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River City Cellars
2931 W. Cary St., 355-1375
Carries: Between 200 and 300 wines, plus cheese, house-made charcuterie and other Virginia-made products.
Known for: "We've always been easygoing and low key —‘quirky' is another word that pops up. We've tasted everything we sell and personally chosen everything we sell. I like to say we drink a lot of bad wine so you don't have to!"
Favorite splurge or "special occasion" wine: "My boyfriend manages Black Sheep, so we don't get much time together. My special occasion wines are from places we've visited or that one of us has picked [as a surprise] to go with what the other is cooking. It's the company and the association that make it special."
Best bang for your buck: "Very similar wines from the same producer made just outside the appellation can cost half as much. We have dozens of wines that fall into this category."
Buying tips or trends to look for: "Find a local wine shop that shares your tastes and let them guide you. Too much wine out there is a result of market research and corporate control. We [indie wine folks] want to help you drink ‘real' wine that makes you happy. Trust us!"
The Caboose Wine and Cheese
108 S. Railroad Ave., Ashland, 798-2933
Carries: About 400 different wines, plus beer, coffee, cheese and specialty foods.
Known for: "I think one thing that helps keep our customers coming back is developing relationships with them and knowing their buying habits. We hold Friday night tastings, which are a lot of fun and attract a great crowd [who] takes time to socialize as well as discover new wines."
Favorite splurge or "special occasion" wine: "No personal favorite. I like trying new and different things and seldom like drinking the same thing over and over."
Best bang for your buck: "A lot of this depends on the season and what people are drinking with the weather. One wine that has been consistently popular over the last year for $6.99 is a wine from Spain called Don Ramón, a blend of Grenache and Tempranillo."
Buying tips or trends to look for: "Argentina is hot right now with its Malbecs. I'm also seeing lots of great new things emerging from Portugal and Greece."
Once Upon a Vine
4009 MacArthur Ave., 726-9463
Carries: About 3,000 wines, plus beer, candy and specialty foods.
Known for: "We are definitely a neighborhood shop with a very friendly atmosphere. Our goal is for you to feel comfortable, to feel at home and to be a part of our family."
Favorite splurge or "special occasion" wine: "Zinfandels from Lodi, Calif."
Best bang for your buck: "Chilean Cabernets. I think if you take a $10 bottle of Chilean Cabernet and you put it against a $15 to $20 bottle from California or Washington state, the Chilean wine will stand out."
Buying tips or trends to look for: "Most of the trends are leaning towards blends and that's more so red blends than whites. Another one is Moscatos. Everyone's got a Moscato out there now, and we sell a ton of it."
J. Emerson Fine Wine and Cheese
5716 Grove Ave., 285-8011
Carries: About 1,200 wines, plus beer, cheese, chocolate truffles, olive oil and other specialty foods.
Known for: "We are the oldest wine shop in Richmond* and we carry vintages dating back to 1968. No one in Richmond has a better selection of older vintages. Wine is a food, and it has a shelf life … so everything in our store revolves around making sure the wine is kept in the best possible condition."
Favorite splurge or "special occasion" wine: "Red Burgundy."
Best bang for your buck: "Try wines from the southwest appellations of France, or wines from Spain, Portugal or Chile. Take $15 to $25 to any of these areas, and you can get a great wine from almost any of your favorite grape varietals."
Buying tips or trends to look for: "Virginia is an emerging wine region that will start to get much more national and international exposure because Virginia varietal wines such as Viognier and Cabernet Franc are among the best made."
3730 Winterfield Road (Suite 300), Midlothian, 594-0044
Carries: About 2,000 wines, plus beer, cheese, fresh seafood and beef, and party supplies.
Known for: "I have 22 years of experience in the wine business. Many of my customers have been buying wine from me [in some capacity] for nearly two decades."
Favorite splurge or "special occasion" wine: "Always Champagne! It makes any noteworthy occasion memorable."
Best bang for your buck: "For an under-$10 red, I like Agua de Piedra Malbec from Argentina. For white, try any number of crisp wines from the South of France."
Buying tips or trends to look for: "A great tip is to not stress about choosing wine. I tell people to just dive in. What's the worst thing that can happen? Find a shop you like and trust their suggestions. You will quickly realize whether they get you or not."
*The Strawberry Street Vineyard wine shop in the Fan opened for business in 1979.
Note: This article has been corrected since publication.