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Bottles, bottles everywhere

With a large wine selection, eye-catching displays and gift baskets galore, the new ABC Fine Wine and Spirits store turns buying a bottle of booze into a shopping experience.

And if you're stumped as to which wine best brings out the flavor of a meal or appetizer, just ask the in-store wine consultant, and she'll be happy to make some recommendations.

Shoppers will immediately notice the large amount of floor space devoted to wines.

"We have about 1,000 bottles out there now,'' said Jessica Semko, the store's wine consultant. She's been studying wines, both through ABC programs and on her own, for the past four years.

"I'm not a wine snob - yet,'' she said. "But I'm beginning to feel that way.''

The more than 8,500-square-foot store opened Nov. 18, just in time for the Thanksgiving rush, said Robin Adams, who co-manages the store with Patty Dartmouth.

The new store is at W Main Street just east of Pleasant Grove Road (County Road 581). While the store is big, it's still smaller than the similar store in Crystal River.

Adams managed the Crystal River ABC for eight years. The Crystal River ABC has a wine cellar and individual wine vaults that serious wine connoisseurs can rent.

The Inverness ABC has a wine chiller, so if you need a chilled bottle of Riesling, it's available. There's also a good assortment of ports.

Shoppers will also notice a cigar room tucked in a corner. Familiar high-end labels include brands that trade on the traditions of Cuban cigarmaking, such as Cohibas and Partagas. These are not made in Cuba nor do they contain any Cuban tobacco leaf.

They are made in the Dominican Republic and some of the tobacco is grown in Connecticut, according to the Cohiba Web site. Still, these are pricey stogies - around $15.

Pricier still is an eye-catching display of Dom Perignon champagne near the entrance. Each of the black bottles sells for about $140.

The store also sells a nice assortment of cheeses, chocolates, condiments, stemware and cookies.

"We have a lot of gift baskets on display,'' Adams said. "And we have a gift basket making center, where people can tell us what they want and we'll make a gift basket for them.''

The ABC also has a wide selection of hard liquors, with lots of flavored vodkas and a Jack Daniels display with wooden casks.

And the big question lots of people are asking? What's going to replace the old store at Main and County Road 581?

The old ABC liquor store, which was also Inverness' first disco lounge in the 1980s and featured a revolving cocktail bar, was demolished last week.

ABC still owns the property and has indicated it will lease it out, probably to a restaurant, according to Ken Koch, the development services director for Inverness.

"A lot of restaurants have looked at it, most recently Bob Evans,'' Koch said. "But that's all they've done is looked. But I do think a restaurant will probably be what gets built there.''

Jorge Sanchez covers arts and entertainment in Citrus. Contact him at sanchez@sptimes.com or 860-7313 or toll free at 1-800-333-7505 ext. 7313.

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