Eric Asimov has an engaging piece in today’s NY Times on learning about wine, which among other things underscores how useful a good wine shop is in terms of that goal. Read it here. I’ll just throw my two cents into the mix by saying that whenever people ask me about buying wine, I always tell them that patronizing a store with an actual staff, one that knows wine, is well worth the extra buck or two you may pay per bottle over what you’d pay at the local SuperMongoMart.

Of course, I’m biased by my own experiences. I had the good fortune, while in grad school, to live half a mile away from the Redwood City outpost of K&L Wine Merchants. I was interested in wine, but, like any grad student worth his weight in unpublished manuscripts, cashless in extremis. So once every couple of weeks I’d scrape together fifteen bucks—a serious extravagance at the time—and head on over to K&L. There I’d always talk to the same guy, who (a) seemed to know the wines in the store inside and out, (b) took my interest seriously even though I was spending maybe a tenth of their average sale (or even less, as this was the height of the dot-com boom), and (c) would find out whether I’d liked whatever he’d recommended the last time I was there, and then extrapolate from there. No clue what this guy’s name was, but in my mind he’s sort of like the unknown solider of wine-store service: deserving of honor and a bronze monument or two. Or at least a bronze decanter.