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WineAccess Travel Log
Read stories from the world's greatest wine trails.
As we now know all too well, being first isn't always best. But, way back in 1996, before Google was both a noun and verb, we came up with a hair-brained idea. We were sitting in the offices of our wine import company when a sales guy pitching internet sites knocked on the door. The truth is, we didn't know what an internet site was, but he was pretty good, so we listened. By the time Bob left us, we saw no merit in creating a site for our company, but saw lots in creating a wine search engine that would allow tens of thousands of wine buyers (who we assumed were somewhere "out there") to shop for, learn about, and purchase bottles from stores across the country. It was a nice idea, but one that proved painfully difficult to execute.
The first obstacle was capturing the active wine inventories of as many top fine wine shops as possible. It didn't take long to figure out that this was a job for Sisyphus. As there was no readily available comprehensive database of wines, one that would include all wines that could possibly appear on store shelves from Santa Monica to 56th Street, we'd have to build that by hand. We spent hundreds of hours in the "Clothespin" Building in downtown Philadelphia, where the software company we'd engaged was headquartered, building hundreds of thousands of Excel spreadsheet rows, each populated with names of producers, wines, vintages, varieties, regions and styles. On summer nights, when the building superintendent was good enough to shut down the AC at 2am, we left our 8th floor cubbies at daybreak and took the elevator down to street level to pick up our bicycles for the long ride home. That's when we realized both that we were half out of our minds-- and that the Clothespin Building was aptly named. Both of us were dripping wet and could well have been hung out to dry.Read more »
Still, we persevered, building the most exhaustive wine database ever compiled. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves until we took to the road with a small cash infusion from an investor, intending to sign up every fine wine shop in the country. Good luck with that one.
We'd soon learn that many of those shops had no "persistent inventory" system. Sure, they had an inventory count, but that inventory was taken at the end of each quarter. First road block. We looked for a work around but found none. Now, before jumping on planes, we made calls, asking stores not only if they wanted their inventory included in our new online search engine, but if they actually KNEW what that inventory might be! It was now 1999, and to our amazement, investors everywhere were eating internet happy pills. We raised $6mm to build our wine search engine. It was an auction. Bidders everywhere, all talking about the value of eyeballs. Well, we figured, we have four, even if our vision was permanently clouded from all those nights at the Clothespin Building.
Between 1999 and 2000, we finally succeeded in building not only a search engine, but what we view as a complete buyer's guide, a place to search, compare prices, learn about regions, varieties, vintages and the winegrowers themselves. There are 50,000+ wines for sale, and information on another 150,000 that may be currently out of stock in the WineAccess store network. Every store provides "persistent" inventory uploads to WineAccess. Most do so daily. Some twice a day. A few as infrequently as three times per week. The service, of course, continues to be free. We only ask that you sign up, providing us with your email address and zip code, so we can be sure to direct you only to stores that ship to your area and to provide you with our daily missives, featuring wines from some of the most brilliant winemakers in the world, offered at prices that are the lowest in America.
Now...go ahead. Start searching.