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Amenities, Supplies, Services,Wine,Winery

Cellar Pass: A New System For Winery Reservations

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I love innovation and technological advances. I also love new programs that create new systems and more efficient ways of doing business…

Enter CellarPass.

How consumers once visited wineries and how wineries have managed the flow of their guests has just been revolutionized.

I heartily endorse CellarPass, because it’s already proven to be a service that works well within the restaurant business, all performing arts, and sporting events… The list is long for making reservations on line, and purchasing your tickets in advance, so that when you arrive you’re already in the system.

If you know about Open Table, then you’ve already got the idea. You go to one Web site for dining reservations, plug in your information, and create a reservation that holds a guaranteed place at an establishment. The folks on the other end are now waiting for you and anticipating your every need.

CellarPass has just been launched to do the same thing within the wine industry.

My walk through with co-founder and managing director Tim Campbell left me very impressed. Nothing has been left to chance. This is a reservation management solution for the wine industry, and it’s been made very easy for everyone.

  • If used by a winery, this system utilizes your staff to do what it does best… hospitality.
  • If used by a consumer, this system allows you to become a VIP before you even arrive at a winery, because you’ve made the effort ahead of time to tell the winery that you’re coming, and they’re waiting for you.

Cellar Pass benefits for consumers

  • CellarPass is a free, one-stop web community
  • It offers convenient access to customized winery research
  • It confirms tours, tasting, and event reservations
  • It easily builds an itinerary
  • Its helpful, unbiased reviews and opinions of other members gives consumers more insight

According to Tim, “Our research has identified the need winery owners have for an automated reservation system to better manage their flow of visitors and make their staff more efficient. CellarPass does this using the latest technology and a user friendly interface that winery staff are embracing. But, we learned that wineries are also interested in a product that is consumer focused and will attract and drive more new visitors to their site and tasting room. Through strategic partnerships and sophisticated marketing programs the cellarpass.com site is actively and aggressively attracting thousands of wine lovers, and these visitors are then directed to a winery’s web site and tasting room.”

Cellar Pass benefits for wineries

  • 24-hour access to reliable CellarPass Passport real-time reservation system.
  • Consumer-relationship management tool that captures email addresses at time of reservation to build consumer database
  • Seamless integration of visitor data to the winery’s POS system. (They have built the technology to allow the winery to sync their visitor data with their internal systems. The platform operates with any e-commerce system as well.)
  • Increased traffic of target high-involvement wine consumers, both online and in your tasting room to drive retail sales and Wine Club memberships

By the way, if you’re managing a winery with a tasting room, their early adopter program runs until the end of January. That program is as follows: For a limited time they are waiving the start up and subscription fees (a savings of over $1,600) for the first year. Wineries will only pay as visitors are booked through their system. Reservations average about .80 cents each, so wineries will be building their consumer direct and retail database person by person for under $1.00.

I believe this is win-win, and will give wineries a great trial period to see how it works and benefits their flow. For more info, you can call Tim Campbell at 707.337.2977, or e-mail him at tcampbell@cellarpass.com.

Tim also has a social consciousness, which is always appealing:

“CellarPass has also created an industry first – PassTheBuck – our way of giving back to the winery community. We will donate a portion of our reservation revenue to a qualified wine industry charity or organization of your choice. CellarPass is owned and operated by wine industry professionals, we live and work here and we know the importance of supporting our winery partners. Please work with us to support our local agencies that are in need.”

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24 Responses to “Cellar Pass: A New System For Winery Reservations”

  1. Chris says:

    I’m sorry, I think this is a bad idea.

    Maybe it will help the wineries manage traffic flow, but it, in my mind, makes it even harder for customers to get access to wine tasting without any benefits they couldn’t get now with a little research or a map of the area where they’re traveling. I’m for more free access and quite honestly dislike the idea of making a reservation to taste wine at a tasting room.

    Maybe this is a necessity in Napa or high traffic areas, but are those with reservations through this system given preference over walk-in’s off the street, or somebody that calls from the last place to see if a place is open? Those people may be willing to pay the tasting fee, but because they didn’t reserve a time ahead might have to wait, or even worse, get turned away.

    In my humble opinion, this widens the gulf between the wine aristocracy and the public at large.

  2. Jo says:

    Chris,

    I honestly welcome objections, because an objection is just a request for more information. I didn’t write well enough the first time around to convince you, a consumer, of all the benefits.

