‘Self-serve’ Wine Machine Dispenses High-End Samples

The newly installed WineStation at the Cork & Vine Wine Market & Lounge has a lot in common in both function and appearance with an ATM — but instead of spitting out money, it pours out wine.

“People love it — they think it’s neat,” said Kara York, general manager of the wine bar at 3452 York Commons Blvd. near Miller Lane. “And the advantage to us is that we can sell wines that have a higher bottle price, and it gives our customers the opportunity to taste some more expensive wines before buying them.”

WineStation keeps wine bottles chilled to the proper temperature and blankets the wine inside the partially consumed bottles with inert argon gas to keep the wine from spoiling. Customers who have purchased a prepaid access card similar to a credit card can insert their card into the machine, pick a wine, pick an amount to sample (one-ounce, three-ounce or six-ounce pours), press a button, hold their glass under the nozzle, and pour a sample.

The machines were unveiled by Napa Technology in April 2007, and are now in use in more than 300 locations across the country, said Megan Sokhn, spokeswoman for Santa Clara-based Napa Technology. Cork & Vine’s unit is the fourth one sold in Ohio, Sokhn said. The others are in Cleveland, Columbus and Delaware.

York said Matt Thatcher, Cork & Vine’s director of operations, and Cris D’Andrea, chief operating officer, attended a food and wine trade show in Chicago and saw a demonstration of the machine, and decided a unit would be a good fit for the business. The purchase price was not disclosed. Nick Moezidis, Napa Technology’s vice president of sales, said 12-bottle systems range in cost from $12,000 to $27,000, with most selling for about $17,000.

Cork & Vine’s 12-bottle system is divided among three four-bottle units: one featuring white wines, one red and one international wines.
Last week, a Jaffurs Syrah from California that sells for $33 per bottle was available for $2.25 for a one-ounce pour, $6.50 for a three-ounce pour, and $13 for a six-ounce pour.

York said such a wine probably wouldn’t be chosen for one of the wine bar’s regular tastings because of its high price, but the WineStation’s ability to preserve the open bottle for up to 60 days makes it a good candidate for the self-serve machine, because wine enthusiasts looking for a nice bottle can taste it before they buy.

A computer system behind the bar monitors the expenditures from each card to help protect against alcohol abuse.

Cork & Vine, which first opened in late 2008, is planning a grand reopening of sorts on Sept. 17 in part to introduce the WineStation.

Article by MARK FISHER