Mid-Columbia wineries take sales online

Ingrid Stegemoeller, Herald staff writerJune 29, 2009 

BENTON CITY -- When Jane and Larry Pearson of Tapteil Vineyard and Winery on Red Mountain were looking to start selling their wine online a couple years ago, a solution came knocking at their door.

Partners in the Walla Walla company Vineyard2Door visited the winery and demonstrated their new e-commerce software. The Pearsons were sold.

"It needed to be simple and easy to use," for the winery owners and their customers, Jane Pearson said. "They had exactly what we were looking for."

About 40 wineries and two schools now use V2D's e-commerce software, which provides a shopping cart feature on wineries' websites, as well as tools to manage wine club members, order reports and up-to-date maps and information about interstate shipping rules.

And consumers are able to shop for the wines of participating wineries on the V2D website.

The now 2-year-old company also has developed software and hardware to help wineries manage tasting room sales, inventory, transactions with wholesalers and distributors and more, said Gary Robertson, the company's founder and president.

Robertson spent 18 years in the wine industry before starting the company to address the need he saw for small wineries to be able to better market and sell their wines to consumers while paying less of their profits to distributors.

He wanted to automate the tricky shipping laws wineries have to follow -- different states have different regulations for alcohol -- and create a user-friendly online shopping cart.

Robertson also saw a need to streamline the numerous databases wineries keep, such as inventory, wine club members, shipping licenses and more.

"The idea is that every sale is performed through one system," he said, which makes for an easier time when the auditors visit. "It was built on the shoulders of what everyone said we should do."

When shoppers visit Tapteil's website and click the "Buy Now" button, they're directed to a site that looks like it belongs to the winery but actually is a V2D site.

Winery owners are able to enter information of their choosing about the wines, states they ship to, awards, prices and more, Robertson said.

And because he spends a good amount of time on the road talking with clients and potential clients, he's constantly seeking to upgrade and improve his product.

Next up is developing management tools for wineries to track grapes and production, Robertson said, as well as a call center to help wineries stay in better touch with their customers.

He also wants to create software for vineyards to track records such as fertilizer applications.

"I thought we were going to stop at e-commerce, but the need reared its head so fast and we had to react," Robertson said.

The economy has slowed the company's growth somewhat because wineries are not as willing to spend money on the new system, he said.

But he's banking on V2D's comprehensive products and the fact that they were developed specifically to address issues smaller wineries face in selling their wines.

Jane Pearson said the U.S. map with shipping laws for each state is very helpful, as are the monthly summary reports of sales.

"There's just a lot of really nice features," she said.

For more information, go to www.vineyard 2door.com.

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