Wine-Sipping Device Enhances Asheville Tastings

There are various automated gadgets on the market deisgne to dispense wines. Over the years, Asheville Wine Market owner Eberhard Heide has seen them, and mostly shrugged them off.

“We had a four bottle unit (in the shop) and it gave us nothing but headaches” he said. “It didn’t preserve the wine. These things were convuluted and didn’t work.”

His mind was changed by a high-tech device called the Napa Technology WineStation Intelligent Dispensing System, a computerized machine now tucked in the back of the Asheville Wine Market, 65 Biltmore Ave.

The machine acutally three units, each holding four bottles of wine will pour three different size samples of wine for customers holding a smart card, purchased at the Wine Market counter.

“The device has taken wine tastings to a new level” said Heide, who opened the Asheville Wine Market in 1993.

“It really supplements (the traditional) wine tastings, done in person” he said. “It introduces people to wines that they may never have looked at or thought about buying. It allows us to have some special tastings. It’s a way for people to hone their wine tasting skills.”

The units are not cheap. Heide said he paid $8,000 apeice for the three units. “That’s what we wanted right now” he said. “That will hold us. Maybe we will want more.”

Customers first purchase a credit-card sized smart card loaded with dollar value, depending on what someone wants to pay ($5 minimum). That’s where identifications are checked. Then someone will come back to the unit and instructs (the customer) how to use it. “There’s always someone around to monitor it and be sure that anyone younger than 21 doesn’t use the device” Heide said.

A glass is held under a tap. A pour size is selected; one ounce is taste, two ounces is a half glass, and four ounces is a full glass. Samples can range from less than $2 to much more, depending on the price of the wine.

The device is catching on with customers, and Heide has notices a spike in the sales of wines featured in the machine.