Tasting Room Reservation Systems Joust

Two similar start-ups seek winery clients for online reservation services

by Paul Franson
Cellar Pass
Napa, Calif. -- A battle is heating up between two tasting room “Open Table” type Web-based reservations systems founded by the same person. One announced a new service for Facebook and new winery clients, while the other moved from beta prototype to live operation.

The two companies are VinoVisit and CellarPass, both co-founded by Tim Campbell, who left VinoVisit last August to form its competitor.

Both companies offer online systems where wine lovers can find tasting rooms they want to visit, then make reservations. At a casual look, they seem similar in concept, and both have signed up winery clients and industry partners, but both are still really in their infancy. VinoVisit announced 14 wineries that have enrolled in the service with 30 or 40 in the works, while CellarPass announced 17 but claims to have more than 50 more in its queue.

VinoVisit claimed it has signed Beaulieu (part of Diageo), Delectus, Dominari, Expression, Folie a Deux/Napa Cellars (owned by Trinchero), Kuleto (now part of the Foley empire), Longmeadow Ranch, Robert Mondavi Winery, Stelzner, Sterling (Diageo), Tetra, Uncorked at Oxbow tasting room and Von Strasser in Napa Valley and Roessler Cellars in Sonoma.

According to Dan Heim, director of sales and marketing at Roessler Cellars in Sonoma, which focuses on single vineyard Pinot Noirs, “We’ve added the VinoVisit reservation widget to our website and completed a profile of our winery on vinovisit.com. The reservation management tools and calendar interface are easy to learn and use, giving us more time to nurture relationships with our visitors before, during and afterward.

Allison Steltzner at Steltzner Vineyards in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District said, “We’re always looking for ways to maximize our tasting room traffic and increase wine club conversions, and we want to provide a fun, positive experience for our tasting room visitors. But asking for contact information like e-mail address or phone can feel a little intrusive; we think VinoVisit will help us to meet both needs.

VinoVisit has signed up a number of syndication network partners that add its reservation widget to the individual winery pages on their sites. These include Wine Country This Week, Wine Country Getaways, The Napa Wine Project and the Napa Valley Vintners.

The stakes escalate Jan. 14, when VinoVisit will introduce a reservation widget for Facebook that will enable wineries to promote their events and tastings on their Pages and Profiles, and also allow visitors to make reservations via Facebook. “Wineries have long been looking for a way to “monetize social media,” and this application will effectively do that,” according to VinoVisit president Dan Lintz, who said the company is also working on an application for the Apple iPhone.

Once implemented, the system will be able not only to schedule reservations, it will capture e-mails for marketing, freeing tasting room hosts to focus on sales rather than paperwork. It will also let them sell-up tasting room experiences, such as promoting wine and cheese tastings or reserve tastings and tours.

For many wineries hit by the slowdown, however, the biggest appeal is wider exposure -- driving visitors to their sites and tasting rooms. Tim Campbell said he became increasingly aware of this need after developing VinoVisit, and as he was creating CellarPass. “They (wineries) had reservation systems -- even a piece of paper or Excel spreadsheet that worked adequately. They want to increase retail traffic.” They also want to build wine clubs and increase direct-to-consumer sales in general, and these reservation services capture names for that purpose.

He noted that other companies such as Reserve It, Go Concierge and ASP sell in-house reservation systems for people who call or e-mail to make reservations; the Web presence is the important attraction.

Campbell chose ecommerce supplier Submerce as a partner to develop the CellarPass application. “We have a technical services contract with Submerce,” he said. “They’re building our website.” The product is called Winery Search Engine. No software is needed with the CellarPass web-based system.

Campbell launched the idea in November at Wine 2.0, a consumer show in New York, and then introduced the system to the wine industry at the Green Wine Summit in Santa Rosa in December. The website is still in beta form, though he hopes to go live shortly.

He’s encouraging sign up by waiving his start-up costs plus the first year’s monthly subscription (about $1,600 per year) initially. Wineries pay only the per reservation fee, which includes the e-mail of the visitor, for about 80 cents. It will allow wineries to donate part of the charges to a charity they choose, and CellarPass also offers wine association group pricing.

Vino Visit
VinoVisit’s Lintz declined to quote costs, but he says the firm charges a monthly fee that depends on the size of the winery, plus a cost per visitor, too. His company is focusing on California initially, but both companies have wider goals. CellarPass has signed wineries in other states already. Its first winery was in New York, but the others that have been announced are in California.

VinoVisit also has partnered with three e-commerce companies: eWinery Solutions, Vin65 and Napa Valley POS.

eWinery Solutions, which supplies wine industry e-commerce software, will integrate VinoVisit into websites powered by eWinery Solutions and capture all customer data for marketing. The company serves more than 300 clients with e-commerce, wine club, allocations, call-center, customer relationship management (CRM), web content management, social media and Internet marketing solutions. VinoVisit has a similar deal with Vin65, which competes with eWinery, while CellarPass’ partner Submerce is another e-commerce firm.

VinTank, the wine industry “think tank,” has also blessed the concept with its approval. Both VinoVisit and CellarPass will be exhibiting at the Direct-to-Consumer Symposium on Jan. 19 in Santa Rosa. Find more information at vinovisit.com and cellarpass.com.



Posted on 01.10.2010 - 11:12:21 PST
Wow! Looks like it's show down...who will win this battle between the companies? Hope it all works out for all and they are both really cool tools for the wineries out there. What happens when a client wants both?
Wine Tek Group
petaluma, CA USA