A friend is off to London for work and offered to carry back port for me. This was before we realized he'd have to pack it in his suitcase and that Berry Bros had closed its Heathrow store.
So I've been researching prices online, to determine if it makes sense to have him bring a couple of bottles of 1963 or 1977 port back for me. It looks like there's much greater availability of 1977s in London, many for ~ 50 pounds.
K&L in San Francisco has a reasonable selection of 1963s at comparable prices (from $149 for a Croft to $399 for a Fonseca), and Golden West seems to have the best prices on 77s ($98 for a Croft, 115 for Warre). I realize condition of storage matters for a 30+ year old bottle; I don't usually spend hundreds of dollars a bottle, and would hate for it to taste like dusty.
My intent is to drink the port now; it's purely to celebrate with a wine as old as I am that's reaching full maturity. And while I've enjoyed drinking vintage ports tremendously in the past, I also like a lot of less impressive and less expensive fortified wines, from California and Australian port styled wines to sherries and madieras.
Any great London port merchants to recommend that don't require a 200-pound minimum? Is there any way to get around paying VAT? Any recent experiences with US customs collecting duty? (In the past, I've brought back four or five bottles, declared them, and never paid duty)
Or should I just make his life simple and ask for Blandys and a roll of GIngernuts?