    The benefits to you is that when you arrive at a winery, you have a more VIP status, because you’ve taken the time to tell them you’re coming, so they take the time to treat you as a preferred customer. (I’ve worked at Belvedere, Mondavi, and K-J… trust me, our preferred customers got a whole lot more when I was there.)

    Do you ever make reservations at a restaurant? If yes, then you know those benefits. If no, then this system will never work for you.

    Some people operate best on being independent. (I’m also one of those people, for the most part, like I never take a bus tour, when in a new city, and yet the tour buses are always quite full.)

    There are those special times when being organized pay off, on both ends… wineries and consumers. This system will satisfy those needs.

    As I wrote and thought about this, I realized and understood that a winery like Mounts Family Winery, for instance, is so small that people showing up on the spur of the moment, during their open hours – only one weekends, is just fun. If you don’t call ahead, but simply go to their site, you don’t find on their site that they’re only open on weekends, but in this system, you’d know that.

    Honestly, not everyone will benefit from this kind of a program, but for those who need/want it, it’s great.

    And… it will be the future for many, as more and more people show up on a winery’s doorstep, but there’s no room at the inn.

  3. B.Waverly says:

    This is a teriffic service for any wine region. This will allow visitors to possible explore new wineries, even find a few places they did not know about. As someone who frequently travels to many wine growning regions I often get asked “where should we go” by friends who are visiting wine country, now not only can I provide them with my picks, but they can go check out multiple wineries and plan their trip based on their preferences.

    CellarPass is not distancing the visitor from the winery at all, if anything it is a way to enhance and broaden the relationship between winery and visitor. As a visitor I can view information about the winery, see what kind of tours they offer (who knew there were so many options?) and even what other services or attractions they offer. Something that a walk-in visitor just wouldn’t necessarily have the knowledge of. Although, I too can respect that many people prefer to choose their own adventure when traveling, but even so this site can be used to help avoid some of those moements of driving to a winery you’ve been aching to visit only to find out the gate is closed and reservations are required.

    With so much to offer the winery visitors, I can only imagine the adminisitrative portion is a breath of fresh air for the wineries. Way to go!

  4. Chris says:

    Jo,

    Thanks for the response. I really appreciate your analogies.
    Dinner reservations, Yes. Tour buses, No. Same for me.

    This one is in between, and I do understand how this would appeal to the wineries, particularly the larger ones in the high traffic touring areas, and to some tourists.

    Cheers!

  5. wino says:

    Some aspects of this sound okay yet I remain skeptical. Most of the wine tasting public has no idea they need to make reservations for certain tasting rooms in certain regions. We know this as the vast majority of visitors to the Napa Valley come without reseravtions or the notion that they need one.

    From a winery’s perspective this removes some controls and contact they have over who and how reservations are made. There is also the potential for lost reservations and reservation conflict.

    Tasting rooms are not like restaurants or hotels where it’s understood that reservations are the norm; most wine tasters in the Napa Valley simply like driving around and stopping in wherever things look inviting. The idea that tourists, not from this area, making reservations for multiple tastings during the day are vistors who are not familiar with the distances between wineries and cannot judge how long one tasting will take versus another.

    In my humble opinion I do not think this idea will not take off for a variety of practical implementation issues.

  6. Jo says:

    Wino,

    You’ve raised some very interesting points.

    I agree that it’s going to take time before this settles in, just as Open Table didn’t explode immediately. All things new take time to be adopted by anyone.

    Once people have visited Napa, we know that they have a better handle on reservations are very aware of crowds ahead. (Some people are now actually avoiding Napa because of the crowds, just as showing up to the French Laundry teaches one to get a reservation or be sent away.)

    Cellar Pass actually doesn’t create loss of control for the winery. It’s quite the opposite, because the winery watches the back end of what’s going on. The advantage is that it doesn’t have to be involved in the data gathering (which is more sophisticate in building the winery’s Email system, as well, in a more concise database program).

    I got to walk through the process with Tim Campbell, so I’d understand it, before I’d advocating for it.

    Next, if a winery wants to still reach out to its consumers, it still has that option and control. Lost reservations aren’t an issue, unless someone at the winery wants to create havoc. And, the control over whether or not that time slot is “filled” allows the consumer to choose the best times available. (Like Open Table, if it’s filled, you arrange for another time.)

