When our company gets together for trade shows - such as the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas - we work hard and we play hard. My boss has long known that his sales and support staff are all closet alcoholics and he also likes a glass of wine or two after a long day. We learned that bar tabs at the hotel where we stay can get out of hand - we had a $500 bar tab for about two hours of drinking at a hotel bar a number of years ago - so my boss has us go out on "beer runs" before the shows start to stock up on beer, liquor and wine that we'd enjoy in one of our hospitality suites. One of the support guys from our main office in Montreal told me about a place in Las Vegas that he found during set up of a show in Las Vegas last spring - Total Wine and More. The first full day we were in Las Vegas, my boss sent my colleague, Ian, and me out to stock up for our meeting suite at the Venetian. We headed out to the Total Wine and More store in Henderson (see map).
There's actually two Total Wine and More locations in Las Vegas. The other one is out in the northwest suburb of Summerlin. In fact, Ian was at that one last spring when he was in town for the NAB show. When I took off for the one in Henderson, he said, "I think you're going the wrong direction." My GPS showed two Total Wines and the one in Henderson was about 2/10th's of a mile closer to the hotel than the one in Summerlin. We were literally equidistant between the two, just over 10 miles away.
Total Wine and More began in Wilmington, Delaware when two brothers - Robert and David Trone - opened their first store, Liquor World. The brothers initially had two stores in Wilmington before expanding into a superstore concept. Today, the Potomac, MD-based company has 85 superstores in 14 states - primarily along the East coast and in the Southwest. They topped $1 billion in annual sales two years ago. Total Wine and More is the largest seller of liquor of non-supermarket chains in the United States. In reading up about Total Wine, I found that there were a lot of local liquor stores who were upset when a Total Wine would come into their market. Total Wine is basically the Wal-Mart of liquor stores. Only much better.
Pulling up to the Total Wine and More store in Henderson, from the outside it, indeed, looked like a large supermarket. As you enter the building, the it looks like a warehouse full of liquor and beers. The large floor area on the left starts out with an impressive selection of wine from all over the world. While I can find some pretty good American, Australian and South American wines, Ian is proficient in finding European wines - specifically Italian reds. He does know his French wines, as well, but not as well as our boss does. I took a long look at what they had for wines at Total Wine and I was impressed with their selection and their price. They seemed to have at least one of everything.
After a few minutes of browsing, I let Ian loose in the wine department to pick out some Italian and French wine, and I went to go check out the beer selection. Actually, it was pretty difficult to not find the beer in Total Wines. Most of the big name domestic beers were stacked up in the aisles all through the store. But I was on the hunt for a specific beer.
When we were in Hawaii nearly three years ago, I fell in love with Kona Brewing Company's Big Wave Golden Ale. I found out late last summer that they were beginning to start making it available on the mainland, but I couldn't find any place close to Iowa that had the beer. When I found out about Total Wines, I did a search on the Internet and found their web site. It was there that I found that they did, indeed, have the Big Wave Golden Ale. The beer is one of the most refreshing beers I've had. While I'm not big on fruit beers, the initial taste of the Big Wave Golden Ale has sort of a slight tropical fruit taste on the tongue. But the finish is a nice mix of delicate hops and a hint of bitterness that really balances the taste. The result is a beer that has a stimulating and summerlike taste. But I'm sure it would still taste great in the dead of winter.
I hunted around for the beers and finally found a long aisle with two large racks featuring hundreds of beers in six packs. They had a number of local and regional micro-brews, a few that I wasn't familiar with. Like their wines, if it was available to sell in the state of Nevada, Total Wine and More had it. And their prices were pretty good, too. It was one of the more impressive beer stores I've been to in quite some time.
At the end of one of the beer racks, I found the "holy grail" - a large end cap of Kona Brewery beers in six packs and cases. In addition to the Big Wave Golden Ale, I also found the Longboard Lager, the Pipeline Porter, and the Fire Rock Pale Ale. (I found out later that Total Wine also sold the seasonal Koko Brown ale, but they were sold out of it at the time.) I picked up a number of beers from a case of the Big Wave Golden Ale, some of the Longboard lager and the Fire Rock pale. I also picked up beers from the Alaskan Brewing Company, a six-pack of Magic Hat #9, some beers from the Lagunitas brewery, a sixer of Full Sail Amber, and I even found an Abita Amber that is somewhat tough to find in the Midwest. All in all, I picked up a total of three cases of assorted beer at Total Wine.
Of course, we needed liquor. My colleague, Todd, had a wish list of different types of rum. Ian is also a rum aficionado and Total Wine had a boat load of rums to choose from. Once, we couldn't find a specific rum - Wray & Nephew white rum - and we asked one of the guys stocking the shelves down the aisle to help us find it. He couldn't find it, either, so he went to his computer to check stock. He came back and said, "Well, it says that we have 6 in stock." We eventually found it - under its proper name - J.Wray & Nephew. "We alphabetize our selections," he explained. "We were looking under the 'W's' when we should have been looking under the 'J's'."
Scotch was also on the list and Total Wine had a magnificent selection of single malts and blends. We found a bottle of the Macallan 15-year that was at a very good price. We also got a bottle of the Aberlour A'bunadh, a cask-strength single malt that Ian actually turned me on to when we went on a beer run in Indianapolis last fall before the CEDIA Expo. It's got a very forward taste that smooths out on tail end.
With five bottles of wine, a like number of liquor and Scotch, and three cases of beer, we spent less than $500 dollars at Total Wine and More. Granted, we still had to go to a grocery store to get some soda pop, water, limes and other various snacks, but we spent less in one trip to Total Wine than we would have had we spent two to three hours in the bar at either the Venetian or at the Mirage where the bulk of our group was staying. It's very easy to see why Total Wine has reached over $1 billion dollars in annual sales. They've got a great selection at very good prices. I can see why some local liquor stores get upset when a Total Wine comes to their towns. Total Wine has everything you'll need for any party, special occasion, or for stocking up for your wine rack or personal bar. If you've got a Total Wine and More wherever you're traveling and you need some liquor, wine or beer, I recommend heading there first. And don't worry if they don't have something you're looking for. They probably do.