Pity the wine country wine shop. In some states, where the timely demise of Prohibition is incomplete, arcane laws forbid the sale of even the tamest spirits alongside grocery items. That strikes a Californian as shocking and unnecessary, as if we bought bread here but butter at the state dairy shop over there. But that's good business for wine shops. Here, with the actual wineries in all directions, many wine shops focus on the tourist trade and mail order, which shows in their prices.
What a funky, backyard-chicken-coop college town like Cotati needs in a wine shop is friendly, unpretentious, with a small but unique selection of under $20 wines. And that they have in Cotati Corner Fine Wines.This little Cotati Hub shop purveys a modest selection of local product and a smattering of imports. They've got your Scharffen Berger sparkling, and one Prosecco. Zins from small producers like Hobo, Atascadero Creek and Haraszthy. (That the descendants of the inveterate 19th-century Hungarian vintner have resurrected the brand was news to me.) They've got your obligatory Silver Oak Cab and up-and-coming Zepaltas Pinot, with Carol Shelton pink in the cold case.
Areas are given over to table seating and paraphernalia shopping: from a classic line of satirical winetasting greeting cards to coasters, stoppers and trinkets. If there's any fault to be found here, it's only that more space might be devoted to even more wine.
The shopping gets hopping on Thursdays when the farmers market bustles across the street. This week's tasting saw cool whites like Taft Street Sauvignon Blanc and Carol Shelton Rosé on tap; another flight surveyed a trio of Medlock Ames releases. The hitch: patrons must bring their own glass, or purchase a plastic, virtually unbreakable glass for $2 that could come in handy on a day hike.
The joint generated a buzz among a group of happy hour regulars, busily chatting away while the staff found time to greet aimless wanderers. They're a low-key and helpful bunch, who never mentioned anything like a "wine club"—which, oddly enough, some wine shops do, and repeatedly. (Wine club? Take a look at a map—we're in it.)
In fact, once I'd selected a perfectly serviceable $12 bottle of chilled Pinot Gris, the proprietor suggested an equally serviceable Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris—for just $7. The pity of it is that there aren't more shops like this.Cotati Corner, 1818 La Plaza, Ste. 106, Cotati. Open Tuesday–Saturday. Tastings, Thursday–Friday, 5pm to 8pm. Fees vary; bring your own glass or purchase at bar. 707.793.9357.