Thursday, May 17, 2007

Taking a Virtual Winery Tour

I picked up a news story today about a website that hopes to make it easier for you to find out directly about your favorite wineries through a single portal. It gives you the opportunity to make a desktop trip through the vineyards of a particular region or to tour vineyards who bottle a particular wine style or grape. It's a great resource for those of us who have driving around to visit wineries in our summer holiday plans, since the information seems to be reliable and up-to-date.

AmericanWinery.com was founded in 2005 by Lloyd Benedict to provide consumers with information that would bring them closer to the folks who produce their wine. Currently, they have information on wineries from Arizona to Wyoming, and wineries are not charged any fee to sign up and have their information on the site. The site is growing now to include more interactive features, including virtual tasting rooms where you can browse through a winery's current offerings, check out their library wines, view photos, head directly to the winery's website, and see consumer ratings. In the future, Benedict will be launching a store that allows you to move to the next stage and actually purchase the wine you are interested in through AmericanWinery.com.

I spent a little bit of time on the site and right now it has good information, but very few customer ratings. So at present the site has lots of untapped potential, but it's unclear whether or how the wine 2.0 portion of the site will develop. If it does it will be reminiscent of AppellationAmerica with consumer input. With the retail outlet WineLibrary buying the wine 2.0 site Cork'd so that they can integrate a retail operation with consumer ratings, and other sites like WineQ and Domaine547 trying to link retail with interactive features in new ways, this integration of content and consumerism clearly seems to be the wave of the future.

The question that all of us have is will this work for consumers? I think one of the problems--and its one that WineQ has tried to address--is shipping. If I can find out about a wine that I think I'll like, and then pick it up at a local store, that's what I'll do in most cases because of the difficulties and costs associated with shipping wine. WineQ charges a monthly membership fee, and currently charges no money for ground shipping on orders $35 and over. AmericanWinery.com's press release hints that their virtual tasting room purchases will be discounted, which will also help to close the gap between local retail prices and a web purchase's associated shipping costs.

Click on over there if you've never visited their site. I like their winery focus, the "sneak peaks" they provide of wineries, and the site is easy to navigate. Take a virtual winery tour this afternoon when you're procrastinating at work and see what you think. It will be interesting to check back with the site in a year and see how it's developed.

6 comments:

domaine547 said...

Hi Dr. Debs. We agree with you that shipping can be costly and a deal-breaker when buying affordable wines online. Why buy via internet when shipping can add 30% and more to bottle costs below a certain amount, etc.? It just doesn't make sense...

As a result, we've also been offering free shipping in the Los Angeles area (caveat: certain zip codes excluded) as we are licensed as internet only but at least hope to serve the local marketplace in a cost-efficient way for consumers. If you live in the LA area and wish to take advantage of this, you can type in FreeLA in the coupon code during check-out.

Outside of Los Angeles, there is still an opportunity to save on shipping as we're including shipping in our club shipments, for all pre-paid customers. Shipment-to-shipment members have all shipping included for 2-bottle shipments, but can incur surcharges when shipments exceed that significantly. So far, though, we've yet to charge customers extra for club shipments.

For the rest of May, we'll even one-up ourselves, in honor of the mention here on Good Wines Under $20. Type in the coupon code DrDebs and you'll get free shipping anywhere where it's legal to ship.

Okay, now we're really sounding like an advertisement. But it's only because we do fully agree with Dr. Debs that one shouldn't have to be able to afford Screaming Eagle to get access to interesting, small production and affordable wine by mail (well, by UPS and Fed-Ex as the USPS still considers it illegal to ship wine). Power (and wine) to the people!

Dr. Debs said...

Hi, Domaine547. Thanks for the great offer to my readers, and for the heads up on free LA area shipping (with some limitations). I love your site, and do feel that its a prime example of the potential for wine 2.0 and retail to dovetail beautifully. I have to admit I went there a lot before realizing you did actually sell wine :). The shipping thing is a beast, and with gas prices rising its going to continue to present problems but what's good to know is that many smart people (like you) are trying to work out a solution.

Lloyd Benedict said...

Hey Dr. Debs

Lloyd Benedict here...I just wanted to tell you I really appreciate the write up and I will keep you informed of the innovative products and services AmericanWinery.com will be offering in the very near future.

Cheers,
Lloyd Benedict
Founder and President
AmericanWinery.com

Marshall said...

Hello Dr. Debs, and thank you for citing WineQ as a savvy approach to tackling the shipping beast.

It is true that we spent a great deal of time and research planning how to best approach this, and our nominal membership charge is a culmination of that. As a result, you can enjoy free shipping on wine anywhere in the United States that our wineries can ship to, in a fun and easy manner.

Thank you for being a member, Dr. Debs!

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Lloyd, and congratulations on putting together such a good site. I really like the one-stop approach to learning about wineries, and hope that the public responds.

And hi, Marshall. Love my WineQ and its shipping policies and its great and growing selection.

domaine547 said...

We didn't sell wine for the first 4 months our site was up due to delays with our licenses, etc. It took a lot longer than aniticpated to deal with the ABC but we didn't want to hold up the non-commercial content of our site from going live...

In general, we also have been trying to keep the content portion of the site semi-separated from the store, for a bunch of different reasons. Hopefully people will naturally gravitate to the store!