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interviews of wine merchants & services

tiers for fears

Tiers for Fears

The Future of U.S. Wine Distribution and its Three-Tier System
A Provocative Viewpoint by an Online Wine Retailer

The climate is altering.  The landscape is shifting.  Momentous change is unfolding in the wine world around us.  And it's being induced by something subtle yet powerful in its capacity to affect the way we think about wine in the marketplace: the internet.  Traditional distribution under the three-tier model, which has long held a stranglehold on the availability of wine we consume in this country, would do well to take heed.  Otherwise, those who have long enjoyed the privileges afforded them by the current model risk being toppled from their lofty heights of power and influence in wine sales by the strengthening quake of e-commerce.  An audacious pronouncement?  Perhaps.  But it's an opinion shared by an increasing number of internet-based retailers who are witnessing significant growth in consumer purchasing of wine on the web.  During a recent interview focusing on her online wine retail business,  the founder and CEO of Bottlenotes.com, Alyssa Rapp, shared some of her strong and well-informed views with me on the current state of wine distribution and retail in the U.S., as well as some provocative assertions about its direction in the future.

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commerce meets community

upright_bottles_small

Online Retailer Empowers Consumers with Wine Information & Social Connection
An Interview with the CEO of Bottlenotes.com

Imagine a single place where you could easily buy wines, talk about them with friends old and new, discover ones that perfectly suit your taste, and then share your discoveries in the form of gifts to others.  Welcome to Bottlenotes.  Not your run-of-the mill online wine retailer, it's one that provides customers with an entire suite of services devoted to making the buying of wine not only versatile, but entertaining, engaging, and essentially effortless.  Having first learned of Bottlenotes during the 2009 Wine 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, I was instantly struck with the innovation of its unique business model and soon thereafter charmed with the appeal of its slick website.  Intrigued, I decided to find out more — straight from the source.  I contacted Bottlenotes founder and CEO Alyssa Rapp, who spoke to me from her office in Palo Alto, California, where she shared a brief history of what led up to her company's inception, along with a discussion of some of its exciting and truly distinct features, and finally some insights into how a younger generation of consumers is buying wine and socializing in its context.  Ever more interestingly, she presented some of her broader views on the state of the wine industry and how the evolution of e-commerce will markedly influence the future direction of wine sales and marketing.

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two d'état

Event Display Bottles

An Interview with the CEO of Wine 2.0

Wine.  Technology.  They're industries that aren't normally associated with one another in casual conversation.  After all, they do tend to attract people with respectively different mindsets and values: one with its artisanal passion for craftsmanship, the other with its methodical drive for development.  But with their common tendency towards creativity, the two unlikeliest of bedfellows have come together to engender some of the most compelling changes in the areas of wine sales, marketing, and media.  Concurrently, a new generation of consumers is utilizing hardware tools and web-driven services in innovative ways to learn and communicate about their common passion for wine.  Arising from these phenomena was the coining of the term 'wine 2.0' to refer to companies and organizations oriented around the intersection of the two.  One such company, boldly adopting the term as its own name, is Wine 2.0.  It's a venture that has taken the idea of combining the two industries one step further by coordinating events that bring them together in a social context with the goal of "blending the line between wine and technology."  The result is a synergy from which the wine trade and its consumers are increasingly benefitting.  Speaking on behalf of his partners Chairman J. Smoke Wallin and Director Jeffrey Playter, I met with Wine 2.0's CEO Cornelius Geary to discuss their collective vision for this venture as well as his own thoughts on the future of the wine industry in the context of technology.

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grape enabled

An Interview with the Creator of Wine Search Engine Able Grape

purple_keyboard_smallA wine snob.  A tech geek.  An unlikely pair, perhaps.  But in engineer-cum-wine-enthusiast Doug Cook, they're actually one and the same.  Fueled by his talents and background in web search technology, and steered by his knowledge and passion for wine, Cook has succeeded in his ambition to create the internet's first search engine dedicated to the world of wine: Able Grape.  Though I'd first met the technologist at the 2008 Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma, California, it wasn't until some time later later that I sat down with him in the streamlined and hip interior of San Francisco's CAV Wine Bar to learn more about the workings, usage, and significance of this new online tool.  What I learned was not only how powerful, concise, and robust Able Grape is, but how feature-rich and easy it is to use for enophiles and neophytes alike.

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cruvee's groovy

An Interview with the CEO of Social Wine Media Platform Cruvee

wine_computer_flippedThe wine industry is changing.  One area in which we see this happening most rapidly, sovaldi sale not surprisingly, find is in media.  The dynamic and interactive nature of the internet is allowing a new generation of wine consumers and trade professionals to share information in ways and to a degree that the industry has never before seen, stomach but is poised to revolutionize the buying and selling of even the most artisan-driven, limited-production wines on the market.  Yet with all its power and versatility, using the web as an effective source of wine information does has its limitations.  One of the issues holding back the real explosion of online wine media is the lack of a tool or technology to actively organize wine information from the otherwise loose collection of wine blogs and forums, winery websites, and wine-oriented social media sites, so as to render it all truly useful and immediately accessible.  Cruvee, however, is one system and service that attempts to do exactly that.  Intrigued with the implications, I reached out to its CEO, Evan Cover, to learn more.

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double-o sippin'

A Top Secret Interview with The Wine Spies

wine_darkness_sharpThey call themselves The Wine Spies.  And they're a geographically diffuse collective of top secret operatives whose sole mission is to expose and purvey to otherwise unwitting civilians "undercover deals on exceptional wines" — at the rate of only one wine per 24-hour period.  A unique strategy, to be sure, and one that has resulted in a burgeoning customer base that seems to be growing exponentially.  On learning of the organization and its modus operandi, I became deeply intrigued and set out on my own clandestine operation to gather more intelligence.  Under the condition of anonymity, and on a secure, encrypted line of communication, I spoke with the organization's lead operative and tactical mastermind, Agent Red.

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sideways glance

An unconventional perspective on the Wine Class
An Interview with the Proprietor of Sideways Wine Club

multiple_pours"This is your big joke-teller, your hit at the party, the guy that everybody wants to be around — at least for five or ten minutes until they find out that all the jokes are the same."  It was a backhanded compliment, to say the least.  But no offense was taken, because Dave Chambers wasn't talking about a wine industry colleague or a wine class attendee.  He wasn't referring to anybody at all.  Instead, he was personifying the grape Grenache as a way to describe its role in France's Southern Rhône-style blends, in contrast to the often "spicy and complex" Syrah or the "deep and brooding" Mourvedre.  I couldn't help but smile at what was but one of many analogies he used to demystify the subject of his wine class that evening: The Blender's Art.

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focus on flavor

Chef Cynthia Bloebaum's culinary spin on the Wine Class

licorice root"That's dried licorice root in anise oil." Cynthia Bloebaum was referring to one of the several edible tasting aids she had provided as a reference tool to each of the students in her wine class on Big, Spicy Reds. I was fascinated, first of all because I'd never actually tasted the real thing — it was certainly a far cry from a box of Good & Plenty — but more importantly, because her approach of providing fresh fruits and herbs to help identify the flavors in the wines she presented was, I felt, part of what made her teaching style so engaging. The exercise of thoughtfully tasting and analyzing wine, something I've grown quite familiar with, was suddenly fresh and new, now that I experienced it from this chef's culinary perspective.

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