Why Didn’t I Think of That?

I’m sure you’ve had one of those moments, when you smack yourself in the head and ask: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It happened again to me a few days ago. I was online, doing research for another wine story, when I saw a reference to an online reservations system for wineries.

Wineries obviously take reservations, usually for special events. Many wineries are also only open by appointment — which often means an advance phone call or two and an e-mail query to an understaffed operation that’s not necessarily designed to be tourist-friendly. Nobody answers the phone after hours, in most cases.

It just makes sense some kind of formalized¬† reservations system — like Open Table in the restaurant trade — would work for the wine trade.

Vino Visit

VinoVisit began operations in late 2009. Today, it has more than 80 wineries on a growing list of clients in both the U.S. and Canada. A competitor, Cellar Pass, offers a similar service with a different list of participating wineries.

Familiar names on the VinoVisit roster include heavy tourist draws like Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi, which was the first winery to offer the VinoVisit experience, and Sonoma’s Sebastiani, plus there’s a pack of smaller wineries — like Cabernet specialist Von Strasser Winery in Calistoga — that are also onboard.

If you’ve ever booked an online restaurant reservation, then you’ll have no problems with VinoVisit.

Plan Ahead

I see this as a real time-saver for wine country visitors who prefer 24-hour access to winery information and trip scheduling without ever having to talk to a person until they arrive on-site. Being able to confirm a set day and time for a visit, allows busy tasters to fine-tune and expand their experience.

Sure, most winery websites are chock-a-block with info, but there’s not much of a chance of receiving any real guidance after normal business hours when many wine fanciers are home in front of their computers.

After-Hours Access

“We are staying true to the model to help attract visitor to the wine regions, in general, and then to continue to make it very easy for the winery to take reservations,” explained Bob Ianetta, VinoVisit founder.

“It’s very time-consuming. The phone call comes in. Somebody has to answer the phone, set up the calendar, and confirm all the details,” he said.”They get phone calls at night and emails, too. By the time the winery gets back to them… the guest moves on.”

Ianetta says with his system, 40 percent of reservations are being made after hours,  when wineries are closed.

“We are capturing new customers, potentially 24 hours a day,” he said. “We make it almost like an impulse buy. We make it so easy to book a reservation right there on the website.”

Potential visitors can make reservations directly on each participating winery’s website or directly through VinoVisit.com.

Peju Province

At Peju Province Winery in Napa, use of the VinoVisit technology led them to expand the list of specialized tastings, boosting business at the upper end of the market where veteran wine tasters are looking for a novel experience and willing to pay for it.

“To drive greater awareness we increased the number of offerings to 5 or 6,” explained Dan Gaffey, Peju’s marketing manager. “Besides the scheduled tastings, we wanted to add something different.”

Peju Province Winery

Gaffey said they’ve experienced a 25 percent increase with the online system in place.

“It’s like an Open Table experience for wineries,” he said.

At Peju, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can sign up in advance for regular tastings plus barrel tastings, private tours, special tastings of reserve-style wines, and wine and cheese pairings.

Fees run from $30-$65/person. The standard tasting is $20, but the fee is waived if you purchase at least $35 in wine.

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12 Responses to “Why Didn’t I Think of That?”

  1. C. Williams Says:

    I thought this was one of my best kept secrets! Not long ago, my girlfriends and I used VinoVisit to book some tours and it was awesome. We got past all the crowds and party buses, and had such a nice time getting to know the people and faces of the wineries! I LOVE that website :-)

  2. T Campbell Says:

    Take some time and review the Wine Business Monthly write up on wine country systems from a few issues back. It is more than just taking bookings, the marketing to guests is very important.

  3. Wine Chic Says:

    CellarPass.com has a lot more destinations in Napa and across the US. Plus has an iPhone app that makes it far easier to plan a trip to wine country without having to drag your laptop or desktop with you on your travels. Plus it has built in GPS so you can find wineries around you.

  4. Laura L Says:

    I can say that this is a tool that everyone should be familiar with; consumer and industry. From a consumer standpoint what better than to have a reservation for wineries that do not allow walk ins plus you can have your itinerary set and mapped out ! I beleive it also gives you timelines from winery to winery. From an industry perspective, in the morning I love coming in and finding a print out from Vino Visit of the days appointments. All around it makes life alot easier!

  5. Jason Mendell Says:

    Frank,
    Great find…. We had a recent Napa/Sonoma trip and utilized the VinoVisit reservation tool at a few different locations. We really liked the ability to make the reservation for our tastings at the hotel room the night before heading out.

    One thing that drove us crazy is that many of the tasting rooms are “tasting by appointment only” but don’t answer the phones after hours when we were scheduling our day. The ones that were using VinoVisit got our business because we could easily book the reservation when we wanted.

  6. Douglas Gray Says:

    used the system to book reservations at Chandon, Bourassa and Silverado Vineyards. The system worked really well, was easy to use and the winery personnel were waiting for us. Our clients were very impressed with the ease in which checked in from place to place

  7. Wine Country Fan Says:

    VinoVisit is a great tool which has made my trips to wine country so much easier to plan out. I typically visit Napa several times a year and I tried VinoVisit last April for the first time based on a friend’s recommendation. Wow – booked three reservations with no issues and was treated like royalty when I arrived at the wineries! I have passed on this website to several friends already and I’ll continue spreading the good word!

  8. Dr. D. Says:

    VinoVisit is a great tool. It is very easy to use, and quite frankly, the only winery reservation system I would even consider. Contacting each winery and hoping for a reply is a real waste of time.

  9. John B Says:

    VinoVisit is a great site that my wife and I have used on several occasions. It makes it easy to schedule a day of wine tastings in the Napa Valley, especially if you decide to go on the spur of the moment or on short notice with a group.

  10. CSW Says:

    This is a great tool to book a huge assortment of winery visits as well as let you know timing from one winery to another. I have used it several times and suggested to so many friends……

    Have you ever tried to get in touch with a winery by phone? They are just too busy to take the call. This allows you to make the reservation for a tasting and plan a total itinerary day or night.

  11. Glenn R Says:

    Greatest idea since Open Table, when we want access to great wineries and are planning everything at night after work for the weekend, it takes us a few minutes to schedule all our visits on one simple to use site! VinoVisit is AMAZING! And yes! Why didn’t I think of that! My wife and I are happy someone did! Thanks!

  12. t campbell Says:

    well, fast forward tto 2013 and you’ll see that the “long list” of VV winery clients has shrunk big time. CP is growing and growing and added not only iPhone but mobile smartphone app as well. and sign up for the newsletter, another first and follow the tons of events for guests and visitors.

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