Once Upon a Vine
Ratings: 66 | Reviews: 56 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by belgianjunkie:
4.8/5 rDev +4.3%
quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | $$
I just moved to NC- one of the last five states in the country with a law against high-alcohol beers, but don't get me started on that. So I studied BeerAdvocate, and wrote a list/got directions to the top five beer stores in Richmond, and kicked off the roadtrip.
Once Upon a Vine was the first store I went to. I found their Belgian beer shelf and rack on the far right of the store immediately, and was very impressed with the selection- aside from stores in Belgium and France, I've never found a better Belgian selection, including serious hunts in San Diego, Providence, Boston, Phoenix, and other big areas.
I was lucky that the person working at the time was Pat, the resident beer expert. Nice guy who could tell I knew my beers so he went from salesperson-mode to beer fan, and we talked about our faves that they had in stock. He was helpful too- helped me dig out a few of the display beers I couldn't find in the rack, and made a few suggestions that were absolutely no pressure- just chatting.
Prices ranged from surprisingly great to slightly high. The shocker was that bottles of Delirium (Tremens AND Nocturnum, the latter of which I haven't seen sold elsewhere in the states) was less than $7 for the large bottle! The highest prices of what I purchased were two 12 oz. Trappist Rochefort 8s for around the same price apiece, which I felt was a bit of a splurge (but worth it).
But the wide selection makes up for any of the few slightly higher-priced beers. They have the typicals like Duval, Chimay, La Chouffe, and Gulden Drak, but they have hard-to-find beers like La Binchoise Reserve, Hoogstraten Poorter, Grottenbier, MacChouffe, and others. Amazing: they carry Cantillion's Rose de Gambrinus, which you can't even find in Belgian markets; I've seen it sold in only three places: Once Upon a Vine, Bier Tempel in Brussels, and the Cantillion brewery itself, in outer Brussels. I can't speak of their selection for anything BUT the Belgians, as I concentrated solely on that small but excellently-stocked area, but for this alone, they're VERY impressive.
Not perfect though- I asked if they had any gueuze, and Pat said they haven't found a distributor yet, but he's still on the look-out. If they get gueuze too, they'll be as "perfect" as an American store selling Belgian beers can be. If they get a stellar gueuze like Cantillion, Lindeman's Cuvee Rene (seen it sold in San Diego), or minor miracles Girardin or 3 Fonteinen, and phenominal, non-gueuze Caves beer, they'd be so "perfect" I'd remove the quotes and say they're better than most Belgian night shops. However, as I said above, they have the best selection I've seen states-side, so I still feel confident in giving them the full five BeerAdvocate points for selection.
For formality's sake, the place is just off of a main road yet approaching a residential area, but is easy to find with the help of an internet mapping site if you don't know the area. They were playing some hard rock music. They're bigger than a typical mom-n'-pop store and a third to half of the size of a BevMo. But who cares about that stuff- it's selection and pricing that matter, and they ace those categories. OH- and every beer I bought was well within it's freshness date, where applicable, which does matter for certain (but not all) brews.
So, after one stop, my beer-stocking roadtrip was already done. The other four places? I never bothered- there was no need. And next month, once my supply is out, I'll be going straight back to Pat (or whomever's there) at Once Upon a Vine, and ONLY there- why drive all over a city when I know they've got a completely satisfying selection at fair-to-great prices?
08-12-2005 13:08:07 | More by belgianjunkie
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