With the holidays and winter nipping at our heels, taking a quick trip to Missoula Wine Merchants is appropriate. Whether it’s something in hand to bring to a party or just for yourself, wine is the ultimate gift to share among friends or luxury to slowly sip from the comforts of home.
Doug Ness is the owner of Missoula Wine Merchants and he likes to think of his wine selection in the same way that folks like to consider their food or beer. Our community wants something organic or locally sourced or they want it to be worldly, hand-picked for Missoula by a knowledgable hand. Doug holds his wine selection to a high standard, wanting everyone who comes through the door to have an experience, know what they’re purchasing, and maybe even come back—for the wine or the '80s music, we’ll leave that up to you.
Once inside, you’ll find that this isn’t your typical bottle-buying situation. It’s warm and friendly and there’s a method to the madness when it comes to which bottle you should choose. The shop is organized by old world, new world, and bubbles. Tables in the middle of the store are set up by themes such as $20 new world reds or wines under $15. Despite having wines that range widely in price point, there is no need to be educated on the range of differences in taste, pairings, or color. Doug and his staff have done the work for you and take great joy in helping you pull off a pleasing choice.
Doug emphasizes that once in his shop, you’ll only find a “small limited production that is handmade by growers who care for the earth,” as opposed to mass produced corporate wines that contain chemicals to enhance taste. His wines must meet the strict criteria of being less processed and filtered while also staying true to the region. Rather than allowing distributors to pop in with catalogs, Doug goes directly to the source to let the product sell itself. Some days that might mean visiting a grower in Walla Walla or growers in France, Spain, or Italy. Other days it looks like New York City, scanning for quality and refining that cultural selection back in Missoula with fresh additions.
“Most of what Missoula Wine Merchants does is [figure] out how to import these select wines to Montana,” said Doug. And he’s successful at it. Even their logo—the pack mule carrying a crate of wine—is an ode to how only quality items are chosen to traverse their way over our mountains and into our city.
There are only a handful of certified sommeliers in Missoula, and Missoula Wine Merchants has two of them on staff, eager to guide you toward the right gift. Wondering what to serve with Thanksgiving dinner? Anabelle recommends the fruity but peppery Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone or a winter white like Domaine du Bagnol Cassis.
Missoula Wine Merchants also offers a wine club where interested parties can get an education that goes beyond buying a one-time gift for a party or dinner at home. These monthly offers include two selected bottles with information about the wines, the region and the history. This is where the staff can take risks and help expand their customers’ palates.
“It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with wine,” said Doug. “We want to help people get out of that rut and these bottles can do that.”
Missoula Wine Merchants is also truly a one-stop-shop. Once you’ve made your wine selection, you can browse all the accessories, such as charcuterie, cheeses, greeting cards, bottle openers, stoppers, aerators, travel options, and books that illustrate and narrate the import process and mission.
Drink it up
Missoula Wine Merchants
311 North Higgins Avenue
Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Sunday, 12 to 4 p.m.