Everything Served To Arouse
Winebid.com remains one of the surviving early dotcom wine ventures. It survived for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it presents a business model that is so perfectly suited to the Internet.
Their most recent achievement is pretty cool. They just finished having Apex Wine Cellar install a 100,000 bottle Malaysian Mahogany racking system in their temperature controlled warehouse in Napa. 100,000 bottles.
As you can see from the photos, that’s a pretty cool thing.
What’s interesting about Winebid.com is that it operates differently than the traditional wine auction house insofar as it sells a tremendous number of individual bottles rather than many lots of multiple bottles or full cases of a single wine. This is what necessitates it having so many single bottle openings in its new racking system.
The warehouse they work out of in Napa looks a great deal different than when I was with the company. For a long time the wines sat in cases along the floor with tags around their necks. Then we got large shelves in the warehouse that came with a pretty simple categorization system. And even though I was inside the offices in the marketing department, I loved heading out to the warehouse…just to stroll among the bottles.
It was a little like walking through a sex shop. Everything in it served to arouse…if you were a wine lover. Over there was the mag of 1961 Margaux, in that corner was the 20 year vertical of Mondavi Reserve, the 3 liter of d’Yquem was over on that side of the warehouse, in the middle there was the vertical of Stony Hill Chard. It got me off.
I’m still pretty proud to say I worked with Winebid.com at the time of its first auction and helped open it’s first CA warehouse. It’s great to see them do well. According to their CEO Jerry Zech, "This custom wine racking system was the final step in completing an inventory and shipping system to handle the thousands of bottles of wine we auction every week. Our new bar coding system and wine inventory database are all integrated into the final process of shipping and fulfillment."
That’s good news too. Winebid now has upwards of 50,000 registered bidders. I fully recall the excitement when the number of bidders hit 5,000. back in the late 90s. It’s nice to be able to point to a pure Internet wine play and not say, "what were they thinking!!".
I wonder what they do to mitigate earthquakes. It looks like bottles would just fly out of their slots…
For the wine buyer winebid.com might be a good thing, but sellers should take a close look at the fine print of the contract when letting them take possession of your wines on consignment. If the wines don’t sell at their estimated price, then what? Do you still have control of your wines? Will they return them to you on demand? These were sticking points with me when I sought to trim my cellar a few years ago. I just wanted them to agree to give me back the wines if they didn’t meet the reserve price. While I understand they put time and effort into shipping, receiving, and promoting your wines for auction; you, the seller, have a bigger stake. If things don’t work out as planned, you might find your wines displayed on their new shelving, but out of your control. That said, I have not heard of any specific complaints in this regard.
While I agree it looks impressive, what is the point? Unless the cost of implementing this was partially or fully underwritten by a cross promotion agreement with Apex, it seems like a waste of money. After all, unless the warehouse is accessed by end customers and used as a retail showroom of sorts, nobody will ever see it. Surely there are cheaper warehouse storage solutions if single bottle storage was the goal. Moreover, labels are likely to get scuffed when workers remove bottles too quickly just as they can in one’s home cellar.