A handful of retailers are popping the corks on wine shops, seeking to capitalize on vino's increasing affordability and popularity.


In the process, they may be cultivating a new generation of aficionados.


"People are becoming more savvy and enjoying the quality wines instead of going for the 'two-buck Chuck' because it's a cheap way to get drunk," said Drew Niles, the 28-year-old sommelier at Culver City's recently opened Bottle Rock. He was referring to Charles Shaw, the popular California wine line. "They're willing to learn about what makes a good wine."


Bottle Rock has a seating area for customers to drink wine and eat cheese, a wide selection of wines, priced $8 to $600, and a variety of gift bags. The store's name comes from the bottles of wine and the rock music the fills the store, targeting Generation X and Y types.


"In this country there is so much potential," said Georges Serna, sommelier at Le Chateau, a wine and chocolate shop that opened at the newly remodeled Beverly Hilton Hotel three months ago. "Every day you have new people who drink wine."


Along with its specialty, wines from the California's Central Coast that range from $19 to "priceless," Le Chateau features an assortment of Belgian chocolates.


Their differing locales and clientele require different marketing approaches. The Beverly Hilton store offers standard and personalized tastings, while Bottle Rock lets customers open any bottle in the store, as long as they're willing to pay for two glasses.


More stores are on the way. The Little Door restaurant, on Third Street near L.A.'s Farmers Market, is opening a wine store, the Little Next Door. The new shop will sell wine, cheese, tea sandwiches and desserts.


Colorado Wine in Eagle Rock and Silverlake Wine, which offers several tastings a week, have both been open about two years. Four-year-old Stroh's Gourmet market on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice has developed a name for itself with its selection of wines and fine cheeses.

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