Wine Time: Virtual Sommelier Startup Bottle Rush Launches In Westchester

Bottle Rush, a new Web-based service, will deliver wines tailored to your taste to your doorstep.

Photos courtesy of Bottle Rush

So you’ve probably been there before: You need wine—and you like wine, you really do—but you’re overwhelmed during the selection process by everything you don’t know. Pinot this. Bold, subtle, velvety hints of that. Blanc something or other. How does anyone know what to buy?

Tamara Lover and Renell Sullivan have spent the last two years developing Bottle Rush, a solution specifically for that wine store confusion. Both Lover and Sullivan have had careers in the advertising industry—Lover was a VP at Saatchi & Saatchi before she left in 2013, and Sullivan worked for Ogilvy and other industry powerhouses before branching out as an independent consultant. Bottle Rush is a “virtual sommelier” that not only helps you choose a bottle of wine that matches your preferences, but delivers it (in partnership with Armonk Wines & Spirits) directly to your door.

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The service launched last week with Westchester as its first market. Here’s how it works: You enter your zip code and then answer a few questions about your wine preferences. Then Bottle Rush prompts you to enter a bunch of information about the occasion—the type of wine you’re looking for, the food you’re pairing it with, the company you’re having it with (boss, a date, sister, etc.), and your price range. Bottle Rush then spits out a few suggestions that Armonk Wines & Spirits can deliver to you in less than 24 hours. Prices are on par with what you’d pay in person, except there’s a $5 delivery charge (though it’s waved for orders over $99).

The Bottle Rush idea sprang from Lover’s passion for wine. While at Saatchi & Saatchi, she earned a certificate in wines and spirits from the International Wine Center, and friends started hitting her up for advice. “Once I graduated, my friends quickly realized that they had their own personal sommelier on speed dial,” she says. “I would get calls and texts all the time asking for advice. It became so frequent that I thought, ‘I either need to quit my job and do this full time or automate this,’ and I ended up doing both.”

“Once I started digging into this, I realized it’s not just my friends who need this help, it’s a prevalent problem,” Lover says. “I had access to a lot of good resources working in marketing, and a report I found showed that three quarters of US wine drinkers found the entire wine purchase process to be completely overwhelming.”

Their main marketing targets are millennials, who often Google their wine questions instead of asking a shop attendant. But it’s also for anyone who needs solid wine recs. Says Lover, “For consumers who are apprehensive about exploring the world of wine, hopefully we’ll give them a safe place to do it.”

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