Spotlight: CellarPass Provides Online Guide for Wine Lovers

cellarpass wine

A visit to wine country is normally meant to be a relaxing getaway. But waiting in all those lines and scrambling for last minute reservations at the most popular wineries can ruin those plans.

That’s where CellarPass comes in. The online platform and its accompanying iOS app allow visitors to book reservations and buy tickets to various wineries and tasting events. In addition, wineries can use the CellarPass platform to increase their reach and make it easier for their guests to plan trips. Read more about CellarPass in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does:

Provides an online and mobile platform for winery visitors to buy tickets and book reservations.

People can use the service to search for winery events in a particular area. Or they can just browse for various wineries to visit and book reservations or buy tickets right on the site.

CellarPass offers a few different plans for individuals and wineries, including free options and those that come with a monthly fee. Depending on the plan, the company also charges a small fee for each reservation.

Business Niche:

Featuring only the best and most popular destinations.

Unlike some other services, CellarPass hand selects all of the wineries it features. It then continues to secret shop each of its selected wineries to make sure they continue to live up to the company’s standards.

cellarpass events

How the Business Got Started:

Because of consumer demand.

The small CellarPass team originally came up with the idea for the reservation and ticketing platform back in 2006. They tested the idea with a few select wineries and decided that it was a bit ahead of its time. A few years later though, consumer demand for an online and mobile reservation and ticketing platform had risen.

Jonathan Elliman, founder of CellarPass says:

“We delayed the official launch to early 2012 when the consumer demand was so high, wineries could no longer ignore the service.”

Biggest Risk:

Rewriting the entire platform from scratch.

In late 2013, Elliman and the CellarPass team decided to invest in some improvements to the platform’s interface. Had the new platform not lived up to their expectations, it could have easily bankrupted the business. Elliman says:

“We’re glad to say that when we launched CellarPass v2 in June 2014, our clients applauded the new version which provided a brand-new interface and new tools on how to provide a new foundation for future releases of the platform. If it went wrong, we could have easily lost all of our clients due to programming errors, design issues or lost data during the migration process.”

cellarpass event

Lesson Learned:

Focus more on ticketing.

Elliman explains:

“Since CellarPass offers a reservations platform and a ticketing platform as one service, if we were to rethink our launch, we would have launched the ticketing side of the platform first. It offers the most opportunity since not all wineries across the U.S. require reservations, but every one of them throws at least two to three events a year.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000:

Compensating the company’s hardworking team.

Elliman says:

“Being a self-funded startup, I think I would give myself a small salary and a raise to all of our employees because without them, CellarPass wouldn’t exist.”

cellarpass winery

Fun Team Activity:

“Research” Fridays.

Each Friday, the team at CellarPass goes out to various wineries recommended on the site. It’s a chance for them to make sure each one continues to live up to expectations. But it’s also a fun way to get out of the office and enjoy wine country. Elliman says:

“This is a great chance for some of our team members to get out, secret shop our destinations, get feedback from consumers and our wineries, and enjoy what wine country and our service has to offer.“

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.

5 Reactions
  1. Wow this is a heaven for wine and food enthusiasts. I am interested in this for I am always interested in the art of wine and food. It i9s so nice to know that they are trying to keep up the quality by secret shopping all the shops in their list.

    • I love wine and food too! I might have to plan a trip soon so I can take advantage of this service 😉

  2. This is a wine lover’s dream I should imagine. A CellarPass would also make for a great present for someone.

    I wish there was the chocolate equivalent of this.

  3. Is CellarPass available only the United States of America, or in other areas too?