As a hardcore boozehound, there’s nothing I like better than to create a mood by putting on a Rush album and drinking down a bottle of vodka. But what about special occasions like the birth of a puppy or a visit from the probation officer? Winestyr is a new wine website that hopes to offer “wine playlists” – wines matched to special events and life happenings – alongside their interesting selection of craft vino.
The company, based in Chicago, is basically a wine facilitator. They deal with winemakers directly and cut out wholesalers and middlemen, thereby improving the price and ensuring a shipping cost of at most $10 on every order. However, their goal is not to be your grandpappy’s wine store. They are throwing away the old 100-point system and unhelpful descriptions (“Sweaty, with a hint of grass and potted pork”) and instead focusing on which wine goes best for your daughter’s post-First Communion party. Once they’re up to speed, each wine will have a recommended activity/event attached (“Buy this wine and drink while you’re getting ready to go out – yes, we condone drinking wine in the shower.”) Funny stuff, to be sure.
The team at Winestyr, which was founded by brothers Bob and John Wilson, has built a way to facilitate orders with small wineries without national distribution. They don’t actually keep stock but instead forward your order to a small winery and they fulfill, thereby allowing you access to the 83 percent of wineries that you can’t find in local stores.
The team has a seed round of $550,000 and they’ve signed up 22 wineries already to sell through the site. They’re looking to have 60 wineries signed by January. As for quality control, we’re lucky that the Wilson brothers love them some booze. “We taste all of the wines we feature to make sure they’re awesome,” said Bob.
The brothers claim to be the only direct-to-consumer platform out there and they’re not connected to retailers or wholesalers. Unfortunately, the online wine industry has plenty of rules and regulations that many run afoul of, but John is a lawyer and he’s managed to streamline the entire experience.
Bob originally worked for a wine distributor but was fed up with the three-tier sales system, which involved producers, distributors, and retailers all working in lockstep. The three-tier system is slowly crumbling and Bob hopes to help it tumble. The site is far fresher than other wine retailers I’ve visited in the past, offering a bit of irreverent sass to the traditionally boring process of picking out wine online. The brothers also have an OLark chat window set up so customers can talk directly to support staff to help pick some booze.
“The idea for Winestyr was sparked after a long day of wine tasting with my girlfriend and Dad in Michigan’s Harbor Country. That night, over a few bottles of wine, we talked about how the majority of small wine producers, i.e. not the guys I was representing in my day job, had no real way to reach new customers. I had actually been admitted into a masters of finance program at Durham Business School in the UK, but after that conversation I called them, told them I wouldn’t be attending, and, in Jerry Maguire fashion, wrote out the initial business plan for Winestyr.”
The site is live now and waiting for orders. I, for one, just bought a case of Pinot Noir for my yearly B-List Celebrity Naked Toga Party Bacchanal And Tupperware Party, which I suspect the brothers don’t have a booze playlist for yet.