Sunday, December 02, 2007

Online Wine in a Berkeley Brick and Mortar Home

This weekend I was shopping in the Fourth Street shopping district in Berkeley, and I made it a point to check out a new store I had read about. This wasn't another upscale, boutique store in this high-end shopping neighborhood, but it was a warehouse-type place for wine., one of the largest online retailers for wine, apparently decided that the Internet isn't enough for selling wine and maybe customers want to hold a bottle of wine in their hands and get a sense of what they're about to drink. So opened its first retail store on the West Coast just a few weeks ago south of the Fourth Street shopping area between Bancroft Avenue and Allston Way. (They have another retail location in Connecticut.)

First off, I have to let you know that there was a sign outside the door before you walk in alerting buyers that you're about to be filmed and security cameras are everywhere. So despite my efforts to be the super sleuth shopper, I was only able to sneak in a few shaky camera shots. But really, when you walk in, it's not a very big retail shop. It's like the size of a corner wine shop.

In the front retail area, there are about four short aisles of wine organized by varietal, of course. But because is an online retailer, you can sit at a desk near the back and surf's site to buy wine. I know, you're thinking you can do that at home. But the selling point is that if you find a wine you like, you can ask them to retrieve that bottle from its Berkeley warehouse in the back and that way you avoid shipping and handling. (BTW, if you're at home now and you find a wine on that you want, you can also order it online and then click the option to pick it up at Berkeley, again avoiding shipping and handling costs. This is so cool for us in the Bay Area!) Having access to the online inventory means you can choose from more than 2,500 wine choices! Now that's way more that can fit in that front retail area.

Here's one of the wine sections at the Berkeley store. You're probably wondering what all those tags are on the neck of the bottles. Each bottle comes with an individual tag that has the name of the wine and some notes that you can take when you're at home after you've purchased this wine. I thought this was a neat idea because there's been many times I've drank a bottle of wine and thought I'd buy it again but forgot the name after dumping the bottle. This way you have a way to remember the wine after its gone. But it does make the display look like a sewing center, doesn't it?
This is a wide view of the retail area as I'm standing in the warehouse section. You can go to the warehouse section to check out some bargains, but there weren't anything that caught my eye. Most of the wine at's store average about $20 with some of the better wines selling for more than $80. I didn't think their prices were necessarily cheap like a discount wine shop and I didn't feel they offered anything rare and boutique like. I saw a lot of the same names I see at places like BevMo.

The one section that I did like was one called "90 under $20." This section included wine that were rated 90 points or above (based on Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate magazines) but cost less than $20 per bottle. It was at this section that I found an interesting bottle of Pinot Noir from Argentina. It's called Punto Final and cost me only $13.79. I know, this is probably more than what you spend at Trader Joe's, but I opened the bottle for dinner and it was oh so fine. It's a 2006 vintage with a lot of body, vibrancy and berry undertones. It was perfect to warm me up during this chilly weekend.Here's my bottle of Punto Final from Argentina and a close up of that neck tag that's on all the bottle. So you can note any special occasion you're drinking the wine and what you liked about it and what you think it'll go well with. My Punto Final will go well with anything, whether it's a heavy fish like salmon, a roasted chicken or some lamb. It had the complexity to match well with many dishes. So if I'm filling out this card, I'm checking "yes" under "order again.", 2220 Fourth St., Berkeley. PH: 510.704.8007

1 comment:

Chubbypanda said...

Awww... Just go for it next time. The worst that can happen is they'll ask you to leave.