Sunday, November 02, 2008

Total Wine & More - Tustin

I'm not much of a drinker. Save for the occasional bottle of Singha when I'm at a Thai restaurant or a pint of Guinness when I'm in an Irish pub, I'm closer to teetotaler than college frat boy. After all, this blog is called Monster Munching, not Monster Gulping.

But it's not because I have a moral issue against alcohol. Frankly, I just think it tastes vile. And wine? Well, a lot of the foods I like -- nachos, noodle soups, etc. -- doesn't really call for it. And then there's the cost. Once, at Ruth Chris, a friend offered a sip from her glass of red, and although I admit it went well with the steak I was chomping on, I thought the extra ten bucks would've been better spent on dessert.

Water is my beverage of choice to pair with food.

So when a Total Wine & More opened in Tustin recently, mere blocks from where I lived, I went because of a curiosity for the new, not because I needed to stock up the liquor cabinet. Besides, I wanted to know: What would a place that claims it has "8,000 types of wines, 2,000 types of spirits, and 1,000 types of beers" look like?

The answer is that it looks like a liquor store got it on with a supermarket -- thanks largely to the fact that the space used to be a furniture showroom. Though, admittedly, it's really not that much different or bigger than a BevMo!.

Its selection of wine, however, was indeed impressive. Instead of supermarket aisles labeled "canned foods", "sugar", or "bread", the place boasts whole aisles devoted to the wine subphylums such as "chardonnays", "syrahs", and "merlots".

Despite the economy, the place was doing brisk business on a Saturday afternoon. Or perhaps, is it because of the economy?

In any case, I decided to test the mettle of their selection by asking if they had Magners Irish Cider -- a crisp, refreshing drink that I remembered actually liking at Auld Dubliner.

After leading me through aisle after aisle of beers, the employee shrugged. "You got me," he said, finally pointing towards their small selection of ciders, none of them Irish.

The conclusion: Wines, they got; ciders, not so much.

So I picked out a few from the shelf of singles, ranging from $1.19 to $1.49, and paid for it while chuckling to myself at the signs over the register that menacingly said, "WE ARREST MINORS".

At home, I chilled the bottles in the fridge and last night, tried two of them. So far, the Fox Barrell Hard Cider and the Woodchuck Pear Cider were a bit disappointing. While the Fox Barrell had a stronger alcohol kick, both seemed watered down and flat on flavor.

Now, off to BevMo!, where I think they have Magners in stock. Besides that, since it's been a while, I'd forgotten whether they also threaten minors with arrest.

Total Wine & More
2952 El Camino Real
Tustin, CA 92782

Warung Pojok - Garden Grove


At 1:47 PM, Blogger imjustatree said...

when i first read the title/saw the picture, it did remind me of bevmo. i've read that alcohol (liquor stores, bars, etc) always sells itself...recession or no recession. =)
I have not seen those ciders before, except for hornby's at some markets. have you ever tried lindeman's framboise? i think it's pretty good....pricey tho.

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

too bad that the ciders were a let down.

At 11:35 PM, Blogger NP said...

For Ciders you want to either look for Normandy French ciders or English ciders like Aspall (NOT Blackthorn... ) Try one of the previous ones and you won't go back to the nasty stuff.

BevMo does carry on occasion some decent ciders and they can special order. Clos Normand is quite good (comes in a Champagne bottle and corked like one)

The one I *REALLY* miss from leaving outside the US is Longueville - it's near impossible to get here, but can be picked up at any French or UK supermarket that has a good selection (if you do visit).

You do find a good selection of cider at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa. Just go in the walk in refrigerator and they normally have 2-3 french ones, and the standard UK and Irish ones - including at times pear and peach cider. They do carry Aspall and Clos Normand, Magners and even (ugh) Strongbow.

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

I don't like the taste of alcohol, either, and I never understood how people can get addicted to it. The only alcoholic beverage I like (and I can't drink it now, since I'm still nursing) is the occasional glass of plum wine. And that pretty much tastes like juice.

At 7:43 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


The Hornsby's I tried last night, and it was better than the other two. I've got to keep a look out for Linderman's Framboise. Thanks!

Loving Annie,

I read the ingredient labels on the two that disappointed me and wasn't surprised to find out that it had water and apple juice concentrate as flavor agents.


Wow! Thanks! I heard about Hi Time, and in fact, my friend suggested we go there when we couldn't find what we wanted at Total Wine. These are great recs though! More ciders to try. Or perhaps not so great, because I just might start liking alcohol.


