Last week, I broke shops down into three categories: liquor stores, liquor stores "plus," and boutiques. All the stores I visited outside the Perimeter -- with the exception of Tower -- hover around that liquor store "plus" denomination. Tower is straight-ahead, get-your-hooch-here package store that just happens to have a great wine lineup to boot. Happy imbibing.
Jax is your typical booze shop with one fun distinction: its downstairs fine wine room. Ask a salesperson to unlock the gate and descend a spiral staircase to a cool chamber with faux brick walls. It's a bit kitschy, but there are some covetable bottles down there, including some choice selections that hover around $30. This store also has a great backlog of Wine Spectators to rummage through. 5901 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 770-888-8036.
Merchants Package Store
From the outside, Merchants looks like any other long-standing liquor store. But what distinguishes this place from most others is passion. The staff has both a literal and intellectual thirst for wine, with a particularly keen focus on France (the wine buyer flies across the Big Drink to explore vineyards two or three times a year). If you're remotely interested in unraveling the mysteries of Burgandy and Bordeaux, pay these guys a visit. 1272 Johnson Ferry Road, Marietta, 770-321-9194.
Tower Package Store
Two words: big and cheap. Headed for a BYOW ethnic spot along Buford Highway? Salt-of-the-earth salesfolk are happy to help you find just the thing to go with your moo shu vegetables or chicken mole. Great beer selection too. 5877 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-458-3272.
The Wine Cellar
This friendly little spot with earth-toned decor is nestled in a small strip mall along Alpharetta's Giant Restaurant Row. It's evident from the level of service that staffers have sampled their way through the store's inventory. They offer a particularly strong selection of Zinfandels. 3515 Windward Parkway, Alpharetta, 770-664-6535.
The Wine Store
Former NFL Pro Chris Hinton has traded his jersey for the Juice and created one of the most comfortable, browse-worthy wine shops in the area. Thoughtful description cards and an enthusiastic staff make selecting a bottle of wine an exceptionally pleasurable experience. A tasting room next door hosts frequent events, and there are plenty of gadgets and knick-knacks for gift buying as well. 8455 Holcomb Bridge Road, Alpharetta, 770-641-1900.
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