Lexington is no stranger to big liquor stores, but Total Wine and More, opening this week in Lexington Green, wants to take the concept to the next level.
With 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers, the store plans to compete aggressively with any retailer in the area, including the high end.
The Maryland-based chain has more than 173 stores in 21 states. The Lexington store, which is going into the former Whole Foods space at Lexington Green, will open this week. Last June, Whole Foods moved to The Summit at Fritz Farm.
Store manager Derick Wright, who grew up in Bardstown, said Total Wine has a policy of being the “cheapest in town, no matter what,” which in Kentucky means they can go down to the cost of an item from the vendor.
But where Total Wine and More really shines, he said, is in customer service, with more people to help you navigate the wines, bourbon and beers, from the $2 selections to the $500 jumbo bottle of champagne, or the $3,799.97 bottle of Chateau Petrus Pomerol 2009.
All employees undergo training on tasting and then routinely put their names and faces on “picks” so that if a customer finds something they like, they can follow the same palate to new discoveries, he said. Some employees get to participate in “bottle selections” at distilleries, too.
The store also has a rotation of options for customers to sample before buying, as well as tasting classes for wine, beer and spirits.
The store brings in winemakers, brew masters and master distillers for signing and sampling sessions, Wright said. Chris Morris, master distiller of Woodford Reserve, is expected to sign the Kentucky Derby bottle this month.
And Wright said the store plans to have Marianne Barnes, master distiller at Castle & Key in Woodford County, in with her new gin and vodka. “She’s an industry rock star,” he said.
Local beer is represented, with displays from West Sixth, Country Boy and Kentucky Ale. Wright said the store likes to introduce customers to local wines and spirits as well. The store also wants to stock up on locally produced food items to pair with all those liquids.
At more than 26,000 square feet, the store also has room for an aisle devoted to bourbon and American whiskey. The store also offers its own barrel selections of many popular labels, including Four Roses, Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey.
When the store can get the ultra sought-after labels such as Pappy Van Winkle, it plans to have a drawing for the right to buy what bottles they get.
“We think it’s more fair that way,” he said. Other labels that bourbon hunters go for such as Weller or Angel’s Envy will go on the shelves as fair game for lucky shoppers.