    Yes, people will be late for things… When aren’t they? Lots of people – from my personal experience/history – don’t even show up, nor did they call to say they’ve decided to not go to the winery. Imagine, though, if they’ve paid ahead, they’re going to be a lot less likely to blow off the winery. (Ah, those lunches that went uneaten, because someone forgot his/her commitment to the next place…)

    In my humble opinion, I believe that it will take off, just as Open Table has become a huge success for booking restaurants. I use Open Table, and if I were a wine consumer, I’d consider Cellar Pass’s wineries that are on board, just to make my visit less stressful and in more of my own control.

  7. Jo says:

    B.Waverly,

    Thanks for your comments (and reading wine-blog). I, too, see it as a terrific serve, having been on the other end of people who actually call ahead, in order to have a well planned visit.

    It sounds to me that you’re the perfect consumer, who’s looking for a quality visit and is one to keep things organized…. Besides being a great ambassador for places that you love. You can write comments on the Cellar Pass site, too, making it more interesting for people looking for independent third party endorsements.

    I saw the light when I read about Cellar Pass through a press release. This is why I’ve taken my own spare time (very little of that these days) to advocate for it. I currently planning my annual Dark & Delicious event, and I can’t even begin to tell you how many great things are coming my way to have as stories. I can’t handle the influx, unless it’s totally innovative news. For me, Cellar Pass made the grade.

  8. El Jefe says:

    For a winery that doesn’t take reservations, and doesn’t (gasp!) charge for tasting, I’m just not seeing the utility….

  9. Jo says:

    El Jefe,

    I have to agree with you. Until you’re swamped with visitors, this doesn’t seem necessary, yet.

    Some day, my dear, people will discover what the 49ers did ever so long ago, there’s gold in them thar hills… It’s just taken on the persona of medals with wines, not being in the mines any longer.

    For now, Calaveras County is still a sleepy, intriguing place to visit, where shirts are required, but not of the dressy-up kind. ;^)

  10. I really appreciate everyone’s questions regarding our service as it gives us an opportunity to discuss a bit further about what the entire service has to offer as it’s not all about the Reservation system.

    Now, I know not all wineries (small or large) need a reservation system itself, but all wineries need consumers showing up online and in the tasting room, right? What has really not been pointed out is the CellarPass Winery Search Engine. This tool allows consumers looking for a tasting room that offers the amenities, varietals, etc to match their preferences. Even search by a radius range, by appellation, state, etc. So whether you are looking locally or planning a trip, it’s a great tool to start your next wine country experience.

    So if you are a small winery, or a large one, this system will help open your doors to many new consumers- and possibly re-engage past consumers. And what is also not known is that CellarPass does not charge for you to manage your own CellarPass Profile Page. What you say? Nope, you don’t have to be a member or sign any type of contract to be included in our database. We’re doing this because we’re committed to this industry of providing a solution that will work with any budget- and FREE should really fit anyone’s budget these days.

    What’s a profile page? If you go to http://www.cellarpass.com, you can click on the Round Pond link. Now Round Pond is a member of CellarPass, but just about the same features are offered to our non-members- sans the Reservation Widget. Simply contact us (no sales pitch, we promise) and we’ll provide your log in credentials to get into the system, update your contact information, insert some descriptions and you are ready.

    We have received a flurry of calls from small time producers all over the country wanting to get their contact information and profile page updated because consumers are finding their CellarPass profile first. Plus if you don’t have a website at all, this is a great place to get started with no investment at all other than just a couple of minutes to complete your information. The process is very easy and is worth the time, believe me.

    Why would you want to do this? Well Search Engine Optimization is just one. The other is that when consumers come to our website, your winery will be included in the search results whether you are a member or not. Our system has been tuned to build traffic and to your profile page which can then turn into leads to your website, people to make a reservation or simply drop by if they are in your area.

    So CellarPass is not all about reservations, it’s about creating brand affinity for your brand, whether you are a CellarPass client or not.

    Thanks,

    Jonathan Elliman
    Co-Founder // CTO
    CellarPass.com

  11. Randy says:

    This system should work well in the short future. Yesterday was Winter Wine Land in the RRV and we saw an (almost) overwhelming number of 21-35 year old wine consumers. Seriously, probably 70% were within his age range. They’re the ones who’ll use this reservation system. They’re always looking for a tech edge even in Wine Country, not to mention many wineries still don’t take them very serious as legit wine consumers, so this rez system should help with that impression.

