I have repeatedly given kudos to the Wine Road organization – in my opinion one of the leaders in Wine AVA marketing, innovation, and social media integration. Despite the economic downturn, their events continue to sell out and show year over year growth, no small feat in these last few years. Beth Costa, the Executive Director embraces tools and media, old and new, giving their 190 members a voice that is consistently heard.
The Vision of the App – More Timely, Updated Information in the Hands of Consumers
Launching an AVA (region based) wine app isn't new. But bleeding edge isn't always leading edge and early release of an app that has minimal value in today's crowded world of iPhone apps means you risk losing attention after a poor first impression. The Wine Road app is a great example of 'measure twice, cut once.' Premature launch can be the death of a product or concept.
Beth said she is thrilled to finally have this option to tell guests about when they are planning to visit the Wine Road.
Historically we have been known for our printed winery map, but in the past few years more and more travelers rely on their phone for directions and information. We are also seeing more last minute travelers, who don’t have time to order a map in advance. We needed to address the changing needs of our guests and this app hit it right on the head. The Twitter feed is also a great way for folks to join in the conversation with all of our winery and lodging members and I know customers are going to appreciate our Wine 101.
Getting It Right
This app gets it right in a several key functional themes.
First – much of the reference information is available without Internet access. This is critical as Internet access, via phone or WiFi, is not assured when in many wine regions, and Wine Road has its dead pockets, just like any other. (Although I can't encourage wineries enough to put WiFi in their tasting rooms.) North Sonoma is full of small, non palace wineries, off the beaten track.
A online only map to your next location,or a directory, isn't a lot of good if you don't have 3G access on your phone. Yes, even Verizon has pockets of spotty coverage.
This core benefit isn't by accident, the developer is Darwin 3D, the brilliant husband and wife team who have designed apps for Hospice du Rhone and Paso Robles to name a few. The former being the best based event app I have used, the latter representative of a wine region who has a fair number of wineries who also have no 3G coverage.
Sorting and filtering is a another key feature. In the first release you can tell the app to filter by the 5 'regions' in the Wine Road maps. (Russian River, Dry Creek, etc.) Thus you can tell the app to only show you the venues in say, Healdsburg. In the second phase, due shortly additional criteria will allow for very specific information filtering, such as varietal, picnic areas, tours and more.
Mapping – Online & Offline
When you open the app, it immediately wants to know your geographic location, and requests permission. This allows the app to hone in on wineries close to you. You can of course over ride this, and choose between maps one of two ways: (1) Google based maps or (2) Wine Road Maps (offline) by clicking the 3rd button 'Maps.'
This can actually be used if offline, but it's best functionality is when connected. Like many iPhone apps, you can 'pinch' with two fingers to zoom in and out. In my opinion the best 'wired' mapping integration comes from clicking the second button 'Wineries' then “Distance' and then a list, in order of distance from you, is displayed. You can then click a winery and see all its details. Then you can click on its address, and go to the Google Maps app, which will give you turn by turn driving directions. (Note, do not drive and do this. Its obviously not safe, and if witnessed by the law, comes with a big fine, even at a stop light.)order diflucan
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Key iPhone app direction tip: If the list of wineries by location close to you is wrong, your iPhone needs a map 'nudge'. This happens frequently in my experience with any location based app. To fix it, launch the Mapss app that came pre-installed, and let it triangulate your location. If THAT needs a nudge, click the tiny arrow in the lower left of screen.
Offline Wine Road Maps
If you touch 'Mapss' then 'Wine Road Maps' you now have the ability to view the same maps as on the Wine Road website and printed map, with the very latest updates and new members. It starts with the overall view, which is good only for reference. Too see wineries, you left and right scroll, and choose between the various sub maps like Dry Creek, Russian River, Healdsburg. You can then pinch to zoom in and out as desired.
The last button of the app, Settings, allows you to filter wineries, restaurants and lodging by the 5 Wine Road sub regions. Simple touch which ones you want in or out, and thats all you will see. Very useful to unclutter the app and just focus in on where you are. As mentioned earlier, the next release will expand upon this theme greatly.
Other Key Features
If you start at the home page of the app, you can see a number of features. Some, (the Buy Tickets, Book a Room, and WineRoadWine101 buttons) launch to external website. Others are completely integrated such as Lodging, which like wineries supports and lists lodging by distance and region; and Concierge, which does the same for restaurants. There is some basic Twitter integration in Phase 1 (you must first authenticate the app) with more coming in Phase 2 and beyond.
Phase Two of the App, and Shiny New Wine Road Website – Coming Soon
Targeted for mid July the Wine Road is gearing up for a major new website update. Substantial effort has gone into redesign to clean up the look of the new site and really focus on the pages that customers use frequently: events, maps and the videos.
One of the new features will be a “Wine Road on the Road” link where wineries will be able to post all of the special tastings they are participating in throughout the country. If you live in Phoenix and can’t get to here, you can see who will be pouring in YOUR area.
The site will offer an expanded photo gallery, more videos and every member will have links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Wine Road also wanted to make it as easy as possible for visitors to share any and all pages with their friends, so they have included “share this” buttons on most pages, and have updated to Google maps.
Other useful features like lists of new wine releases and an easy to use “book a room” feature with Wine Road lodging members.
iPhone App Phase Two
The new web site release then triggers Phase 2 of the iPhone app which will offer more search features for the wineries, such as varietals, tours, wineries with picnic areas, and their tasting fee structure. Annual event information streamlined along with their full event calendar and a small version of our photo gallery… so you can see what you are missing, if you’re not here along the Wine Road. New members, events, release etc will be updated in real time - every time they update the website, it will automatically update the information on the app!
Download the App – Its Free – and Give it a Whirl
You can search in the iTunes store for Wine Road or simply click here. Don't forget these work on iPad and iPod Touch as well!
I am pleased to have been able to personally help with its progress and criteria. Wine Road Executive Director, Beth Costa reached out to me for input for suggestions and design criteria, knowing my technology background, combined with my social media and marketing integration focus. The Wine Road and its members are dear to my heart, and after using too many Wine apps that didn't hit the mark, I was happy to assist. I think the end result is excellent, and Phase 2, only weeks away, even better.
Please feel free to post comments, questions, and suggestions here. Thanks for reading – and if you find the article useful, take a second to share it with your Facebook and Twitter friends, cheers!