Here is the first published entry in our Indie writing competition and it is a model of its kind. David Muhleman has been careful to describe the place, the people, the selection, the prices, and just what makes it special:
If you have been to Barolo/Barbaresco, then I assume you have been to the best independent wine shop in the world: Gallo Wine Gallery, La Morra, Piemonte, Italy.
Erika and her team are unsurpassed in selection, service, and price. I have been there several times, and even took visitors from the States on a five-hour drive, just to see this place! (And of course to stock up on the best Barolos and Barbarescos in the world.)
I first stumbled on to GWG on a trip to the vineyards of Barolo in 2007. And for most of us, that is how you find GWG in La Morra; either you stumble upon it, or a really good friend whispers the name of the store to you. Like all well-kept secrets, you want to keep the best to yourself, and your friends. Gallo Wine Gallery is not a big store, in a big city, with big signs on the freeway. You have to want to find this place, and when you do, you'll find the search was well worth it.
As you know, finding French, American, Spanish, etc wine in Italy is very difficult. Most wine stores in Italy sell Italian wine, primarily from wineries within 100 miles of the store, because that is what sells in that store. Most Italians have no need for wines produced outside of Italy. But GWG has a huge selection of non-Italian wines: from the first growths of Bordeaux to boxes of Ch d'Yquem, to everyday 'drinkers' from the States.
Second, they have the best selection of Italian wines in all of Italy! Sure they have rows and rows of Piemonte wines, but they also have the a selection of the best wines from every location in Italy. (Again, a novel idea in Italy.) And although this is a wine shop, they have an impeccable selection of cigars, chocolates and every truffle combination imaginable: cream, mayonnaise, butter and olive oil.
Finally, there are so many small Barolo producers that if you want the 'real stuff' this is the only place I ever found which has a huge selection of the small, boutique producers. They carry wines that are sold nowhere else in the world.
One look at their Facebook page is enough to convince you of repeat customers from all over the world. As I said, Erika and her team make every customer feel special. Every person entering the store is not a customer; they are family. And Erika has no hesitation in popping corks and letting you try wines that cost over $100 a bottle, just to teach you the difference between different regions of Barolo, or the difference between a Barolo, a Barbaresco, and a plain Nebbiolo. The results are that I always throw a few more cases (not bottles) of wine in the car than I had planned. And every time I have left there, there was a small bottle of truffle oil, or truffle butter, or truffle cream, dropped in the bottom of the bag, as a gift from the store. To Erika and her team, this is not a store, and you are not a customer. This is an extension of their home, and you are an extension of their family.
As for prices, anyone can fill a store with first growths, double magnums of Krug, and the best selection of wines from around the world. But if you can't sell them, it's either a collection to show off, or a museum. Not the Gallo Wine Galley. Trust me when I say they have great prices, and the wines don't sit forever on the shelves waiting for a tourist who doesn't know any better. Compared with other wine shops in northern Italy, they have the best wines, for the best price. It is not a 'bargain' store, nor are they 'bargain' wines, but if you are looking for a Gaja Barolo, they have it for the best price I could find (and I looked!!). And if you are looking for a case of daily drinkers, you can mix and match and still get the best deals imaginable.
I'm not sure how other people define the best independent wine store in the world, but I defy a real foodie, or someone who appreciates wine, to walk into Gallo Wine Company and not fall in love with the place. As I said, it is not a 'store' and you are not a 'customer', you feel like a guest in their home.