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Five Minutes On the Vine : Winery Passport

We’ve decided to start a new series around here, Five Minutes On the Vine. Once a month I will showcase an amazing winery, winemaker or wine innovator and ask them a series of questions.

Our inaugural feature is Scott Stanchak and his incredible app Winery Passport. Named Food and Wine magazine’s Top Travel Wine App, Winery Passport is a “mobile wine concierge for discovering local wines and wineries…”, allowing you to write tasting notes, stamp your “passport” for every winery you visit and share those experiences online with your friends and fellow wine drinkers!

We reached out to Scott to ask him a few questions about the app and most important of all, what he’s been drinking these days…

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What was the impetus for creating Winery Passport? 

My wife and I were at a wine tasting in New Jersey when it was time to stamp our paper passport books that the Garden State Growers Association provide. The problem was we had forgotten our passports at home. The winery owner offered us new ones, but then we’d have to carry two identical books since we already had stamps in our other ones. At the time, I had released a popular word game (LetterSlider) on the App Store and been looking for my next app idea. I thought, why not put the passport on your most personal device? Winery Passport launched a few months later in August 2013.

What was the process like, getting it from idea to actual app?

The process took a tremendous amount of time and patience. My goal was, and still is, to build a product that is both valuable for users and wineries. Thankfully, having developed mobile apps before, I knew how to design the requirements and hire developers to make everything happen. I also have a background in marketing and understand what it takes to build brand awareness and return-on-investment for wineries.

The hardest part of building Winery Passport, however, was also the most critical: compiling the most complete and accurate list of wineries available. Initially, we did a lot of research to gather winery listing information across the U.S. and Canada. From there, we’ve continued to refine our database through user feedback, conversations with wineries and other ways. Today, I believe we have close to 100% of all wineries (as many as we know about) in those countries, as well as a tremendous amount of data related to each. Let us know if we’re missing any!

How has your response been from wineries and users? 

I think the wine industry is still trying to make sense of mobile, and really digital marketing as whole. When we first launched, Winery Passport only offered increased exposure for wineries in front of our audience,‹ sort of like appearing at the top of Google search. But we knew that was only one dimensional.

Capturing customer information is a major problem for wineries: a poll puts it that about 25% ever leave an email address when visiting a tasting room. We have 100% though, which is why in April we released the ability for our recommended winery partners to directly message all users who have stamped at a specific winery or have it on a wish list.

Then, in July, we unveiled leads. Now users can request to buy wine, book tastings or join a wine club directly from the app. These request forms pre-populate the user’s information automatically and are completely mobile optimized, making the process only a few seconds. Now we hit on all the major direct-to-consumer touch points for wineries: tastings, wine clubs, wine purchases.

When wineries understand the value of these tools, they absolutely love them. There is definitely still an education process related to what is possible in mobile and why it’s worth embracing. With 60% of all digital time spent there, it shouldn’t be optional. 

As for our users, they’re absolutely the best. I get emails every day telling me that they were looking for an app like this. They’ve helped us build a better app by using it, spreading the word and sending me feedback. A message from the winery or ability to request a tasting isn’t just beneficial for the winery. Our users have a relationship at this point with the winery and hope to draw more value out of it. We’re helping make that connection and they love it.

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How do you think it enhances the overall wine-tasting experience?

Here’s the idea path for a user’s Winery Passport experience:

1. User finds a winery near their location, on a map, by country/state/province or by name. 

2. User requests tasting and sends their information to the winery. 

3. User stamps their Winery Passport at the tasting, enters their wines tasted and rates the experience in their journal.

4. User shares stamp on Facebook and Twitter. 

5. Winery messages user post-tasting with an offer to expand the relationship. 

6. User visits winery’s Winery Passport listing and taps Buy Wine to purchase a case of the latest vintage release.

What’s next for Winery Passport? Any changes you’d like to see made to the app to enhance the experience even more? 

I’m really excited about the progress that was made in 2015 and that has set the foundation for what should be an amazing year. The biggest thing on our roadmap is international expansion (I’ll touch on more in a bit.) I also would like to open up the ability to stamp at a winery more than once. That means also revising how the journal functions. This is an area I’ve given a lot of thought to and haven’t quite nailed down the perfect way to execute without detracting from the user experience.

Any chance Winery Passport will make the leap across the pond? 

Winery Passport expansion is absolutely on our roadmap this year. Initially, we rolled out to 13 states. The goal was to refine the app before we made our way across the U.S. to California — the mecca of wine. The response was so great, we were in all 50 states and all Canadian provinces within two months. In the two-plus years we’ve been live, those have been the only two countries we’ve focused on. But you’ll start to see changes in the app soon preparing for expansion, including a new country structure when you click on Location. I’m definitely open to suggestions where to go next!

What is your favorite wine you’re drinking now? 

I love a glass of Pinot Noir. I post a weekly bottle “Friday Wine of the Week” on my Twitter feed (@ScottStanchak). I feel bad for my followers because 80% of the time it’s been a new Pinot Noir. I just am such a fan right now.

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Download the Winery Passport for Apple or Android users and share with us where you’ve been stamping!

