By Kelly Koepke
Dan Payne, liquor manager of Triangle Grocery for a little over a year, has transformed the store’s excellent selection of beers, wines, and spirits into a destination for beer mavens and oenophiles from miles around.
Already boasting an impressive background in adult beverages, he arrived in New Mexico from Las Vegas, Nevada, four years ago. He started bartending when he was 19, and learned to pair and stock libations from jobs in large liquor retail operations in Arizona and California, through classes with distributors, and in his studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
As with many transplanted New Mexicans, love brought him to the Land of Enchantment, where he found Triangle Grocery in need of someone with just his skill set.
“I’ve always liked good beer and wine, and friends told me about Triangle and their selection. Since I’ve started there, I’ve analyzed the selection we sell, and brought in more to match our customers’ tastes. Before, a lot of stuff didn’t really move. Now we carry more boutique wines, and labels that you won’t find elsewhere,” he says.
Business is doing well. Regularly scheduled wine and beer tastings introduce new brands to customers, and Payne will then stock more of what people really enjoy. Currently he’s working with a German distributor to carry Krombacher beers, a tasting favorite.
As for wines, Payne’s bringing in harder to find wines like higher end Spanish selections from Crianza, The Stump Jump from Australia, and Torre di Luna and Santa Margherita from Italy. “We don’t have a lot of higher end French yet,” he adds. “But I’m working on that, too.”
So what does Payne recommend for upcoming holiday celebrations? Here are his selections, all reasonably priced at around $25 or under. Don’t worry about years, he says, unless a wine is extremely rare or a reserve. “The way winemakers blend wines now, rarely are they 100 percent a single grape anyway.”
J. Lohr Chardonnay ($25) The creaminess in this delicious white comes from oak barrels, while retaining a bit of pear flavor. Goes well with turkey or seafood, or anything that needs a lighter, buttery flavor that won’t overpower delicate foods.
White/Dry/New Mexican: Gruet Chardonnay ($14) Just back after a year off, this chardonnay is for those who like more fruit and less butter. A well-balanced white that pairs well with anything except red meat. Crisp, dry, and the essence of the fine winemaking talents of the Gruet family.
Rivers Edge Pinot Noir ($21.99) This very light red with a nice fruit is brighter than most. Pairs well with turkey as well as ham and roast beef. An Oregon wine that ranks among the best domestic Pinot Noirs available now. Lighter than the Primus below, this wine is a crowd pleaser.
Veramonte Primus ($19.99). This Chilean blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, and the little-known carmenere grape is a heartier red than pinot with excellent tannins and fruit flavors. Good for those transitioning from lighter reds to heavier, and anyone who likes cabernet or merlot. Great with ham and roast beef but not turkey or fish.
Cantine Aurora Dolce Stilnovo ($18.99) Everyone who tries this low alcohol wine loves it. One of the lesser-known Moscatos and lighter and fruitier than most, Dolce Stilnovo is hard to find anywhere but Triangle. Fortunately, the manager and co-owner of Crianza distributing lives in Edgewood and keeps the supply flowing.
Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut ($19-21) Classified as a semi-dry, this methode champagnoise sparkler still clears the palate, making it great with appetizers, spicy foods, creamy desserts, and, of course, New Year’s Eve toasts. A strict brut drinker won’t like it, but most everyone else will.
For more recommendations, contact Payne at Triangle Grocery at 281-3030.
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