By Stephen and Kate
Alabama has a conflicted relationship with alcohol.
On one hand, the state celebrates college football tailgate boozing, is home to the nation’s oldest Mardi Gras (warning link opens jazzy informational Schoolhouse Rock-style song about Mobile), and has a long history of moonshine and White Lightnin’.
On the other hand, the state government still competes with private enterprise in the alcohol market because “The people of Alabama did not want alcoholic beverages marketed like soup and soft drinks” and it took a “Free the Hops” movement until 2009 to convince the Legislature increase the limit on alcohol by volume in beer from 6% to 13.9%. Many restrictions on beer and brewing remain. And then there was the unfortunate recent matter of the ABC Board banning a brand of California wine due to a picture of a nude nymph of the label (sidebar: Said board is run by a certain octogenarian former Mayor of Montgomery).
As such, we count ourselves lucky not only to be living in one of Alabama’s “wet” counties (with Sunday sales and draft beer and everything!), but also to be amid intelligent and well-informed folks who have tremendous expertise in beer and wine.
Enter Ted, the Wine Guy. Now, we don’t know Ted nearly well enough to call him by his first name. We met him once, when working on this blog post. And we’d never call him “the wine guy.” Vintner, maybe. But “wine guy?” Seems awfully casual. And yet, that’s the name of Ted’s charming three-year-old store (3062 Zelda Rd.), where he and co-owner (and Montgomery native) Scotty Scott sell, well, you know.
Look, we’re not wine snobs. But we do love to drink the stuff. And that makes Ted and Scotty a perfect match for us since on their website, item number one under the company’s mission is to “remove the intimidation from wine shopping by offering our customers Expertise without Arrogance.” Sounds good to us. Getting beyond the snooty intimidation factor is a big part of being comfortable trying new things and being able to be honest about what you like and don’t like.
That’s not to say that we don’t have opinions or think that all wines are created equally. We may not read Wine Spectator, but we do like having informed opinions about why things taste a certain way, even if we’re not able to talk soil quality, weather patterns, and cork construction with the people who really, truly geek out about this sort of thing.
All of which is really just prefatory to the bottom line: The service at Ted’s is great and the inventory offers the full panoply of fermentation. There are starter wines, more expensive items, cheap table wines, exotic things for sophisticated palates, international rarities, and the usual accouterments (sparkling wines, rare cheeses, etc.).
They seem very serious about helping Montgomery residents learn about wine, but not in a pedantic way. On Fridays after work you can stop by for a tasting (we were there when wholesaler Stacy Chappel from Rush Wines was pouring a selection of six tasty wines that were new to us – and of course we left with one). Or you can join their “Cellar Club” to get discounts on wine (pay $25, then two more installments of $25, and you’re a lifetime member) including special sales from a “members-only” rack, 6% off bottles, and 12% off a case. Discounts aren’t limited to club members – everyone can get 10% off when they buy a case.
Even though it’s in a strip mall (next to the UPS store in the Publix shopping center on Zelda Road), Ted’s feels warm and welcoming. Their focus on affordable and accessible wines is refreshing. It shows that there is a delicious middle ground between Sutter Home and a nice bottle of Sterling, and it makes you feel like you could actually learn something about wine without spending a fortune.
Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.