These area shops carry everything from small-batch wines to obscure liqueurs.
First Avenue Wine House
3412 1st Ave NE, Cedar Rapids
Travel and wine enthusiast Traci Weber took her husband’s dream of one day owning a wine shop and turned it into her reality. She purchased an old home on First Avenue and converted it into a retail outlet, using the rooms (three floors!) of the old house to showcase boutique wines of both domestic and international origins, as well as gourmet foods and giftables. The rows of bottles that line the shelves of the shop are typically low-production wines from small vineyards, meaning you won’t be able to find the same quality or selection at big-box stores. This year marks the shop’s 17th year in business and you can still find Weber on-site handselling and recommending unique and interesting bottles from around the world to her loyal customers. Additionally, the shop regularly hosts tastings and events that provide opportunities to both learn from and chat with visiting winemakers.
Benz Beverage Depot
501 7th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids
Specializing in service and selection, Benz Beverage Depot is the place to head in Cedar Rapids for that special bottle of liquor you’ve been trying to track down. They carry the area’s largest selection of spirits and beer and have more than 1,200 different bottles of wine. Regular complimentary tastings are scheduled on the first and third Friday of the month from 5-7 p.m. and offer patrons an opportunity to educate themselves on everything from cider to mead, craft beer to luxury wines. Be sure to mark your calendars: Benz’ annual Beerfest takes place the Saturday before Mother’s Day and promises live music and an afternoon spent sampling craft beers.
Vineria Wine Shop
264 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids
Owner and certified sommelier Jose Reyes operates Vineria Wine Shop on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids, a specialty shop for both the wine enthusiast and those looking to try something new. Stocking wines from around the world, you’re sure to find highly drinkable wines for everyday sipping and bottles to commemorate life’s special occasions. Take advantage of their monthly ticketed wine tastings and classes and be sure to visit their wine bar during happy hour for a great deal on gourmet pizzas and wine by the glass.
Brix Cheese Shop & Wine Bar
209 N Linn St, Iowa City
On the northside of Iowa City, Brix attracts oenophiles and turophiles alike. This retail-dining-tasting space offers customers the opportunity to sample select wines by the full (or half!) glass, snack on a rotating selection of cheese boards or enjoy larger plates for lunch or dinner. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful—whether behind the counter or tableside—and will happily assist you in choosing a bottle of wine from their curated portfolio or an adventurous cheese to pair with your chardonnay. They also offer classes ranging from basic wine knowledge to more nuanced topics like blind tasting. Space is limited and classes often sell out, so keep feelers out for announcements and events.
The following spots are not specialty shops by any means—you can find anything from fried chicken to fresh baked bread and even get your prescription refilled—but they provide a damn good selection.
Bread Garden Market
225 S Linn St, Iowa City
You’ll find over 1,000 bottles ranging from bargains to bestsellers and high-end labels in the back corner of this downtown grocer. Run by a certified wine expert, you can expect someone who knows a thing or two to help you out. Wine by the glass is available on-site, so settle in for a drink and talk shop. They also offer monthly wine pairing classes which should definitely be on your radar.
401 E Market St, Iowa City
This corner grocer fits a cozy wine room, a well-stocked beer room and a great selection of liquor within their small footprint. They founded BrewFest (now in its 25th year) and help in coordinating the annual Northside Oktoberfest. The staff is very knowledgeable and eager to help you hunt down the perfect bottle of booze.
Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits
310 N 1st Ave, Iowa City
The staff here hosts local sales reps for regular monthly tastings (usually a Friday towards the end of the month) which are well-attended and bounce between craft beer, liquor and wine. Keep your eyes peeled for flyers and event listings.
HyVee Wine & Spirits
2001 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids
This location has a great selection (and knowledge) of whiskies and bourbons but doesn’t skimp on the rest either.