The Bottle Shop St Helena, formerly known for several decades as the St. Helena Wine Center changed names in early 2020. Part high end wine shop, part lounge and part tasting room, The Bottle Shop is located on Main Street in the heart of downtown St. Helena. The building has become locally iconic over the years due to its three exterior rock framed arches. The closest parking is curbside on Main Street – if one is lucky, one can park directly in front of the shop. Parking is also available curbside on several nearby side streets for those who don’t mind a short walk.
Prior to the name change, the store was often confused with St. Helena Wine Merchants which used to be located in the south part of St. Helena. However St. Helena Wine Merchants closed many years ago. Compared to other Napa Valley towns St. Helena has limited the amount of tasting rooms within its downtown corridor.
There are currently only several tasting rooms in downtown St. Helena- this is by far the oldest one. In a town lacking in tasting rooms, the diversity of shops helps complement the limited number of wine tasting experiences. Both sides of Main Street feature a variety of boutique shops, clothing, antique and art galleries and small restaurants.
Visitors are often surprised to discover that the Bottle Shop St. Helena is owned by the Beringer family (the same family that sold their iconic winery in 1971 to Nestlé Corporation). An existing wine shop called The Bottle Shop was purchased by Fred and Cathy Beringer in 1972 – they renamed it to St. Helena Wine Center in 1992 which was the name of the store until 2020.
Today the store is owned and operated by their daughter Judi Beringer Jimenez and her daughter, Jessica Jimenez Smith (5th and 6th generation Beringers respectively) and more recent partners but a long time Napa Valley family, the Battuello’s (Torey and Dave). Incidentally Judi’s brother Mark Beringer is currently the winemaker at Beringer Vineyards despite their family no longer owning that winery. Jessica’s great, great, great grandfather was Jacob Beringer, who along with his brother, Frederick, co-founded Beringer Winery in 1876.
The Bottle Shop St. Helena is open daily selling wines from Napa Valley based wineries as well as from other California and sometimes international wineries. Yes, even Napa residents who are surrounded by premium wineries want an international selection! A limited number of wine related gifts and various spirits (whiskey and bourbon) are also for sale.
The size of the shop used to be larger – but part of the space was sold off and a wall has since been installed between their neighbor, Orin Swift Cellars tasting room.
A small tasting bar is located on the left of the store as one enters – with several chairs at the tasting counter. And guests can also enjoy their tastings on several comfortable couches. Wines are served by flights or by glass; visitors can also order select beers on tap (they focus on local beers but also offer a selection from outside of Napa and Sonoma). And some of the beers are somewhat eclectic.
Tastings are often of smaller under the radar mostly Napa Valley based producers that the owners have established relationships with over the years (most of these producers do not have their own tasting rooms). A typical tasting usually includes 3 to 4 wines.
Their very extensive collection of wine is primarily from small premium vintners – featuring a diverse price range ranging from about thirty dollars per bottle all the way up to several hundred dollars+ per bottle. A Napa “cult winery” box for sale contains very high end wines including Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle. And those looking for rare and collectible wines should visit the tiny collectible room located in the rear of the shop.
Not every wine shop takes the time to taste all wines sold; the folks at St. Helena Wine Center taste all the wine they sell allowing them to selectively choose the bottles that appear on the shelves. One of their buyers used to boast of “having tasted more bad wine than almost anyone, so you don’t have to.” We can assertively point out that he is not describing wines from the Napa Valley.
They maintain a mailing list as well as a wine club which contains many monthly shipment options. The nice thing about their wine club is *you* get to choose, IE the type of wines, how many bottles per time period, price limits etc.
Staff will help visitors interested in joining with recommendations based on palate preferences. Their mailing list is free to join via their website and is a good way to stay updated on new limited releases.
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a **MAJOR** update!
St. Helena Wine Center
We keep these old photos for nostalgia purposes.