Recent studies have shown that wine consumption in the United States has reached an all time high, surpassing one of the country’ s favorite beverages, beer.
Meet Michael Osborn, the man behind Wine.com, a leader in America’s on- line wine retailer, shipping 14,000 labels and more than two million bottles of wine a year. “There’s not a country from which we don’t have wine,” said Jim Osborn, Michael’s father and warehouse manager.
Thirty-three year old Osborn is a shining example of how wine can be sold in the 21st century.
Osborn’s philosophy is to “combine merchandising and technology” to create a unique shopping experience.
As a consumer, buying wine can be intimidating. Wine retailers were not very modern,” said Osborn. Osborn brought wine selection into America’s homes. At Wine.com shoppers can browse on their own terms arranging wines by type, region, winery or price. Wine.com’s goal is to provide customers with the opportunity to “learn about wine in an environment that is not pretentious and intimidating.”
This is a change from the old way of selling wine.” You don’t need to pull out your decoder ring to figure out what you are buying,” said Osborn.
Wine.com’s website offers a complete wine education, features winemakers notes, suggested food parings and all the major ratings, and reviews as well as consumer reviews that they solicit from their own customers.
Shoppers can become members of wine clubs with names like “Big Bold Reds” and “Wine Odyssey” and “Sideways” – named after the popular 2004 Hollywood release about a tour through the wine country. Even Rocco DiSpirito – a celebrity chef from New York has a club named after him.
Osborn, a veteran of California’s Silicon Valley’s software industry with a passion for good food and wine brought his talents to the wine industry the winter of 1998 when he opened EVineyards.com in Portland, Oregon. In 2000, Osborn bought Wine.com, another on-line retailer going out of business and merged the two businesses under the more user friendly name Wine.com.
Today, the privately owned company has over 100 employees and 20 warehouses throughout the United States, its biggest in the San Francisco Bay Area where the company is headquartered. Each state within the U.S. has its own regulations for the sale of alcohol. Some states do not allow residents to purchase alcohol from outside their borders. Wine.com has 20 warehouses throughout the United States in order to do business in these states.
“Wine is usually not stored for more than a week or two at Wine.com’s facilities”, said Jim Osborn. The company works with an extensive network of wine distributors and serves as a clearinghouse for the beverage.
During hot summer months Jim Osborn packs ice packs around the bottles before shipping purchases off to blistering locales.
In 2004 Wine.com acquired A.K.A Gourmet, a gift basket business, which brought a new dimension to Wine.com’s business. Baskets feature a variety of goodies including wine and complimentary foods. These baskets have become popular in corporate America and are now making up a big chunk of their business.
Osborn and company are always on the look out for a good deal. “Our customers like exceptional values that make your socks roll up and down,” said Osborn. Wine.com’s customers are currently drinking a lot of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Osborn himself is partial to Pinot Noir and Champagne. “Every meal is better when you start with a little bubbly.”
Wine.com website is at http://www.wine.com
Text by Mimi Rohr