Sunday, October 5, 2008

Escape to NYC & Wine 2.0

This hubby of the Savvy Sommelier got to escape to NYC a couple of weeks ago to check out two of my favorite things – technology & wine. Seemingly an odd couple, these disparate worlds collided at Wine2.0 at Webster Hall on Sep. 18th. Here are the highlights . . .

Lots of tasting plenty of wineries providing lots of yummy wine. I unsuccessfully tried to crash the VIP area upstairs but the bouncer was big (friendly but big), assuming the hob-knobs were sipping better stuff than us common folk down below. But I found Oriel – one of my favorite wine brands. More on them in a later post.

Companies with displays broadly stated seem to fall into social networking or ecommerce plays – focused on helping you make, find, buy and track wine or connect with others that share your passion. Here's what I found.

WineSnob. One of 3 iPhone applications I have downloaded. Met Morgan Lang founder, leader developer. Based in NYC, self-funded. Beauty of the iPhone Apps model is small software developers can actually generated revenue (he smiled). WineSnob provides an attractive log of the wines you taste. Personally, I’m not one to categorize all I drink (after all I live with a Sommelier) but for those who are anal retentive and into their iPhone, I recommend checking out this app. Personally I love the quick access to wine terminology, food & wine pairing tips, fun wine-related quotes (this blog might start to rip some of those off) and info on varietals. (Will write a review of WineSnob and the other iPhone applications I've used soon).

Met Phillip James, founder of Snooth. Snooth is a wine price search engine. They were showcasing a feature called “Pulse” = a global map that identified who was searching (live) on their site by geography. Seemingly search for wine online is a global phenomena (at last in English-speaking countries). Once a user has located a wine they are interested in they can link directly to a local wine retailer (by zip code I believe). I found spotty coverage on the SF Peninsula (nearest retailers seemed to be Berkeley). Savvy Cellar Wines has got to check out what it takes to get connected into this network. In time, Snooth will charge retailers a “toll” in the form of a percentage of transaction in order to show up high in the search results. Snooth’s value is a large DB and connection to local retailers. (I don’t think much of their Facebook application – nor does their founder). They’ve been at it a year+ and are pursuing a series A funding round.

Crushpad. Heard lots about this company from the SF "winerati" crowd – a winery where you can make your own high-quality custom wine. Great concept, fun tastings and seemingly doing well. Nice to meet and chat with Michael Brill , founder. He tasted me on a recently bottled pinot and then compared it to a pinot that had been barrel aged for a year – remarkable difference in smoothness, texture and drinkability. Crusphad recently closed a round of expansion capital – eyeing locations in Bordeaux for future sites. While I’m not in the “snack bracket” nor have enough wine geek friends with $'s to take on custom wine-making (but I swear I will one day), I will definitely be gifting fusebox, their custom wine blending & making kit and inviting myself over to those I give it to. $120.

Cruvee. Launched at show. Seemed to be some sort of wine portal but their business is selling information back to wineries about what consumers are saying about them and searching for. Not sure about the viability of this site to develop traffic and/or revenue. But I don’t own a crystal ball.

Glasshalfull. Fun wine-related shirts – not too dorky. $25. Savvy Cellar won’t be bringing them in for now as they require 40 order minimum per saying per size for wholesalers.

Bottlenotes. Small world. I ran into Andy Anderson who heads up finance and operations. I mentored Andy prior to his attending Kellogg School of Business as well as provided some advice more recently as he was trying to break into the wine world – never met him in person till now. Bottlenotes has wine clubs, an interesting bridal registry (and idea I had previously) and shop.

VinVillage. I didn’t get to chat with rep – seems to be some sort of wine-related social network where you can meet and connect with cork dorks in your neighborhood.

WineTwitter. I didn’t get to check these guys out – they might have been upstairs with the special people or tucked in some corner. Can’t I just twitter (check me out at /smokejumper) about wine? Maybe they have some special sauce regarding setting up wine-oriented groups that Twitter lacks?

WinePod. I think there was a drawing for one of these slef-contained wine-making units. They retail for $4,499. Dunno if they work or are worth that kind of jack, but man they are sleek looking. I bet Steve Jobs has one in his living room, which means I want one too!

Gary V. So I got to see the phenom my wine friends rave about perform a review in person live. Here’s what I think (as if it matters). Gary V. is a genius! He is developing a great brand in WineLibrary. His style is brash and in your face – personally not my cup of tea (must be the understated Canadian roots). But I totally get why people are attracted to his video reviews of wine – part entertainment and part education. What I did admire is the fact the dude has a good palate and makes wine tasting fun and accessible to many who might otherwise be turned off. I won’t become a regular WineLibrary.TV watcher but I get why others are. (I’m now following Gary V. on twitter – enjoying every moment of anguish he must feel when the NY Jets lose! As a 49ers fan, I get losing (unfortunately)).

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