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Weekly Wine Picks : Bubbles, Rosés and Blends

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Ferrari “Perlé” Brut sparkling wine, Trentodoc, Italy ($35)
As a sparkling wine lover, I’m always on the look out for exciting, high-quality bubbly and this wine qualifies. It’s a beauty to savor with food or on its own. You’ll be considered in-the-know by saying “TrentoDOC” (pronounced dock) like the northern Italians do. A special place tucked into the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains outside of the city of Trento, the wines are made in the traditional method and with the same grapes that grow in Champagne, France including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Around 1900, Giulio Ferrari was responsible for bringing those grapes to the Italian region after working in Champagne. From there, one of Italy’s top bubblies was born. The Perlé is made with pure Chardonnay and serves up a sumptuous yet crisp sparkler layered with rich fruit.

2013 J. Lohr “Gesture” Grenache Rosé, Paso Robles, California ($18)
J. Lohr is a winery that has helped put Monterey County on the map. With vineyards in Paso Robles and Napa, as well as Monterey, it’s a California winery with stature and status. Originally conceived to be part of their wine club, the Gesture line focuses on Rhone-style wines such as this appealing pink. Made with Grenache grapes, it’s dry but with succulent red berry fruit flavors and a kick of spice. Don’t worry about pairing it with food (it goes with just about everything), just serve it with special moments in your life.

2012 Doña Paula “Black Edition” red blend, Mendoza, Argentina ($18)
Take a virtual trip to South America for less than $20 with this stupendous buy. Like tango dancers that pair tension with drama, the Black Edition is a red for lovers of sultry blends. Made with a marriage of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon & Petite Verdot, it has enough structure to age up to five years, but is appealingly smooth and ready to drink now. It partners well with hearty dishes like grilled steak or Portobello mushrooms. Stock up and toast me when you open a bottle.

Cheers!!

Ashton-Keefe

LEMON & SALT: A MODERN GIRL’S GUIDE TO CULINARY REVELRY – An Interview with Ashton Keefe

 

Ashton-KeefeIf you don’t know Ashton Keefe, you are MISSING OUT. A classically-trained chef who is passionate about all things food, she has spent years cooking, baking, teaching and inspiring people with her love of the culinary arts. Throughout her career she has worked with some of the most recognized chef-personalities in the world, Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri and Curtis Stone to name a few.

I am personally lucky to count Ashton as a friend who came to me years ago as the editor of ThirstyGirl.com. Now I couldn’t be happier to announce the launch of her first cookbook, LEMON & SALT: A MODERN GIRL’S GUIDE TO CULINARY REVELRY. In honor of this incredible achievement, we sat down with her to ask a few questions about her life, her new book and her love of food and drink.

When did you decide that food and wine were going to be your passion?

There wasn’t a particular moment, it felt like it was always just going to be the plan. My family was big into food and I worked in the catering world throughout high school and college. The decision to become a chef vs. being in hospitality took some thought – but again, not much. I’m a big believer that if you don’t have a Plan B, you won’t use it. 

What was the inspiration for your cookbook?

The inspiration came from a pretty funny reason – I was tired of being everyone’s “chef” friend. I was noticing that not only my friends, but women in my classes loved great food but were intimidated or simply not cooking at home. When I think back to the “why” I got into food it was because of those meals at home, simple home cooking and entertaining. I wanted to teach that type of cuisine to a generation only used to eating out! 

Do you pick the wine or the food first when planning a menu with friends? 

I’d love to say one or the other but I think it depends on the friends. It sounds funny! In my mind the most important part of entertaining is serving what your guests want, even if it doesn’t technically pair well with what you’re serving. Any type of beverage that you want to drink with the meal is the drink that pairs best. It just is! When I cook at home for me, it often depends on what season it is. During the summer I gravitate towards lighter reds, rosés and whites to pair with grilled meats or vegetable forwards entrees. During the winter, I crave warm comforting and big reds. To keep me warm, obviously. 

Best advice you could give someone picking up your cookbook for the first time with no culinary experience?

In short … YOU CAN DO IT! Even if you make mistakes, there is always wine. Here are my tips for culinary revelry. http://www.ashtonkeefe.com/blog/the-countdown-begins-1-week-until-lemon-salt

What’s your go-to drink when you hit the bar? 

That’s like asking what’s my favorite food! I did train at the Leslie Sbrocco school of wine and beverages, so you can never go wrong with pink, bubbles or … pink bubbles. I also love a really cold beer and a great burger. 

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Want to get your copy of LEMON & SALT: A MODERN GIRL’S GUIDE TO CULINARY REVELRY?

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Get your Digital Download – Lemon&Salt or Hard Copy Here!

Celebrated New York based chef and culinary instructor Ashton Keefe identifies and solves the problem: why aren’t millennial females foodies cooking? Tired of being everyone’s chef friend, Ashton found her girlfriends and students were talking, writing, blogging and eating food – but not cooking. Why weren’t they cooking? This isn’t your grandmother’s cookbook. 

Ashton teaches simple techniques used by chefs in home kitchens to help a generation of girls define their everyday celebrations (brunch, date night, tailgating) in a use-what-you-have mentality. Simple, well-prepared food is delicious because of two things: acid and salt. That’s all you need.  That, and maybe a glass of wine. 

50+ approachable recipes with minimal ingredients and equipment with pictures for each recipe. This book is durable enough to handle heavy use in the kitchen but pretty enough for a coffee table.

“Ashton Keefe’s recipes are not only delicious but super fun and accessible for any aspiring culinary enthusiast. “Lemon & Salt” is sure to become a kitchen staple for many!” – Lauren Bush Lauren, Found and CEO of FEED Projects