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Written by Nikitas Magel   

AR:  When I was running the wine club [at Stanford], I was accruing stacks and stacks of tasting notes — and I still do; it drives me crazy.  There just wasn't a clean, elegant solution for a way to store it all online.  And I'm not just talking about information necessarily tied to bottles in my cellar, but any wines I would taste on a regular basis.  So, My Wine Cellar™ was born out of that spirit and initially tied to the shipments people received.  The goal was (and still is) to try to inspire people to come back and tell us what they thought about the wine, by rating a wine or writing a tasting note so we can make better recommendations the next time around for their wine club memberships.  It was both a customer retention/satisfaction mechanism and a way for us to implement a CRM device where we hoped to learn more about our numbers.  And it did prove to be all that, but what really took off was this notion of writing a tasting note and wanting to see other tasting notes.  Because even though Eric LeVine of CellarTracker (whom I deeply admire) has cornered the market on the very high-end — the eRobertParker.com people with 3,000-bottle cellars — there's still the mass market of consumers who don't have collections like that, but whom really are interested in reading a ton about wine and even writing brief tasting notes and rating wines, just like they've been trained to do by Amazon or Netflix.

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And so, the My Wine Cellar™, which started as a way to just track what you'd received from Bottlenotes, quickly started to become a place that some members started to add other wines that they have had.  Then in 2008, we realized there was a whole social piece of that, which we weren't doing as we needed to.  So we lauched a Facebook application to test this notion of My Wine Cellar™ living in the world of Facebook, where you would have what you thought of that wine, and your friends could see it.  That took off, so when we redesigned Bottlenotes.com, we pulled back in that My Wine Cellar™ feature, which you can still use as a wine journal and a way to track physical bottles in your cellar — but ultimately the key component of that is the social piece, where you can see what your friends have thought and read their comments on the wines you've been having.  I think that piece — the community of people you drink wine with, people whose opinion about wine you respect the most — that's what we're really gunning for the most.

NM:  Is there a way for visitors to Bottlenotes.com to be socially engaged around wine without necessarily posting or reading tasting notes?

AR:  I think that The Daily Sip™ does that.  I post The Daily Sip™ each day to my Facebook feed and it will happen on Bottlenotes as well, sometimes, where people end up commenting back to us: "Oh, Hunter Valley, I loved it too; I want to go back!" or "I love that wine gadget; where can I get it?" or "I didn't see this rosé on your website; are there any others you can recommend?"  These are all the kinds of conversations that have started to happen from Daily Sip™, so that's a way that people have been social in a way that's not tasting note driven.  And people really like it!  The Daily Sip™ has been a very quick win for us, which is really fun, so we're hoping we can ride this wave all the way in.

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NM:  I know you've mentioned whom your target audience is, but how closely has that profile matched whom you're finding to be your actual customer base?

AR:  We're really targeting new-to-intermediate wine enthusiasts, but the other reality is that 80% of our user base is under 40.  So, it's not that we only want to target young people; that's not it.  We do want to be hip, fresh, cool, approachable, and sophisticated and all that — but that doesn't mean that you can't be that at any age.  It just happens to be that this Millennial generation consumer, this 20-to-30-something wine enthusiast, is just a really interesting animal to tackle.  We're drinking more wine at higher-than-average price points and in higher-than-average quantities than the Baby Boomers, and wine for us is a daily luxury.  So, it's a different target demographic than any other wine demographic group prior.  We really love wine, and we're willing to pay for it disproportionately compared to our net income, versus the Baby Boomer generation.  And the reason, as one of my board members, Jack Cakebread, said, is that we grew up drinking good wine.  Which is said a bit tongue-in-cheek, but is true!  And the other thing is that it's a social-connecting device, it's a social mechanism.  It's the more sophisticated, 7-to-10-p.m. version of Starbucks — wine for us is a daily luxury.

NM:  So, you're targeting not just Millennials, but people overall who have a good amount of wine enthusiasm as well as knowledge in the online technologies, who are using those tools to educate themselves and connect around wine.

AR:  That is accurate.  It just so happens that so far 80% of our user base is under 40, but that's not necessarily where it'll end up.



 

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wine in the news

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