I don't get it either. I guess it's an acquired taste. Now what I don't understand is why people can like the taste of alcohol, but don't like durian. *WINK*

At 8:07 AM, Blogger Santa Ana Slim said...

We're not drinkers either, but when you're out with friends and you're stuck at a bar, we have found we like the Wyder's Pear Cider with Ace Perry Cider a close second. Most bars in the area, if they're going to carry any cider, it's going to be one of those. We've tried most of the ciders you can buy at BevMo and we've found the Wyder's is still one of the better tasting.

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a BevMo regular, it's good to see there's a new super liquor store out there. Speaking of ciders, I just had a bit of Ace Apple Cider, though I used most of it for baking a fruitcake. The little bit I did drink seemed decent though, but I'm don't really know.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

S.A. Slim,

Well if there's one thing that this post has opened my eyes to, it's that there are a lot of ciders I need to try. Thanks for the rec! Wyder's is now on my list.


It's a liquor-super-store alright! One of these days, I need to go back and see if they have absinthe...not because I would buy it, but because if any place would have it, it'd be this place...or perhaps it's still outlawed...hmmm...

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Melissa said...


Seriously, where the feck do you live?

That place sounds underwhelming. And though I do drink, I don't do it with meals. Water is always my beverage of choice with food!

At 12:57 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Ahh, I live in what I call the hinterlands of Tusvine, where you don't quite see the masterplanning but you can still smell it.

It's really Tustin though, because I don't see campaign signs for Shea or Kang; I see ones for someone named Beckie.

And I'm about two city blocks from the Tustin/Irvine Marketplace. A few months ago, I lived in Northpark, which was, coincidentally, also two city blocks from the Tustin/Irvine Marketplace.

What a change the move made!

At 11:50 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I discovered this site last year when I moved to Tustin. But before I did, I was eating at the same places you were (around Tustin, Irvine, and borderline Santa Ana).

Then I read this post and wow... you basically live near me.

When I passed by Noodle Ave, it became some chinese food place, I felt sad...

At 9:04 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Me too. I had recommended it to a friend one day this past August and he came back the next day telling me that Noodle Avenue is which I said "NOOOOOO!"

I went to verify it after work and sure enough it was history. That was a sad day.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger V said...

We have Mangers Irish Cider in stock. $2.99
Check us out. :) I am usually at the store Saturdays and Sundays.

250 Ogle (off of 17th St)
Costa Mesa


At 9:40 PM, Blogger NP said...

Went to Total Wine & More today... Very well laid out store. Strong focus on wine mainly but good selection of spirits including single malts.

Standard 10% off if you buy a case (any item in the store that doesn't end in a 7 (e.g. 9.97)

A much more extensive selection than BevMo - At least 3 times more stocking area for wine.

At 12:14 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I completely forgot that you work there! I should've went there instead of BevMo! But then, I've already finished the six pack I bought. The next one, I'll buy at Hi Time, hopefully when you're around! Thanks.


The wine collection was even more impressive to me when I went to BevMo about a few days later. BevMo had their wines on shelves, like a liquor store. Total Wine had them in boxes. I'm not sure why this makes it more classy, but it does. There's also so much more of them. Too bad I'm not much of a wine drinker.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

watch out for bait and switch at Total

At 8:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Good tip!

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is available in the state Total wine can and will order it for you...just ask at the service desk

At 2:20 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


What's a homer? ;-) Because if it's like "Simpson", then I'm actually closer to a Ned. As in Flanders. Okelidokely?!

Anon 2,

I'd do that if BevMo didn't have it right there on the shelf, ready for me to pick up and go!

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

I have to admit I ended up loving this place. Belvedere vodka 750mL for 26.50 with tax what??? Boddington's 4-pack pints for $5.49 holy moly!

And they were very very helpful when I went for wine to cook with - I don't drink it except on very rare occasions, but I do buy quality for my food. After extensive conversation with a lovely knowledgeable employee, I left there with a red and a white, both imported, for $12 apiece and I was really happy with em.

Sorry about the ciders, but I can't knock the rest of the place. It's extremely well stocked and CHEEEEEAP.

Aaaand I'm totally copying and pasting this for my Yelp review heheh.

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Greg Tuttle said...

Thanks to everyone for the nice words about the store and the team.

We're always happy to special order items if they're available to us in the state.

Please let the store manager know of any brands that we should be carrying that we're not. We try and stock it all, but we miss things sometimes! : )

Greg Tuttle
Wine Operations and Education
Total Wine & More
Twitter: @Total_Wine


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