Food Service & Agriculture, Small Business & Startups, and Travel & Tourism

Startup maps wine country

May 21, 2014
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WineCraze
A screen shot of the interactive Winery Map by the startup WineCraze. Photo via winecraze.com

Two Grand Rapids-area wine enthusiasts have developed and launched a website to expand the wine lover’s horizon — and cellar.

Winecraze.com, an online platform designed to help wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts discover new destination wineries and products, officially launched in April. The site features more than 1,150 different wineries in North America offering a variety of amenities and interstate wine shipment capabilities.

Jack Woller, co-founder of WineCraze.com, said the idea for the website stemmed from wanting to share wine country experiences with others using videos to feature wineries that had invested time and money into creating a tourist-friendly atmosphere.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth ten thousand,” said Woller. “We wanted to feature those kinds of wineries, so we came up with a definition of a destination winery. If you show up there, you won’t be disappointed. There are things to do (that) make your visit as a tourist a fun one.”

The online platform is meant to highlight not only excellent wine, but also beautiful scenery, the philosophy of the winemaker, hospitality of the business and venue, and the facility, according to the website.

WineCraze.com features a directory listing, an interactive map, a daily “wine picks” and tasting report feed, a wine-related retail shop, and peer-to-peer feedback on the businesses and products. According to Woller, due to the difficulty of obtaining impartial information about small to medium-sized wineries, peer-to-peer comments are encouraged to share impressions regarding their experiences and visits to wineries.

“We want to give people the opportunity to share with others,” said Woller. “We want to encourage people to discover new wineries and wines, and it is a tool for people to go and visit wineries. The reality is that most of the time people are discovering them from their computer or some sort of online venue.”

In addition to their ability to provide a full-bodied tourist experience, wineries listed on the WineCraze.com directory were selected based on their ability to ship wine across county and state lines. According to Woller, as wine tourism grows through online platforms, the ability for businesses to sell directly to the consumer allows the enthusiast to try new wine without visiting the location, and can be a key retail strategy for the winery.

Information on more than 1,150 different wineries was aggregated through business websites, other directories, and through personal visits. Each listing provides details on the location and links to the winery’s website. Chris Schwartz, co-founder of WineCraze.com, said when a business becomes a member, other features are available through the online platform, such as an events calendar, photo gallery and Facebook feed.

WineCraze.com offers two levels of membership for winery businesses: Silver membership for $15 per month, and Gold membership at $25 each month. Silver members are given the opportunity to list remote tasting rooms and promote on-site restaurants and lodging, while Gold members are strategically positioned on the homepage in addition to the ability to post links to special wine offers.

Woller said the destination winery platform has been roughly four or five years in the making with several beta testing sites over the years. With the majority of wineries listed on the website in the United States and a handful located in Mexico and Canada, the founders hope to expand their footprint by building peer review comments and adding international destinations.

“Right now, we are working to just start building the peer-to-peer part,” said Woller. “We have the infrastructure and backbone in place; it would be nice to get it fleshed out. The next step would be to go international.”

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