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I Have Seen the Future of Wine Retail and its Name is VinoVenue

I don’t mean to wax hyperbolic, but as something of a student of new and emerging wine retail concepts, I think a press release flew under the radar on Monday that has implications for a lot of wine lovers. 

Is the future of wine retail a San Francisco based concept called VinoVenue?

In Indianapolis, a wine shop of good repute recently had the opportunity to build a new store from the ground up.  I was hopeful that they would take the opportunity to review the business models of emerging and established wine shops on either coast and create a store that had more of a lifestyle/boutique feel—this was their great opportunity to bridge their legacy early 80s ‘stuffed to the gills and dusty’ mode of operation (similar to wine shops of yore) and get into the new millennium—even better if they could get a restaurant permit in order to sample wines continuously.

After all, the ‘Starbucks meets Anthropologie’ and ‘Wine as a lifestyle choice’ kind of place is making some significant headway in a lot of cities. 

Plus, some really cool new wine sampling technology is making inroads all over the place—Virginia to Florida to Illinois to the West Coast.  Surely, having an Enomatic and the opportunity to sample of bunch of wines off of a prepaid card is a wine lovers Shangri-la. 

Guys that own wine shops are paying attention to the market and paying attention to the things that are manifesting themselves as trends, aren’t they?

What we got instead of a thoughtful consideration of the national wine retail shop market and what might work in being a trailblazer in the Indianapolis market is, essentially, a liquor barn.  A metal corrugated building that has less charm than a Costco.  At least Costco has some brick on their façade.

To make matters worse, they did put a restaurant in the same building, but it’s a freakin’ deli.  Chateau Petrus and Pastrami anybody?

To me, this whole thing is a travesty of the first order.  And, you’ll note I’m not mentioning the name of the retailer.  I do tend to occasionally pull a punch and this is one of those times where incrimination is enough. 

My local lament would be well and good and wasted digital ink on an issue that I never had any influence on in the first place, but, then, I see a press release.  A shining beacon, a ray of hope on an otherwise dreary winter day. 

VinoVenue, a San Francisco based tastingroom/retail shop/wine lounge that features, primarily, small production wines is going to expand:

VinoVenue stretches the traditional wine bar and retail store boundaries by offering guests a new concept for tasting and buying wines. Guests can serve themselves by purchasing a VinoVenue tasting card (like a debit card), inserting it into the automated wine tasting stations, selecting a wine and receiving a 1 oz. pour. Individually priced pours of more than 100 wines sourced from wineries around the globe range from $1 to $40. “We took VinoVenue as far as we could and have every confidence that Brunton Vineyards will be able to take VinoVenue to the next level. We couldn’t have asked for a better buyer to carry on our dream,” commented Mary Lynn Slattery and Nancy Rowland, founders and former owners of VinoVenue.

The “try-before-you buy” model enables customers to make informed decisions before buying a bottle of wine. The wine lounge also allows wine lovers to taste wine that they ordinarily would not be able to taste, such as a $200 bottle of Amuse Bouche or Le Macchiole Messorio, or a $450 bottle of Chateau Lafite. Guests move freely about the elegantly designed tasting space visiting the many wine stations where they can compare different wines from places around the world or experiment with wines they have never heard of before.

VinoVenue has actually been bought by a company called Brunton Vineyards and they are targeting 90 locations within 66 targeted cities in the next two years.

I’m no rocket science, but most of these market expansions ride side by side with television markets.  And, well, since Indianapolis is the 25th largest TV market, I’m guessing we’re going to get our VinoVenue. 

According to the press release:

Brunton Vineyards believes that there is a compelling opportunity to address this large unmet need in the US and around the world by developing wine lounges as environments that one can go into, lounge and taste wine with friends and family in an intimate, upscale setting. “With VinoVenue, we believe we will be well positioned to become a leading company in the wine industry, as it pertains to the retail space,” said Mr. Geno Brunton, Chairman and CEO of Brunton Vineyards. Mr. Brunton continued, “Acquiring VinoVenue and expanding it worldwide will further strengthen our position in the global wine market by adding a portfolio of new wine products that are distributed through our retail outlets. With the addition of VinoVenue, we believe we will be able to effectively offer the best possible array of wines in an attractive, inviting environment that is not currently available to the average wine lover. We expect this to complement our existing asset base in a very positive way.”

Fellas, I agree with you.  There is a tremendous opportunity and I love the concept.  Welcome to Indianapolis.  Take your shoes off.  Please stay a while and let me know if I can do anything to assist.  I know where you can find a corned beef on rye, too. 


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (5) |


On 02/28, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I thought the machines would be kinda cold and unfriendly, but they actually free the hosts up to wander the room chatting with customers.  I enjoyed Stave Wine Bar in Napa the other week. 

(I’m an ex-Hoosier from Fort Wayne, so it’s interesting to read wine commentary from the home state!)

On 02/28, el jefe wrote:

When I was first exploring wine, um, a while ago I was fortunate to stumble into a store called The Wine Club (yes, the one that now has stores in Santa Ana, San Jose, and San Francisco)

Back then they had a bar that held 15-20 open bottles. Each bottle was labeled with a “taste price”: if you filled their logo glass to the bottom of the logo, that was the taste price. What was really cool: if you filled your glass halfway, it was half that tasting price. And it was all honor system!

I suppose the automated system is pretty cool but I miss the simplicity and the trust of the tasting bar at the Wine Club. It’s been a number of years since I have been able to shop there - I sure hope it hasn’t changed!

All that said, I sure hope Indy is on the list, and soon! That’s an ambitious business plan (90 stores in 66 markets is NOT easy!) and I sincerely hope they can pull it off!

On 02/28, Jeff Lefevere wrote:


Thanks for stopping by.  Fort Fun!  Nice.  My place of birth and home til I was six and moved to South Bend, in the shadow of the Golden Dome.

Are you in the wine industry, per chance?  I’m wanting to gather up ex-Hoosiers that are in the business and their wine ventures for a sidebar box on the site.

If so, please let me know.  And, thanks for reading!


On 04/06, Andrew wrote:

This is an okay concept but The Grape is the ultimate experience in wine and fun. You can taste the wine before purchase - amazing concept! Check them out online at Also, Usher is involved with them. Pretty neat.

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