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Boulder Wine Merchant unveils @AskASomm, a sommelier in your pocket

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How many times have you been sitting in a restaurant or standing in the aisle of an unfamiliar wine store, staring down a wine list or at a row of bottles and wondering what to get? Brett Zimmerman, Master Sommelier and owner of Boulder Wine Merchant, bets that it happens to more than a few of his customers -- and so he's giving people a way to leverage the immense knowledge of his business any time, anywhere.

Specifically, he's set up @AskASomm, a Twitter account that will answer wine-related questions as soon as they're asked. "We started trying to think of ways to promote the message that we want to be as much of an information source as possible," he explains. "We may not be able to sit next to customers at a restaurant, and we may not be hanging out for every purchase. But they might be sitting there thinking, 'What's that wine I liked?' or 'What cool wine should I drink with this schnitzel?' The idea is they'd be able to send us a message and get an answer in just a couple of minutes."

Zimmerman hopes the account will fuel conversation about pairings, geeky varietals and rare finds. It certainly sounds a lot cooler than the apps that pump out generic recommendations, especially because you can ask whatever wine-related question you can think of.

Zimmerman's shop is also adding a box on the website for customers who don't use Twitter but want to enjoy the same benefits. Enter your request, says Zimmerman, and the site will e-mail him and the advanced-level sommeliers he employs -- and they'll provide a quick answer.

The effort is part of Zimmerman's attempt to add what he calls a "personal concierge touch" to the Boulder Wine Merchant, the shop he bought last year from two Master Sommeliers who'd owned it for two decades. His shop is teeming with professionals who know their wine -- two employees will sit for the Master exam this year; one will pass the Advanced test; one has worked the floor of the Flagstaff House for twenty years; and another has extensive winemaking experience -- and he wants that knowledge to be accessible to every consumer craving it.

"We want to keep everyone involved," he explains, adding that he's working to set up a way for customers to message their favorite employees directly to get advice. All of which should make a wine-buying experience much less stressful -- and much more interesting.

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