Local Wine-Deal Queen Changes Locations

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For the longest time whenever I received an E-mail from Eden Stone of Brookline Liquor Mart, I quickly gave it a look. You can read my "Mystery Shopper" review of how one of her deals (that I took advantage of) went down while at BLM, however Eden recently changed employers. She is now doing the same work for Blanchards.

I first became familiar with Blanchards in West Roxbury, MA while the heralded 2005 Bordeaux vintage first came to market about a year ago. I called around and searched the Internet for inventory of the highest rated/most affordable picks, and overall I found the best deals at Blanchards. Chateau Pipeau and Chateau Puygeuraud (two of the biggest value plays of the vintage) were in ample supply at Blanchards and available at *pheonomenal* prices.

Fast forward to today when I received a pretty darn good deal from Eden/Blanchards on a couple of closeout Pinot Noirs. Pinot Noir is a tough varietal to dabble in from a value perspective, but these deals were (as far as I can tell) true closeouts with 60% discounts from their original release prices. I don't want to reveal the exact bottles offered- that's proprietary information that Blanchards is entitled to share only with customers on their mailing list and local wine shops are amazingly paranoid about revealing their plays to other shops. But I will say that I took advantage of the offer for sure (4 bottles of the more affordable Pinot, and 2 bottles of the less). Though the wines were not rated by Wine Spectator (my current most trusted source of professional ratings) they did get favorable ratings from Wine Enthusiast and other publications. The pricing was low enough for me to give 'em a try without tasting.

Offers like this are my new favorite way to shop for wine. I don't have to get in the car and drive around town. I don't have to call or even E-mail local shops to see what they're offering. I can just sit back and wait for the perfect pitch and when I see an offer that's tempting enough I can "swing." I save on shipping because I'll pick-up in store, and while I'm there of course I'll have a look around to see what else they have. Given the wacky set of laws conspiring against Massachusetts wine consumers, I think this is the best way for local wine shops to build a relationship with new customers. I love it.

I'll warn you however- even with their recent spiffy remodel, Blanchards is a liquor store- *not* a snooty wine boutique. Complete with lotto machines and situated in a neighborhood where you'd be well advised to lock your car doors- it's the kind of place where I'm right on the edge when deciding whether to take the kids along.

Local wine shop owners: Are you interacting with your customers in ways that are most convenient for them? Is it easy for customers to inquire about your inventory? How do you create compelling events for your customers to buy your wines?

Update (1/30/2009): I picked up my order from Blanchard's today: 2 bottles of 2005 Dutton Estate Jewell Block Vineyard Pinot Noir ($54.99 down to $21.99) and 4 bottles of 2004 Carmel Road Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir ($34.99 down to $13.99). Big impressive bottles- nice looking stuff! I had a chance to meet with Eden face to face while I was there along with the very knowledgeable and helpful Steve Grant. Great people. Eden informed me that this deal sold out in an hour and a half. Better act fast next time you see that E-mail come in from Eden Stone!

I'd encourage you to subscribe to Blanchards E-mail list. Visit http://blanchardsliquor.com and submit your E-mail address for their "Special Offers". I think you'd be glad you did.

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