The Right Next Step For Winery Tasting Rooms

Napatour We all know how to make reservations. And most all of us know how to make them on-line at this point. We reserve hotel rooms, tables, seats at shows, transportation options and much more. The reason we reserve anything is because there is only a limited number of the things we need and the reservation guarantees us a place or a thing?

Are visits to winery tasting rooms somethng to be reserved?

Increasingly, in Napa Valley and other wine country destinations, a reservation at the tasting room is required. And yet, most folks planning a visit to Napa Valley don't reserve a place at tasting rooms prior to their arrival in the Valley. GoVine is one start-up that believes 1) travelers will begin to reserve their place at the bar in advance and 2) that they can be encouraged to reserve their place. there. was started by April Madden, a young, vibrant entrepreneur recently relocated to Napa from Seattle. "I've built a wine tourism site that will guide people to the wineries that give them what they want," she says. "If I come to Napa and I want to taste Cabernet Franc, it has taken lots of work to figure out where to go to taste Cab Franc. GoVine provides this information and lots more."

And indeed it does.

Currently, one hits the site and creates a custom tour based on where in Napa Valley you want to tour (St. Helena, Yountville, Howell Mountain, etc), what offerings you want (barrel tastings, cave tours, food pairings, etc), what amenities you require (picnics, gardens, historic sites, etc), and what varietals you want to taste. Put in your requirements and boom, you have a custom map, with wineries and their profiles and in some cases the ability to make reservations at the wineries you've placed on your tour. has competitors: VinoVisit and Cellarpass, though April doesn't consider them competitors Govine as clients of these two primarily tasting room reservation systems can integrate with GoVine.

GoVine currently is focused on winery tourism in Napa Valley. However, and importantly, it very soon will be expanding its reach to Sonoma County, the Central Coast and Southern California.

From where I sit, the challenge I see facing GoVine is not so much convincing visitors to Wine Country to engage with a site like GoVine in advance of their visit. This can be accomplished with straightforward consumer marketing and media relations that I think will find a receptive audience. What needs to happen for GoVine to go to the next level is convincing wineries to use such a system to promote their on-location experience.

The market for winery visitors in Napa, despite the popularity of this destination, is intense. The vast majority of wineries in Napa now take tastings on a reservation basis only. While folks will drive up to a reservation-only location, wineries often rely on the recommendation of other wineries, concierges at local hotels and B&Bs, restaurants and local, pulp-based tourist publications. Without serious outreach to these kinds of referring partners, a winery, particularly those off the beaten paths, can be in want of visitors.

GoVine charges wineries around $400 to $500 per year for membership. That membership includes the opportunity to cultivate a fan base at the site and communicate with them, use of an email reservation system on GoVine from the winery's profile page, an expanded profile beyond what GoVine has created for wineries already, expanded marketing opportunities with GoVine partners, and placement in pre-created GoVine Tours.

For $400 or so!

This is a bargain even if you just want to experiment.

According to Madden, as soon as GoVine is built out with its Sonoma, Central Coast and Southern California profiles, it will embark on a more robust consumer marketing program including media outreach, expanded integration and use of social media, targeted advertising and expanded partnerships, such at the one they have created with Living Social. This planned consumer outreach by GoVine is very good news for its current client base and future clients.

The number of visitors to Napa Valley is going to increase over the coming years. Its promotional associations are focused on achieving this. Nothing suggests the area will be knocked off its perch as the primary and most visible wine region in America. And Napa=lifestyle, a sector of the travel market that is more and more attractive. But we will also see winery tourism in Sonoma, the Central Coast and other regions continue to increase too. Wine drinking in America continues to increase and with it the number of aficionados that want to visit winemaking areas. And, in the short term, wine sales seem to be in a post recessionary mode, meaning travel to wine country will increase faster than travel to other regions as the economy recovers.

All this bodes well for GoVine and for its clients.


8 Responses

  1. David White - June 14, 2011

    Tom – Very cool that Myriad is on your map! (Not surprised with the inclusion of Failla.) Should your readers check out Ballentine and/or Green & Red?

  2. Larry Chandler - June 14, 2011

    Most people who visit Napa are on vacation or just enjoying wine country. Unless they are in the wine business, or live close enough to be in Napa consistently, all they want is a pleasant day to taste a variety of wines. The wineries they visit could simply be random, or at the recommendation of friends or a hotel concierge, but they are really not going to be so specific in their choices of wines to taste.
    Reservations to wineries that are hard to get into are one thing. Most people just want to meander and stop at what interests them. Perhaps it’s because the setting looks good or they heard of the winery, possibly like their wines, and want to try whatever they have.

  3. Tom Wark - June 14, 2011

    Hit Ballentine for their Old Vine Chenin…hopefully they still make it.

  4. Tom Wark - June 14, 2011

    I see TONS of folks making reservations at winery tasting rooms. Yes, meandering is a long tradition. But I think times change.

  5. Thomas Pellechia - June 14, 2011

    “What needs to happen for GoVine to go to the next level is convincing wineries to use such a system to promote their on-location experience.”
    Good luck to that.
    What really needs to happen is for someone to develop an “app” that can be directed from a cell phone. I have that idea safely ensconced in my brain, as the one fellow who was to do it with me has vanished.
    Any other takers?
    See you Wednesday in Sonoma.

  6. Joe - June 16, 2011

    We go to the Napa Valley several times a year. We hardly ever make a reservation and always have a terrific time. We have never been turned away. Now, we do go during the week so I cannot say what happens on the weekends.

  7. MacDaddy Marc - June 20, 2011

    Tom is correct times are changing. As a guy who spent a lot of time behind the tasting room counter, nothing is worse than having booked a couple of large tours and despite developing a system that kept the large groups out of the tasting room most of the time. You still need to make sure they wind up there at the end of the tour so they may make their purchases. If GoVine had existed when I was answering the phone or monitoring a computer reservation system I could have kept a lot of people a lot happier who just happened into the tasting room while my large tours were taking place by just asking them to arrive a couple of minutes later. Allowing me to usher 35 happy guests out the door just in time to offer the proper hospitality letting the winery shine with our customer service skills. Instead of having four unhappy guests upset that 35 people walked in during the middle of their non-reserved tasting. Those four meant as much to me as the 35 that just left. People tend to forget the tasting room experience is not about how much wine we can sell you on that day. It’s more about what you remember about your experience the next time you see that wineries name on a wine list in a restaurant or as you stare at the hundreds of labels at your retail outlet making the choice of what to drink with dinner.
    GoVine’s time has come. But Tom P. is right good luck with a several hundred a year fee.Maybe in Napa and Sonoma but here in Willamette Valley few owners would see the value. It’s there (the value) I’m just saying few would get it.

  8. John - June 24, 2011

    We have been using a reservation service for over a year (a competitor to the service you feature here). Got a neat little widget that drops right into our website, plus a presence on their main website as well.
    Less than 10% of our visitors who make an effort to contact us before dropping in use this service. The other 90% call or email. And the number that call or email ahead of time represent less than 10% of the overall group count coming through our door.
    IMO these sites are nice, but every one of them seems to want to do without an advertising budget and a marketing campaign to raise its profile. My guess is that they are just hoping they can get snapped up by a bigger fish: Travelzoo, TripAdvisor, much less an Expedia.

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