By Rick Riozza

WOW! would be one of the most heard exclamations when first visiting this mega-store of beverages.

I mean—sure the building is large from the outside, but when you walk in and look all around, it’s like one of those sci-fi movies where one enters a large spaceship and inside you find a complete town with streets and stores and airplanes flying.

Total Wine & More is just like that. It’s the biggest wine store I’ve ever been in! I’ve always considered San Francisco, Paris, London, Chicago and New York as the wine capitals of the world, but who would have thunk that here in Palm Desert, the largest wine, beer, and spirits depot in the solar system would be sitting.

I can foresee new wine pilgrimages from all over weathering through California’s higher and lower deserts just to come and see—and taste—and buy, and buy. Hey!—this store has to be good for the entire business community, selling out hotel rooms, filling our restaurants, crowding our watering holes, and, affecting our soft summer traffic on Hwy 111.

We media got the first personal three-day tour of the place. I met with all the affable staff who have master degrees and doctorates in oenology, mixology, hopology and general mega-store mechanics. They literally “cover the waterfront”—I say that because, although I missed it, I’m sure there is a waterfront (like a portal to some Bordeaux dock) located somewhere in that store. I should have brought my binoculars.

But before they let me view the landscape and hillsides of wine awaiting me, I walked through a Disneylandia of quaint and darling little bottles of booze. It was like I was at a secret hanger at the airport—where every tiny liquor glass container in the world stands upright ready to board the airplanes of the world. Great for a shot of what’s good for ya—and what a stocking-stuffer come Christmastime.

Oh—and then we hit the walk-in humidor, harkening back to those times when everyone loved the smell of a good cigar. Great selection of over 300 cigars to choose from.

Continuing our journey to wine heaven, we next came upon The Brewery District. A large and superbly designed beer tasting bar that is surrounded with racks and racks of beers & ales, from micro-brews to imports, from refrigerated kegs (in the back with the chilled IPAs) to beer singles where you can create your own six-pack.

And did I mention that this superstore is the largest beer destination in the Venus/Earth/Mars triangulation. Their tasting schedule appears like a shoving match of so many craft beer breweries wanting to get in on the scene. I see Stone Brewery, Hanger 24, and Firestone already on the chalkboard menu of upcoming beer tastings.

By this time I realize I should have taken a shuttle to all of these aisles as I came upon rows and rows of spirits from around the world—which, I’m told, will be selling at rock bottom prices. Stay tuned for their captivating “Spirit Tastings” booth where all the vodkas, whiskeys, gins, rum, and tequila meet and greet your senses!

Alright—we’ve heard there was a mountain of wine waiting for us to scale and we were not disappointed—a little disappointed though, when realizing I’d be aging a bit while scoping out all of the wine bottles lying in the bins. Numbers of over 8,000 different types of wine available are staggering. One can find vino from every state and country in the universe. But watch your step: fall into a black hole of wine and you’ll get to taste every great wine in history—the bad news is that you’ll return yesterday—it does get messy, but you will come out of it with a Total Wines T-shirt!

Thank God the local security is fairly cool. I can see myself picking up a couple of loitering citations simply hanging out reading all of the wine labels for my upcoming columns. Even the wine section has sections such as the temperature controlled vintage & fine wine cellar housing all those great Bordeaux & Champagne.

There’s a wonderful circular temple of wine tasting right in the center of things, where on the weekends you can sample the new wines in town. And then!—no surprise here, there’s a technologically advanced Education Center at the back of the store where all types of beverage classes, virtual-reality winery tours, tastings and community events—public or private—are to be held.

Already there’s a fun wine class schedule posted that include titles such as Wine 101: You be the Judge!, California Wines…they’re Undeniable!, Napa Valley Rocks!, and Sparkling and Champagne…because Every Day is a Celebration. And upcoming this Saturday, June 29th, come and enjoy a live Webcast tasting featuring winemaker Chuck Wagner of Wagner Family Wines. Call 760.346.2029 for time & details. Total Wine & More, 72339 Hwy 111 Palm Desert.

No hyperbole here and on a personal note: I’ve met with store manager Scott Perry and he really looks forward to providing CV Weekly readers and our community the best service possible. And he has been gracious to invite me over to the upcoming weekend wine classes featuring vintners and winemakers. Look forward to seeing you all.


Rick is the desert’s sommelier-about-town entertaining at wine events & tastings. Contact