Acquiring wine via the internet has been an education. Initially some years back, it was just a convenient way to diversify my purchases into more European wines. Then, it opened my eyes to overstock re-sellers like Cinderella Wine and Last Bottle and I realized there were strategies to lowering your cost. I live in a state that by law forces 3-step retail wine distribution. So, the use of online retailers to stock my cellar has become an effort to bypass this misguided statute. Most local wine and spirits distributors here have a sub-par fine wines selection. Those that have a nice portfolio are more interested in restaurant sales. Wine shops here offer poor service, and special ordering wine can be a real nightmare.
Once you go down the online path, you find sites like: Wine-Searcher. Ultimately though, you make the journey back to the large online retailers like: K & L, Zachys, Wine House, etc. I buy primarily from the West Coast, to shorten the time in transit and lower freight cost. Although, I have started working with East Coast online retailers, because the European wine importers there seem to offer a much larger French and Italian selection.
Why do I buy from specific online retailers? In order of importance:
1) Manages weather-hold issues well. 2) Broad, diverse selection. 3) Price. 4) Accessible service rep to deal with problems. 5) Lowest shipping cost. 6) Willing to accumulate case quantities before shipping.
I wish I could support local wine businesses and I would prefer to, but I haven’t found local sources that are willing, or knowledgeable enough to have a discussion like a K & L Wines rep. The lack of Wine Education in the retail wine space is tragic.