It’s hard to find the perfect wine guy. Someone you can trust and respect, whose opinion you regard as highly (if not higher) than your own. If you meet someone and they steer you wrong, send you home with an overpriced bottle that gives you an excruciating headache, that’s it. Relationship over. But if you meet a wine retailer who happens to hand write labels on each bottle he sells, who honestly wants to help you get the best bang for your buck and has experience in the wine industry? Hold on tight and don’t ever let him go. That’s where Sam Whitmore comes in.

Sam Whitmore is our new go-to wine guy for those sold out or hard to find obscure bottles you’ve only read about in magazines. Sam got into the wine world during his college years when he couldn’t afford what he wanted to drink and discovered that the industry is full of smart driven passionate people who really love what they do, just like him. He eventually set up shop in the small town of Lakewood, NY and brought his love and knowledge of wine to open Bag & String Wine Merchants, purveyors of fine wine and spirits.

I don’t care about driving an expensive car but I’m more than happy to spend $100 on a bottle for wine for a Wednesday night. My wife and I fell in love over food and wine. It’s an important part of our daily ritual. – Sam Whitmore, owner of Bag & String Merchants

Bag & String Merchants focus on eclectic off the beaten path wines and wineries that you won’t find in every store…and if a shop in NYC is sold out, Sam probably has a few bottles in stock. The store focuses on selling boutique brands, appealing to a demographic that wants good quality wine for their money and are always searching for something new. A big winery often loses itself by producing over 1,000 bottles…it’s hard to maintain that ‘cool’ factor that comes with the story of smaller brands.

Sam’s favorite bottle is typically a big over the top Cabernet from Napa, his old stomping ground. His newest discovery and addiction is Bevan Cellars, a small well-kept secret out of Napa with a serious cult status. “It’s one of those wines that drinks so beautifully young and ages well, a total package wine. The fear people have in choosing wine is they don’t want to waste money if they don’t end up liking it…a lot of people tend to play it safe and go back to what they know. I think they’re missing out,” Sam told us.

It’s important to have a good wine merchant that you can trust and feel comfortable with. Sam takes out the intimidation factor, answering things that some people assume are dumb questions, and they’re not. Don’t end up flying blind. It’s easy to find great wine when you’re spending a lot of money. It takes work and insider info to find the great wines at 20 dollars.

Bag & String offers a concierge level service that includes their cellar collection club, a higher end wine club for novice and experienced wine collectors. They put notes on the bottle tags for the cellar so you can see without having to disturb the bottles, that way if you’re collecting to invest or enjoy and entertain you have the information at your fingertips. Sam will also help you manage your private cellar collection, for a small fee. A good concierge is someone who surprises you with something you didn’t know you wanted.

We asked Sam what his relationship with wine is like. “Wine is one of those things, it’s an intriguing product. It’s a social lubricant, a means to bring people together. Wine is such an integrated part of other countries social life. You see families in Europe with three to four generations enjoying food, great conversation and wine together. Most Americans plop down a pile of crappy food in front of the TV and don’t talk. It’s heartbreaking to me. That’s not living life. Wine is an integral part of bringing people together.”