in size.
As for out-of-town shops, Gimli's Liquor Mart is moving into a 6,500-square-foot space to better accommodate both year-round residents of the town as well as the additional summer residents (and Islendingadagurinn-goers).
And what of the kiosk-type Liquor Mart Express outlets that will be popping up in select grocery stores? According to MLCC marketing manager Steve McConnell, there's a good chance we should see three before the end of this year, and negotiations with all three of the big grocery chains (Superstore, Safeway, Sobeys) continue.
Wonderwall 2011 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon (Margaret River, Australia -- $16.06, Liquor Marts and beyond)
A 60-40 blend of the two white grapes, the Wonderwall certainly accentuates the Sauvignon Blanc, with herbal, grapefruit, lemon rind and light bell pepper aromas balanced by hints of red apple and honey from the Semillon. Light-bodied and racy, there's plenty of refreshing citrus on the palate, as well as that slightly rounder Semillon component. Serve well-chilled with grilled shrimp or lighter salads. I tried the 2012 vintage at the International Value Wine Awards and it's just as good or better. 87/100
Miguel Torres 2011 Estelado Rose (Central Valley, Chile -- $18.49, Liquor Marts and beyond)
While the País grape is still widely grown in Chile, it's typically used to make jug wines for the domestic market. This dry, traditional-method sparkling wine, however, proves it has promise beyond plonk. Pale pink in colour, the Estelado offers subtle raspberry and cranberry notes, light flavours of flaky dough and a hint of minerality. It's a tasty Chilean bubbly made more appealing by the fact it's fair trade. Chill it right down and try it with fresh fruit, light cheeses or brunch. 88/100
Gimenez Mendez 2008 Puzzle (Uruguay -- $29.99, De Luca's Fine Wines)
Wow -- this red from Uruguay lists 15 different grape varieties on the label, including four white grapes. There's certainly a floral note on the nose as well as red berries, licorice, blackcurrant and a fair bit of oak. Medium-plus bodied, juicy, raspberry and strawberry flavours pop on the palate thanks to a splash of acidity. Secondary blackberry, honey, vanilla, chocolate and blueberry jam flavours provide extra tang and texture, although there's not much in the way of tannin. While it's tasty, it's a stretch at this price. A Puzzle indeed -- try with grilled salmon, burritos or burgers. 87/100