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Tasting Room Offers DIY Wine Tasting, No Sommelier Required

By Patty Wetli | April 18, 2013 6:45am

LINCOLN SQUARE — Two Buck Chuck has taken a lot of the fear, and snobbery, out of buying wine — it's so cheap, who cares if it's good or not?

A new service, Tasting Room, goes Trader Joe's one better, delivering a wine-tasting kit to your home, determining your preferences via a quick web survey and then shipping a case of vino based on what you like.

"This is a way to make sure you don't wind up paying for bottles you don't want," said Eric Arnold, editorial director of Lot18, which acquired Tasting Room's trademark and equipment.

At a recent preview of Tasting Room, held at Gather restaurant, Arnold ran a demo of the service, which is currently operating in Beta mode and accepting reservations for membership.

The Tasting Room kit — the cost is $10, essentially your membership fee — contains six different 50 milliliter bottles, two white and four red.

Play sommelier and pour the samples into your fanciest stemware. Or not.

"You can use six separate glasses or use a juice glass," Arnold said. "Whatever you're comfortable with."

After users log onto TastingRoom.com, the site walks them through the tasting process. After each sip, or gulp, the program asks a series of simple questions: Did you like the wine or not? A lot or a little? Better than the previous wine? A lot or a little?

At the end of the tasting, users will receive a red profile and white profile. "Big Red," for example, favors cabernet sauvignon, whereas "Class Act" leans toward grenache-syrah blends.

"If you ask people what kind of wine they like, most can't articulate it," Arnold said. Tasting Room provides them with that vocabulary.

Profiles also arm users with information — food pairings, regions that produce the wines of your choice, wines to avoid — that could prove helpful at restaurants or when shopping.

Every three months, Tasting Room will ship members a case of wine based on their profile — $80 for the first case, $149 thereafter.

The price per bottle is essentially the same as what customers would pay at a local wine shop, Arnold conceded. "It's convenience," he said of the Tasting Room advantage.

By rating the wines received, customers can further refine their profile.

Said Arnold, "It actually kind of works with everybody."