For some of us, spending an hour strolling up and down the aisles of our neighborhood wine store is like a little slice of heaven. Between filling up carts with our latest vino obsessions and ogling that magnum of Veuve we can't possibly afford, a wine-buying spree is perhaps second only to shoe shopping in our book. Unfortunately, so many budding oenophiles view a trip to a wine shop as an experience just slightly more exciting than that twice-yearly visit to the dentist: You know it's important to go, but you find the whole process slightly intimidating and sometimes a bit painful.
What a shame, because in our experience, there are few members of the American populace more authentically delighted to report to work each day than wine store employees. Why's that? Because to work at a wine store is to have proclaimed your willingness to keep retail hours, lift countless cases of wine, and stand on your feet dealing with -- you know, people -- for a decidedly less-than-princely wage, all for the love of wine. And while maximizing your wine shop's value certainly starts with getting good and friendly with those tireless peeps, there are several other ways we can think of to get more bang for your wine-store buck without ever leaving your house.
Get familiar: Think of forming a relationship with your wine merchant the same way you view the relationship you have with your mechanic. Once you've befriended them and proven that you'll be a repeat customer, they'll basically do what they can to save you some coin. Introduce yourself to the familiar men and women you see working at the store every weekend (or whenever you pop in). By connecting with the staff, you'll soon be rewarded with more than a friendly greeting upon your arrival; they'll be a helluva lot quicker to point out the fact that your favorite wine is on sale, make personal recommendations, or hook you up with free delivery of that extra-large order you just placed.
Venture outside the lines: After cozying up to your new wine-store BFFs, work up the nerve to peruse the lesser-known areas of the store in order to score some of the best deals. Lots of wine stores have private rooms, where they keep the really good stuff: hard-to-find vintages, various overstock items and bottles featuring deep discounts. Plus, these out of the way areas are usually chock-full of fellow wine lovers eager to chat you up about what they're drinking; chances are you'll get turned on to something new and fantastic.
Drink up: Two words: Free tastings. If you're not already a frequent guest at your favorite bodega's in-store tastings, you're missing out big time on the chance to sip some tasty juice that's probably being offered for a special price that day. These tastings provide the perfect opportunity to work on your wine knowledge; the person pouring the samples is likely to drop all manner of juicy tidbits about the varietal, region and producer responsible for that Rioja you're swooning over. Most of Denver's best-known stores have at least one tasting per week; many feature two. Oh, yeah, and did we mention that these events are free?
Go to the website: Just about every major wine retailer in the Denver metro area (along with several of the independent ones) has invested significant sums to establish a user-friendly online presence. Check out your favorite purveyor's website for a veritable jackpot of information designed to help you save money and score great wines. We guarantee that if you spend about fifteen minutes eyeballing a few, you'll soon discover you've been missing out on featured wines, pairing suggestions, daily sales, how to order online, and information on Denver area tastings. So get online, already!
Join the club: Sometimes getting a steady stream of e-mails from a vendor can be a giant pain in the ass -- but not this time. It literally pays to be on your favorite wine shop's e-mail list or newsletter, because this is precisely how you will be kept apprised of in-store specials, tastings and the like (especially if you're too lazy to check out their website on a regular basis.) Frequent shopper programs can yield significant savings on selected bottles or increase the amount of your case discount. Finally, don't forget to friend your wine shop on Facebook and Twitter for all kinds of late-breaking info and sweet deals.
Stores and sites to get friendly with:
Argonaut Wine & Liquor: www.argonautliquor.com/
Applejack Wine & Spirits: www.applejack.com/
Corks - The Wine Store: www.corksonline.com/
Davino Wine and Spirits: www.divinowine.com/
Incredible Wine & Spirits: www.incrediblewinestore.com/
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Marczyk Fine Wines: www.marczykfinefoods.com/wine-store/wine-specials/
Mondo Vino: mondovino.net/
SIP Fine Wine & Spirits www.denverwinestore.net/
West End Wine Shop www.westendwineshop.com/