Anyone who values his or her time should care, that’s who.

Imagine if you will, living in say – Virginia – for the sake of understanding. You’re a wine lover and all of your friends not only know it, but they also value you as their #1 wine resource. Someone gets the bright idea that the group should take a Napa-Sonoma wine trip together… Now, you know that you’re going to be called upon to put an itinerary together. So, off you go, beginning the task. In the process, you find out that there’s not one single site that allows you access to all things possible. You go here for this, then you got here for that, still you’ve got to visit more sites.

You learn that no matter what the region is around the US, there are numerous sites that provide one or more things that anyone planning a trip would need, such as a directory of wineries and associated amenities, a state map, a description of each winery with photos, visitor reviews, editorial reviews, and wine quality ratings, but there isn’t a site that brings it all together.

This kind of research then calls for a job from an extraordinary travel consultant, but not any travel consultant… It’s got to be someone totally devoted to every wine region in the US, offering everything that you’d want and need… a perfect fit for everyone’s interests… But, let’s face it, given the copious amounts of wineries in the US, that person can’t and doesn’t possibly exist.

Okay, now you get the picture. Mission impossible… It will take a robot of sorts… an external brain that someone has programmed.

This was Jim Finley’s frustration.

Jim Finley has quietly built behind the scenes for the last five years, and now it’s launch time.

Who should care?

  • If you own a winery, this will persuade you to get your social media person right on this, to make sure your info is current… Or you’ll either lose an opportunity or disappoint someone with incomplete information.
  • If you’re a consumer, bookmark this page. You’ll return for planning a trip or for identifying the best wineries in the U.S., the wineries that produce the highest rated wines according to the most respected wine critics in the world…..people you know and trust.
  • If you’re a media person, it sure beats any current search! Give the maps a try. Decide your subject, choose from your options, and your work will be half done.

Here’s a Q&A with Jim that inspired this blog…

[Q] Jim, why did you got this site up and running.

[JIM]  In 2007, I was asked to put together a Napa and Sonoma wine tasting itinerary for a group of six friends who were traveling to California for a wedding.  All of us had enjoyed wine for many years, but I think I was the only one who actually had wine magazine subscriptions, which supposedly qualified me to plan the itinerary.  I had planned to review some “best of” magazine articles for Napa and Sonoma and consult a couple California winery websites to get additional details.

I found that there were several sites that contained information about Napa and Sonoma wineries, but that they provided contradictory information.  I also found that the sites with a complete, or nearly complete, list of wineries didn’t provide enough information about each winery to help me determine which winery to visit; and, the sites with in-depth information about the wineries didn’t list all the wineries in the region. That left me thinking that I might miss a great winery simply because it wasn’t included on the site.

[Q] So, how did you handle that?

[JIM]  I finally resigned myself to primarily using the sites that contained in-depth winery information. These sites did a good job of describing the wineries and listing their amenities and features, but they still didn’t provide the information I needed to identify the must-visit wineries. For example, several of these sites were promotion sites, i.e. their goal was to present each of the wineries in the best light possible, which provided scant information to help me distinguish the top tier from the lower tier. Also, there was no feedback or reviews from people who had actually visited the wineries, and there was no information regarding the quality of the wines.

[Q]  Interesting… I’ve never thought about having wine reviews by a group of seasoned, recognizable pros be aggregated in one place, as well as all the other info you wanted. Are you saying you’ve done that along with everything else your site offers?

[JIM]  Yes…

I simply wanted a site with a comprehensive list of wineries, in-depth information about each winery, visitor and/or editorial reviews and ratings, and an indicator of how good the wineries’ wines were based on the ratings of the most respected wine critics… How difficult could that be?

The site uses aggregated ratings from all of the major wine critics to identify America’s top wineries. The idea is that users can easily find the top producers within their price range (and whatever other criteria they want to include ~ region, case production, winemaking practices, etc.) and can then either find specific wines that were highly rated (searching wine rating databases for wines from the wineries) or can just start exploring the wineries’ products (visiting the winery, signing up for the wine club) with the confidence/understanding that the winery produces high quality products.

Wine drinkers in France are generally able to gauge the quality of a wine and how much it should cost based on its classification. Without such a system in the U.S., it’s hard for wine drinkers to know where to start. By aggregating the ratings, the site provides a dynamic, pseudo-classification system to help wine drinkers identify the top tier producers, the second tier producers, and the rest. For example, instead of the user needing to research every Sonoma winery and constantly keeping track of which bottle of wine scored what, users can use the site to identify the top 10 wineries using whatever criteria are important to them. The other benefit is that by focusing on the winery instead of each particular wine, users are better able to wrap their heads around a very dynamic industry and potentially feel more comfortable looking at a restaurant wine list or a shelf in the wine store. For example, using the site I’ve become very familiar with top producers in several wine regions in the U.S. Now, when I’m looking at a wine list or shopping in a wine store, I “see some familiar faces” and have a little more confidence choosing a previously untasted wine.

[Q]  I can see where this is going….

[JIM]  When one of my friends mentioned that there should be a site that brings this all together for all the wineries in the U.S. and joked that I should build it, I took the bait.  And after five years of work, which originally was supposed to take six months, I think I can answer the question…it can be very difficult (but fun and educational as well).

 Check it out…

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