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September 05, 2007

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When I saw this post, I started to write a lengthy response and then realized that it said what we all know: when you walk into a boutique-like business, you know it; when you walk into a streamlined, profit-pushing business that tries to sell itself as a boutique, you can detect the ruse.

Unfortunately, the term boutique is used so often as to make it virtually useless. The best we can do is experience wineries first-hand and then evaluate what we find. Those wineries that choose to remain small, intensely-focused, and rely on interpersonal relationships based on quality and friendliness to sell their products will, always, speak for themselves. Those wineries which try to create a "boutique" identity but are efficient money-making businesses with a hierarchial staffing system are, in most cases, easy to spot.

Of course, wineries that push the business envelope are not always bad and are sometimes very good. Dr. Frank's, for instance, is no longer a boutique winery in my opinion, but most of their wine (primary label) remains some of the best stuff in the Finger Lakes. Some wineries that are simple enough in their organization to be considered boutique are, sadly, just poor businesses with mediocre products that never develop professionally. In that sense, boutique is a very special minority based on a mixture of size and quality and it is a distinction most businesses would consciously have to maintain.

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