Mondo Vino
Courtesy Mondo Vino Facebook page

Perhaps you already know Mondo Vino for its wine program — the Highland anchor boasts an expertly assembled collection that's deftly maneuvered by the staff, and the shop has a knack for finding rare wines. That makes it a must-visit for amateurs and geeks alike, who leave each interaction a little more knowledgeable, and with the utmost confidence that they've secured an excellent bottle. But perhaps this shop's best-kept secret is that it puts just as much effort into its beer and spirits offerings. Its shelves and cold cases are full of rare gems and solid standbys, and it offers knowledge on everything it sells. Looking for an elusive Japanese whiskey? A limited-release beer? A funky liqueur? Or want to make a delicious discovery? Make Mondo Vino your next stop.

Readers' Choice: Argonaut Wine & Liquor

Proof Wine & Spirits
Courtesy Proof Wine & Spirits Facebook page

Good wine shops offer variety, but the best wine shops get to know you and encourage you to expand your horizons — and chances to expand those horizons is what makes Proof special. The wee shop, notched into a corner on Larimer Street, specializes in off-beat wine, beer and spirits, and its concise selection packs a punch. You'll find familiar touchpoints, but if you're open to experimentation, it's best to let owner Liz Batkin guide you through her wares; she has a knack for ferreting out a discovery that matches your specific tastes. Further education: Proof holds regular wine tastings to help you define and redefine what you like.

Readers' Choice: Molly's Spirits

Mr. B's Wine and Spirits
Courtesy Mr. B's Wine & Spirits-Stanley Marketplace Facebook page

Ask any beer nerd in this town where they go for rare bottles, and you're likely to be pointed toward Mr. B's, a Ballpark corner shop opened by brothers Jared and Scott Blauweiss almost a decade ago. The shelves and cold cases here are packed with finds, including special limited runs from local brewers, hard-to-find out-of-state gems, and rare imports from beer meccas like Belgium. The stock is intimidating, but the staff is not: Novices are treated as respectfully as pros, and they'll eagerly walk you through their collection if you so much as venture a question. The success of the downtown location spawned a second shop at Stanley Marketplace; following both locations on Facebook is a good way to stay up-to-date on the coveted goods coming through the doors. Oh, and the cider and liquor sections are worth a spin, too.

Proper Pour

Sometimes size doesn't matter. There are plenty of liquor stores in the metro area larger than the Proper Pour, which is located inside the Source, but none better when it comes to finding locally produced brews that will please your palate. The selection is modest but mighty, and there are tons of specialty bombers that will hit the spot. And because the offerings are carefully overseen by staffers who really know their suds, tipplers are practically guaranteed a quality quaff whether they've heard of it before or not.

Readers' Choice: Molly's Spirits

BookBar

It seems strange that the BookBar has only been open since the fall of 2012, since it already feels like a local institution. Of course, books are one of the main attractions here, and the tomes on hand are consistently smart and intriguing. But the atmosphere is just as important. In addition to comfy sofas that inspire patrons to linger, the shop boasts a full-service wine bar, complete with a delicious menu of items, plus a daily happy hour and even a "happier hour" storytime for youngsters that offers discounted prices on kids' meals. It's the kind of place that residents take visitors to illustrate why Denver is such a great place.

Readers' Choice: Tattered Cover

Each spring and fall at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, at 15200 West 6th Avenue in Golden, the Jefferson County Library Foundation stages a "Whale" sale at which books, magazines, records and more that are being taken out of circulation are put on sale to the general public. The four-day event begins with a preview night on a Thursday, a $10 early-entry opportunity for an hour on Friday morning, and no-fee entries through the rest of the weekend. But the real bargains can be had on Sundays, when patrons are charged just $6 to fill a grocery-sized bag with as many items as possible. Fees are bumped up slightly for larger bags, but it's still possible to pick up dozens of books for a quarter or less apiece. A whale of a sale, indeed.

Twist & Shout
Ken Hamblin III

Three decades ago this year, Paul and Jill Epstein started Twist & Shout, which has changed locations a few times and grown with each move. The sprawling 11,000-square-foot East Colfax location it's called home since 2006 carries a ton of CDs but also sports the best vinyl selection in the city. It's easy to spend an afternoon digging through LPs here, whether you're looking for an original 1950s Blue Note pressing, rare records or newer reissues. These days, you can easily stream music from your phone or computer, but there's still much joy to be had sifting through actual CDs and records, and you'll find that at Twist & Shout. May it continue for another thirty years.

Readers' Choice: Twist & Shout

Best Blowout Record Sales
Courtesy Ryan Dykstra Records Facebook page

Like record albums much? If you can't have too many but have a budget that's holding you back, it's time you got to know record gypsy Ryan Dykstra and his traveling vintage vinyl boutique, which pops up regularly, complete with listening stations, at changing locations in Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and other stops along the Front Range. Once in a while, that also means 99-cent blowouts with thousands of records in every genre and era to choose from. If you want to keep up with Dykstra's pop-ups, visit the event Facebook page or email ryandykstrarecords@gmail.com with the word "add" in the subject line.

ryandykstrarecords.com

Best Bet for Record Geeks
Courtesy Denver Record Collectors Expo Facebook page

The biannual Denver Record Collectors Expo just celebrated its 25th anniversary as the brainchild of former record-store workers Karen Brown and Kurt Ohlen. Dozens of record vendors, both public and private, bring vinyl LPs galore to the floor, along with everything musical, from eight-track tapes to those coveted twelve-inch collectible video discs, posters and memorabilia, CDs, 45s and even a stray guitar or two. Plus, it has a social side: It's like old-home week for metro record geeks, full of familiar faces on both sides of the cash boxes. You've heard of Hillbilly Heaven — this is its vinyl-record counterpart.

bigk.com

Flipside Music
Jon Solomon

Flipside Music owner Anthony "Ike" Iacovangelo Jr. started buying and selling instruments and gear online while being laid up from a busted ankle. He eventually started working out of a warehouse before finally opening his brick-and-mortar store nearly three years ago. His shop is ideal for any player on a quest for the perfect tone, as Flipside specializes in boutique guitar effects pedals. With a low-pressure, old-school music-store vibe, it offers the best alternative in town to the big-box music stores like Guitar Center.

Readers' Choice: Colfax Guitar Shop

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