Mark McDermott

Best Wine Store

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Unpretentious wine savant Joe Chiewphasa. Photo by Brent Broza

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Manhattan Fine Wines – If you are going to dinner and looking for a bottle of wine to bring, Manhattan Fine Wines is your ace in the hole.

The store, tucked unpretentiously in the little strip mall on Artesia Boulevard just off Pacific Coast Highway in Manhattan Beach, offers a startlingly large and varied inventory of wines, including many wines from France, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, and small California wineries that can’t be found anywhere else locally.

But the real secret to the success of Manhattan Fine Wines are its wine guys. Owner Joe Chiewphasa has become legendary for his ability to learn his customers’ palates and to help find just the wine to precisely fit the food, the pocketbook, and the occasion his customers are shopping for. His handwritten notes on wines throughout the store – “Great juice!” “Really lush! Unbelievable value!” – can likewise be implicitly trusted, as can the store’s ongoing “Pick of the Month” selections by the front counter.

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It’s this kind of highly personalized service that sets Manhattan Fine Wines apart.

“If you go to a big store, you get lost – you don’t know what to buy,” Chiewphasa said. “They’ve got too big an operation. If you like wine, you have to trust your wine guy and trust your palate, most important, to tell you what kind of wine fits your palate and your food. That is kind of the beauty of it.”

The store carries high-end wines—the $10,000 per bottle DRC Romanee Conti burgundy, for example – but really specializes in tracking down those wines that far exceed their price points – the $12 Saint Cosme Cotes-Du-Rhone or the $6  Borsao Garnacha.

“That is the fun thing, because if you get an Opus One, you know it’s going to be good — it’s so expensive, it better be,” Chiewphasa said. “But then you get that bottle for $5 or $10 and people go, ‘Man, where did you get that! That is the challenge….I like this style better.”

The store is also deeply rooted in the community. For 17 years, Manhattan Fine Wines has provided wines for the charitable Manhattan Wine Auction. It also has wine lockers where many longtime customers store cases of wine.

Chiewphasa, who has owned the store 20 years, has in recent years turned more and more to trusted employees Kenny Sudsamart and Jack Intitak, who likewise have developed this special knowledge of the store’s customers and wines. Sudsamart in particular has become gifted at making recommendations.

“His palate is getting really good now, and people are trusting him,” Chiewphasa If I am not around, people are depending on Kenny. Oh, man, we taste wine, he starts to know customer’s palates…It’s good to have a guy that knows your taste in wine!”

1157 Artesia Blvd, Suite A, Manhattan Beach, 310-374-3454, www.manhattanfinewines.com

Runner-up:

Bev-Mo, 1700 Rosecrans Ave, Suite B, Manhattan Beach, 310-727-9501, www.bevmo.com

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