    I welcome any (free) tool that will assist us in knowing how many people are coming out to the TR in a given day, week, month… It’ll help me plan appropriately. Moreover, if I can communicate with future clients pre-visit, I can concierge and help plan their day in WC, thus making them more excited about the visit. It helps integrate the winery and consumer even before they get on crappy highway 101 direction wine country.

  12. Jo says:

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for this follow-up information. You obviously know the inner workings of your company better than I, and taught me a lot more about your service.

    Thanks, also, for clearing up the small winery objection. I didn’t understand in such depth how your service benefits all wineries, regardless.

  13. Jo says:

    Randy,

    It’s good to hear from an insider how it will benefit your winery.

    Another very important point is the Millennial demographic. It’s the next large group of consumers that are consuming. To ignore their way of doing business is going to antiquate the antiquated even further and more swiftly.

    The merry-go-round is moving very swiftly, People, if you’ve not noticed.

    🙂

  14. Farrelli says:

    I think this is a great service. Does Chris get that not all wineries are walk-in capable. Here in the Napa Valley we have to abide by permit rules….for the wineries that are by appointment only (through no fault of their own) this can only be a win-win situation.

  15. Jo says:

    Farrelli,

    It’s hard to see every configuration that the wine industry possesses. You’ve helped us to understand something I wasn’t even completely clear of knowing.

    Do this have to do with the hillside/mountainside wine companies? I’ve vaguely heard about this one.

  16. Dan Lintz says:

    Jo – Your point about the Millennial demographic is a good one and the reason VinoVisit.com has built a Facebook reservation widget for winery fan pages and added it to our winery reservation service. There are over 1,000 winery fan pages so far and more are added everyday. A few short years ago Facebook was just for the Millennial’s and now it has wide adoption with 78 million members in the US. Also keep in mind that OpenTable has over 60% of restaurants on their system in CA and 30% nation wide. This a strong indication that using technology to make reservations is clearly being adopted in mass.

    That said I don’t think that wineries will move completely away from casual walk in tastings but like other spaces that have new technology to make life easier there will be a segment of people that will find it useful and adopt it. Another interesting statistic that is starting to develop from the reservations we have processed since September is that 28% are made after winery business hours.

    How many people will ultimately use a winery reservation service is hard to tell but when we did our market research last winter 61% of visitors to wine country were frustrated or very frustrated with the process of planning trips to wine country. That is a pretty big number and the frustration is about getting information and planning visits, something that technology can help with. Thx for starting the great conversation on this new software space for winery visitors. – Dan

  17. We just posted a press release that covers some of our latest innovation which allows our technology partners (POS, eCom, Accounting, etc.) to download consumer-related reservation details directly into your database.

    Our first certification went to Napa Valley POS who is one of the leading Microsoft RMS POS providers in the wine industry. We are actively working with other POS, Ecom and CRM providers to get them versed in our API and will be announcing those as we they become certified.

    So another value add of Submerce is growing your consumer database as well as making it extremely easy to book a reservation 24/7.

    http://www.cellarpass.com/newsarticles.aspx

  18. Jo says:

    Thanks Dan and Jonathan for keeping this updated and continuing.

    Being able to be organized has always appealed to me.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    Interesting read and endorsement of Cellar Pass. My question however is – seems like there are two companies in the market doing the exact same thing (Cellar Pass and VinoVisit). What are the differences between the two? Would like to hear from Jo or the readers vs. folks at the two companies themselves.

    In regards to some of the comments, I’m in the Millenial generation and I agree – definitely a good idea to start targeting us through the technology and social sites we use. However, of the 61% that was quoted they are frustrated with planning their wine country trip (how many of that % were in the Millenial demographic? Also be interesting to know, out of those that use Opentable, what % is of the Millenial demographic? I’m just not convinced that our demographic is out there making reservations for these type of activities 24-7. Maybe it’s a learning curve, but I go wine tasting A LOT, and my friends NEVER plan a head. They just drop in and we either end up at old favorites or ask the tasting staff at one winery recs on where to go next. At best, they will look around for some tasting coupons in advance. And outside of Napa and Sonoma, who are all these wineries in other regions that have tours or appointments for tastings?

    And while there is a benefit to the winery to have my info in advance, if I haven’t decided I actually like your wine, the likelihood of me just handing over my info to be spammed at some point is not appealing. Even in the opentable model, my understanding is that my info is with Opentable, not each individual restaurant I’ve ever booked reservations with. (I could be wrong, hopefully not!)

