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The Wine Feed delivers wine on a bike

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As a Southerner, I view free and abundant parking as a birthright.

When you need something—a bottle of wine, pizza, take-out Indian food—you drive to the store, slide your car into one of the countless open spaces and proceed to spend money. Simple, right?

Not for everyone, especially not for those from parking-starved cities to our north. While I understand the exasperation that attends finding a spot in the Triangle's more densely populated areas, I still cringe when I hear newbies ask, "But do they deliver?"

Let me get this straight: Not only do you want to indulge in a bottle of wine, pizza and take-out Indian food, you also want to do nothing more than dial a number, lounge on the couch in front of a House Hunters rerun and then open your front door to find it waiting for you?

Hmm. Maybe we're on to something here.

I live on a cul-de-sac in downtown Raleigh, south of Oakwood. We're grateful the pizza man even remembers where we are. So it was with awe that I watched as a trim young man on a bike rode up to my front porch and pulled from his Swiss Army backpack three bottles of wine that I had selected online just an hour before.

Thanks to The Wine Feed, downtown Raleigh residents can now count free, eco-friendly wine-delivery service among their neighborhood's perks. I'm pretty sure property values just went up.

Delivery of even a single bottle is free if you live within a three-mile radius or so of The Wine Feed's Glenwood South location. If you live farther away, you can order from the website and pick it up at Glenwood. Order a case or more and they'll drive it to you, or if you live outside driving range they'll send it via UPS. All wines are sold via the website. The Wine Feed space isn't a store—you can't browse there—but it is a gathering spot for tastings and events.

The minds behind The Wine Feed belong to two young guys named Phil(l)ip: Philip Rubin and Phillip Zucchino. Rubin spent the past few years globetrotting and drinking wine in places like Spain and South Australia. He holds an advanced certificate from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, the respected London-based group that trains wine professionals and wine lovers all over the world. Zucchino spent about three years drinking wine and studying winemaking in France, where he earned a viticulture and oenology degree from the Institut Rural de Vayres.

Their cultivated tastes are evident in the small, frequently changing inventory online, which amounted to nine reds, 15 whites and one rosé during one recent check of their website. The lineup ranged from the popular St. Kilda shiraz from South Australia for $9.61 per bottle to a 2001 Sono Montenidoli, a sangiovese made from organically grown grapes, for $52.31. Six of the nine went for less than $20.

Nine reds might seem like an anemic selection, but if you need two bottles for dinner on a Saturday night and you can find two or three you like among the nine, that's still two bottles of wine. A vast selection isn't always better.

The problem for me wasn't what to order. I had no trouble zeroing in on two whites and a rosé. I made my picks, paid with my debit card and settled back onto the couch to see if wine would actually arrive at my doorstep.

About 20 minutes later, Zucchino called to tell me that they were out of two of my three picks, although they had the Karl Erbes 2010 Riesling Kabinett ($17). He suggested a Fortediga 2010 Vermentino ($16) and a Chateau Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc ($14) to replace my other choices. I had no complaints.

My problem was deciding what to tip. How can you appropriately reward such a service? Responses to my Facebook query on the matter included "20 percent," "a kiss may not be out of order" and "For a second it sounded like you said 'wine delivery service.' "

Turns out, the answer in this case was zero. Zucchino apologized for being out of two of my selections and refused to let me give him any cash. I considered kissing him but decided against it.

Perhaps "Do they deliver?" isn't such a silly question after all.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Wine on a bike—what's not to like?"

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