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Wine buying in Florida

I recently visited Florida for a short pre-Christmas vacation. It was sweet to feel warm, embracing breeze in the middle of the winter, especially coming from the place where current temperature doesn’t go above 39F right now.  We were visiting family and friends, and I also wanted to research the current wine environment in Boca Raton.


I kept hearing from everybody: “You must see this new wine store, called Total Wine & More! You have never seen anything like that!  It’s fantastic, it’s like a warehouse, but nicer. They have such a huge selection and the best prices!”

Wow, everybody we knew, was shopping there and talking about it.

After few days in Florida, I could see why. Their radio and TV advertising were running like they had never ending budget. We went to check it out one Saturday afternoon.

Being from the trade, I wasn’t so impressed with the size of the store (I have seen stores of that size before) but I must admit, the layout was nicely done and their selection was quite impressive. Although, I can imagine some people may get humbled by the size of the store and its selection, if they don’t know what they are looking for, exactly.

We noticed a friendly staff in uniforms (the store is claiming to be very educated and ready to help). I didn’t ask any questions so I can’t testify here. I am sure the management  knew that knowledgeably staff is needed in this size of the wine shop. A nice surprise for me was to find familiar wines, much cheaper than in my home state, CT.

It was a weekend, so there were several wine tastings going on throughout the store, and that easily caught my attention. I came to the first table to check out what this very friendly young men was pouring – and realized he had my favorite Spanish wines!

The gentleman was Pablo de Simon, the winemaker of Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano. Now, that’s impressive! That doesn’t happen every day – walking into a wine store and getting a chance to taste wines with the winemaker itself. We started to chat about Rioja and I tasted all his wines.
His wines were very soothing, approachable and priced well. I particularly liked his Reserva and Grand Reserva.

Yes, we ended up buying Bodegas de la Marquesa Valserrano Reserva for ourselves. I would buy more wines, if I were home, but the idea that I will try to fly them back north wasn’t too tempting. Unfortunately, as he told me, his wines are not available in Connecticut.

Looking for something simpler and fruity to bring to a party, Pablo left his station to introduce me to his friend Rafael – who was pouring wines from Portugal, near by. Another round of tasting, starting with refreshing Vinho Verde. I liked them all, particularly his ports. Despite the concerns about traveling with wine, I couldn’t resist and ended up buying his 10 years old Tawny. (My husband will find it under the Christmas tree, pssst).

As much as I like my wine dry, I love my ports rich and sweet. We also ended up buying a bottle of Quinta de Ventozelo Douro Q.V 2008, an amazing fruity, smooth, easy to drink red wine, crowd pleaser, for about $ 8. Lovely!

As Pablo recommended, the store was selling great shipping option – a plastic cover that seals the bottle into a bubble bag, with a waterproof seal. Perfect idea! We brought the bottle home in my suitcase, without any problems.

The Total Wines store also provided a printed catalog of wines they carry. I took one out of curiosity, without knowing that I will need it the very next day. One of my friends approached me to recommend a selection of richer, fruity reds for his Christmas party. I wanted to go and buy few samples to let him taste it first, but his busy schedule didn’t allow that.

So I sat down, opened the Total Wine’s catalog and searched for wines I tasted, and I would recommend, based on his preferences. I ended up making him a list of approximately 15 wines in a different price point to choose from.  Our friend ran to the store the very next day, curious what I picked for him. He called me the next day that more than 5 wines from my list (picked from the catalog that Total Wine claims to carry) they didn’t have.

Somebody who spends a lot of money to advertise that they are America’s Wine Superstore and carry over 8,000 wines – should deliver on their ad. I was disappointed at myself for believing it. Here I am, voluntarily trying to get them a business, sending a friend there to get his Christmas wine shopping done at one store. I understand that they can be out of stock on stuff. But 1/3 of my list of wines they are claiming to carry? In December, which is a biggest season for any wine shop?  If I only knew. I would go and picked only wines that were physically on the shelf.

When I was in business of selling wine, I would rather under-promise and over-deliver. It worked miracles.

I guess some businesses are working the other way around. It is a very impressive claim in their ad, but disappointing result.

How about spending some of that advertising budget on the inventory, especially when it’s the holiday season? That’s the buyers time of the year, right now!

Other than that, it was a really nice store and pleasant experience. I learned they are located in many more places within Florida and other states of U.S. You should check it out for yourself.

And, by the way, Boca Raton was really beautiful during the Christmas time!!!

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