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September 14, 2009

Bottlerocket: A seriously fun neighborhood wine store

Yesterday I posted about Ignighter, an intriguing online dating site that helps take the fear out of online dating by orchestrating group dates and connections. Writing about Ignighter got me thinking about other companies that have employed creative solutions to overcome a common fear obstacle (either fear of trying a new offering or fear of purchase) … one in particular - Bottlerocket Wine – really excels in this arena.

Buying wine (from either a store or off a wine list) can be a fairly anxious experience. There are thousands of services and classes designed to arm you with information so that you can either make better and more comfortable purchase decisions when presented with a menu or enhance your own understanding of your tastes and preferences, teaching you the language of wine so that you can at least be conversant enough with an expert to get a decent bottle of wine (our favorite among these educators is Swirl Events).

However, an encyclopedia’s amount of education might not do much to enhance the common trip to the wine store. Admittedly, some of my lackluster feelings towards wine stores originates from the fact that I live in PA where we only have state-run liquor stores, which masterfully make you feel like you are shopping for booze in a pawn shop…I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see someone surrender their watch in exchange for a nice Malbec.

However, even outside of my home state, trips to the wines store usually result in being greeted by only moderately helpful often snooty folks who literally speak to you in another language and lead you down long aisles of similar-looking bottles that appear to have little discernable difference. I historically have mostly relied on two well-honed wine buying strategies 1. “The judging a book by its cover”, which amounts to picking the prettiest label or 2. “The needle in the haystack” – managing find the few wines I have tried, liked, and recognize out of a store of unknowns.

So it is not hard to understand why I have fallen had over heels for Bottle Rocket, a store that has revolutionized the in-store experience making it more than just painless and manageable but actually informative, comfortable, and even fun. Unlike other wine stores, BottleRocket’s design and layout is intuitive; kiosks group wines by themes that you can actually related to such as “Pizza” or “Chinese” – as in goes well with OR “gift” – broken into sub-categories such as ‘boss’ or ‘someone you barely know’. The kiosks are complemented by a wall where all the wines (365 kinds) are organized by country in case that is your browsing preference.

Important information about each wine is presented in layman’s terms next to the bottles and when you check out you are given a fact sheet about each of your purchases to take with you. The store is laid out in such a way that you could easily navigate it on your own but the abundantly-numbered friendly staff members ensure that you don’t have to. I have gotten my own tour guide pretty much every time I have visited, and it is a good thing…they have helped me find some of my most favorite wines, which have all been in the neighborhood of $15 or less.

Obviously not wanting to disappoint, BottleRocket offers many benefits that continue beyond your initial (or continued) shopping visits. They offer online accounts that help you track your purchases and preferences and, of course, have creative wine clubs and events that seem incredibly fun and social. And Otis, the store’s yellow lab mascot, gives dog lovers like me yet another shopping bonus.

A mere 4 blocks away, we are really lucky to have Bottle Rocket as IGC’s neighborhood wine store but I would be surprised if that remains the only location for too much longer.

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