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November means the start of the holiday season, and with that the season of family. Whether you’re gathering in person or remotely this year, this Thanksgiving is sure to be a memorable one. As you’re settling into cooler days outside and warmer fires inside, we want to introduce you to our family.

Top Ten Liquors is proud to have an exceptional team of wine, beer, and spirits experts who assist you in stores, find new products, and write blogs to help you get excited and educated about your next favorite bottle.

All month we’ll be featuring some of our fabulous experts and their recommendations for great bottles this fall.

Q&A with Alex Gapinski, Top Ten Liquors Cottage Grove

Alex is from Hackensack and Walker, MN and holds a Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) certification level 3 for wine and level 2 for spirits. He came to Top Ten from his role as assistant manager of the tasting room and restaurant at Villa Bellezza Winery and Vineyards, and is pursuing his French Wine Scholar certification.

What is your favorite everyday bottle?

Portuguese red blends (Galodoro) or light, crisp whites (Muscadet, Picpoul). They’re easy to drink, not too cerebral, and have an excellent price to value ratio.

What’s your favorite bottle for a fall evening by the campfire?

Something Spanish: Bobal for something lighter or Rioja Reserva for something heavier.

What’s your favorite bottle for dancing in the kitchen?

BUBBLES! Montinore Vivacé, a biodynamic sparkling from Oregon.

If someone wants to become a wine expert, what is the number one skill they should work on developing?

Observing and paying attention to experiences while eating and drinking. Think about smelling throughout everyday experiences. Use these sensory memories to inform you when tasting wine.

How has your background influenced your path through the wine world?

High school cooking to chemistry to engineering to food science back to culinary and dumped into wine. Wine not only combines food and hospitality with science, but also history, geography, culture, geology, agriculture, language, and so much more. Wine has it all and will keep me learning for a long time.

Q&A with Mark West, Top Ten Liquors Rosemount

Mark is from Bloomington and works at our brand new Rosemount store. He was previously the General Manager at La Mesa Latin Bistro, and was the beverage manager at Bearpath Golf & Country Club and Interlachen Golf & Country Club.

What is your favorite everyday bottle?

Lately I have been digging the Avia Merlot. It has a lot of depth and character for a $9 bottle of merlot. Before that my go to was Domaine Piqumal.

What bottle would you choose for a date night?

Zenato Corvina. It has a cute heart on the label and the wine is smooth as silk. However, context being everything, if it were an attempt to impress, I would have to go with Mark Ryan’s “Dissident.” The wine speaks to my passion for Bordeaux style blends, small production, and the name suggest another I might want to talk politics. 

What’s your favorite bottle to bring to a family get-together?

Chateau Moncontour. One Demi and one Sec. They’re each great food wines. I also brought a bottle of Lower Eastover to a friend and it was a hit.

What’s the hardest dish to pair? What would you pair with it?

Jell-O. Perhaps 90+ Cellars Rosé.

What’s your favorite wine travel-related memory?

The last time and only time I have been to Fargo, it was February. We stopped at a little Mom & Pop wine store. They had wines for the outdoor hot tub, wines for the fireplace, and wines for dinner. My friend spilled a huge glass of red on my new white shirt. The was the last time I wore it, but everything else was fantastic.

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