    Just some food for thought…

  20. Jo says:

    It’s a banquet, Elizabeth… versus “food for thought.” Good job.

    I honestly only know the inner workings of Cellar Pass, because Tim came to me with his concept, it interested me as innovative. He mentioned that he was also a co founder of another system (didn’t name it), and did I want to hear what he was currently doing with Cellar Pass.

    We talked, I wrote, and the rest is history.

    I can’t offer comparisons, because I just don’t know them.

    I was intrigued, however, with the Tim’s concept of creating a second round. I’ve had second rounds, taking away the best of something to only make it better in the new incarnation. Having had that kind of experience curve in the past, I immediately related.

    That’s all I can add…

    Regarding the figures for Millennials… That’s a whole new blog posting for the future. It takes me between three and four hours to write one of my blogs, not including all the pre-research. I need more time for that one than a quick response. Hang in there… I’ll get it done in the future.

  21. Jo thanks for furthering the discuss. And yes social media is great, but CellarPass is not solely relying on gaining Users via FaceBook, Twitter, etc. Sure it can be one avenue, but we’re not totally relying on that as traditional media still plays a large roll in all demographics and why you’ll soon see our plans for those mediums come to light very quickly.

    I also want clear up the fact that CellarPass is not all about reservations. We exhibited at the Direct to Consumer Symposium that had over 300 people (wineries, consultants, etc.) attend and the response to CellarPass was amazing- almost overwhelming. I personally did demos to the small time winery to the very large one and each of them had a different view of the system. As I pointed out earlier in this blog, CellarPass is designed to be a portal system where it’s free for every winery, wine shop, wine bar, closet winemaker, etc. to be a part of- and it costs nothing.

    So for those of you that may not understand the need to make reservations, you need to take one step back. How are you finding these wineries that you are “dropping” into? Are you driving along and just veer off like most tourists do? Sure that’s one way to select your destination, but what about all the other wineries that you are missing b/w Silverado Trail and Highway 29, or up in Deer Park or behind the gate that was somewhat attached to the pole? As part of education process for wineries and consumers about CellarPass, we have visited wineries that I’ve probably driven by a couple hundred times and never knew that the Cabernet waiting for me in the tasting room blew the doors off anything around it- and the people greeted me with nothing but the best of service.

    So, to bring it back to where this blog started and Jo’s original comments is the fact that the off-the-beaten path wineries will reward you for your adventure with fine wines, great service and make you feel like a celebrity- well at least for an hour or two. So again, CellarPass is not solely focused on reservations, more like a “Discovery Channel” (which I was a producer for in one of my past lives) for the wine industry. Sure our revenue comes from the memberships, but we’re committed to the wine industry as we have for the past 15 years and want to play a small part in that discovery process.

    Let’s keep the discussion going!

  22. Jo says:

    Jonathan,

    All good points.

    I understand, too, because membership helps to support what I do with PS I Love You, but that’s not what PSILY is all about.

    My service about delivering wine grape variety information, which benefits the wine industry (like yours). Membership puts gas into the vehicle to drive the buggy around.

    CellarPass seems to benefit a certain demographic that’s interested in making their lives more enriched, organized, and focused. Clearly, this isn’t how we all want to live, but for those of us who do, there you go!

  23. Dan Lintz says:

    Elizabeth,

    You asked “My question however is – seems like there are two companies in the market doing the exact same thing (Cellar Pass and VinoVisit). What are the differences between the two? Would like to hear from Jo or the readers vs. folks at the two companies themselves.”

    Here is your answer – Vintank.com http://vintank.com has now done a Pulse report on both VinoVisit and CellarPass with the pluses and minuses of both applications if you are looking for an independent 3rd party review.

    I would also suggest reading their wine industry social media report it has become the definitive report in the industry on social media.

    Dan

    CEO
    VinoVisit.com

  24. VinTank may offer a “3rd party review” of the CellarPass and VinoVisit services, but if any one takes a moment to figure out who VinTank’s client is, it’s VinoVisit. Just go to http://www.vintank.com and look at their list of clients and partners and make your own decision of how valid the report was. So considering this relationship, how can this possibly be unbiased? It’s in VinTank’s own best interest to paint a rosy picture and dog CellarPass.

    We don’t rely on “reports” to separate us from our competitor, we let the number of clients and satisfied consumers that use CellarPass tell the true story.

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