Step back from the buzz around Virtual Vineyards, one of the pioneering retailers on the Internet, and it doesn't seem all that different from the wine merchant on Main Street. It has identified a market of wine connoisseurs, stocks a warehouse accordingly, and delivers the goods upon request, at a fair price and profit margin.

The big difference, of course, is that the storefront is virtual - on computer screens. Foot traffic has been replaced by surfers on the World Wide Web. Store visits, or "hits," are nice, but sales are better. And despite all the talk about Internet commerce during the last two to three years, the Web payment system is still aborning.

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