Sherryfest Saturday in New York last week was a retail revelation, an expression of the true power of community as a connector for thousands of people who enjoy wine as part of their everyday lives.

New York City is as complex and fragmented a retail reality as it is immensely influential and powerful economically. One of the country’s largest cities doesn’t sell wine in most grocery stores and big box venues are absent.

Yet across scores of micro communities, neighborhood wine shops sell astounding quantities of wine, mostly one or two bottles at a time, mostly to local customers who roll in from the street or bump into the shops on the web.

theLocalSip, the wine community I started this past summer, was privileged to be the connecting web platform for retail shops across Manhattan and Brooklyn for Sherryfest. On a citywide basis, the community of some 25 independent wine shops in almost 20 neighborhoods coordinated with the festival and hosted their tastings and their wines being poured (and sold) on theLocalSip web site.

Amazing actually.

Crowds were prevalent at every shop I visited. Hundreds (maybe more) of people tasted Sherry for free, dogs and kids in tow on Saturday shopping, chatting and sipping with their local experts.

Having fun and buying lots of wine. Community and commerce becoming one.

Many deserve credit for Sherryfest, especially the wine shops, Rosemary Gray and Peter Liem (organizers of the festival), and local wine writers. But there was evidence, big time, that theLocalSip community pulled together and let the city and the online world know when, where and what was going on.

What theLocalSip did for the festival was connect retail passion and expertise with a massive and fragmented on-foot New York population of wine drinkers. All connected in a hybrid real world and web platform.

We have been doing this for almost three months now with 325 tastings and close to a thousand different wines being poured for thousands of New Yorkers. Sherryfest was certainly a big aha for everyone at the power of the community that has been created.

We think of theLocalSip as a platformed expression of a community around New York, its neighborhoods, wine shops and the local businesspeople who run them. All wrapped up in a love of wine and food and hospitality.

What theLocalSip community does is connect the pieces. We connect the online and offline worlds of referrals and commerce, and bring local into a citywide and national focus.

theLocalSip community is built on a few basic beliefs:

We don’t believe that a wine community can exist solely online through sales sites and discount clubs. It takes the trust that shops earn one bottle at a time with their customers. That friends and bloggers earn one referral or post at a time with their networks.

We believe that that somewhere in the chain of recommending a wine, someone you trust has tasted it. It’s a handshake of taste that connects wine lovers down the street and across the web with merchant experts.

We also know that with a community web platform like theLocalSip, great neighborhood shops will find a national community online for their choices of wine–the shop’s palate if you will.

And mostly, we know that wine is not just the arcane stuff of the pundit. it’s about taste, the story in the bottle and creating memories around the occasion of drinking it.

theLocalSip is growing!

And we are seeking the best New York (all five boroughs!) wine shops from every neighborhood.

If you have the good fortune of living in New York and can wander into the now 30+ theLocalSip shops and taste, please give us a trial run. The service is free and takes just a second to join.

If you are elsewhere in the country, possibly an online connection to a shop that themes its tastings in a way that appeals could become a source of information and an online purchase source for you.

Regardless of whether you are here in New York or anywhere in the country, my bet is that if you enjoy wine and want the experience of buying to be as frictionless as the pleasure of drinking, this community may be for you.

theLocalSip wine community lives right here!