"There’s a new app in the Bay State and it just might be revolutionary in its concept. Red White Boston is designed to bring retailers’ personal picks right to the consumer’s smartphone before they’ve even entered the store..."
Those are the first lines in yesterday's article about the Red White Boston app and, let me tell you, we're glad they noticed!
Check out the full story here.
It was a simple request. Tell me, I asked you, what beers you would recommend to me knowing that:
- I am a dedicated wine lover, and
- I am completely open to trying new beverages, and
- For whatever reason BEERS are tasting really good to me these days!
I asked -- over email, Twitter, e-newsletters, in person, etc.
And here's Your List of Beers for a Wine Lover.
(Which I'll be taking with me, btw, to Bukowski's tonight with @ancientfirewine. Join us!)
JK’s Scrumpy Cider
ST Crème Brulee Stout
Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
Duchesse de Bourgogne
La Fin du Monde
Dieu du Ciel Rosé d’Hibiscus
Pretty Beer Jack d’Or
Pretty Beer Fieldmouse’s Farewell
Brooklyn Brewing; Sirachi Ace, Local 1, Local 2
Unibroue Éphemere apple, Belgian Style White Ale
Blueberry Ale at the Salem Beer Works
Sam Adams Triple Bock
Skinner Inc. will host their Fine Wines auction on Tuesday night, November 2, in their gallery at Boston's Park Plaza. Held in partnership with the Lower Falls Walls Co. of Newton Lower Falls, Skinner welcomes first-time auction attendees as well as seasoned bidders.
I asked Marie Keep, auctioneer and Skinner's Fine Wine specialist, to help me get the lay of the land.
RWB: You’ve seen an uptick recently in your business of auctioning fine wine. What do you think is driving that?
MARIE KEEP: One reason is that there are more people who are simply aware that we’re here doing this. When you build any business, you have to really let people know you’re here, you’re doing it, and you can be relied upon to do it. That’s happening now. Clients that have been there since the beginning tell their friends. We also advertise internationally and clients come to us that way. When you’re buying wine you have to make sure you trust the person who’s vetting it. Plus we’re here [in Boston] so there isn’t the stress of taking the wine to New York or shipping it somewhere.
RWB: Why is there more wine available at auction now than there was before?
MARIE KEEP: The quality and quantity of what I’ve been able to see this time around has really taken my breath away. People are also buying in more volume now, domestically and internationally. The economy has recovered to a certain extent, especially in the world of wine. Investment-quality wines have reached pre-recession levels, and people see that it’s a very good opportunity to buy.
RWB: Why is there so much auction-worthy wine within New England itself?
MARIE KEEP: People here are very wine savvy. They may have participated in auction in the past, in London, New York, Hong Kong, or San Francisco. Now Skinner is a real, viable, strong option locally. A lot of people never really considered auctioning their wine before because it was so difficult logistically. You need to get in touch, you need to ship it, you need to know what to do if it doesn’t sell. In New England there are families who have been collecting for generation, and a lot of wines have been stored for decades. That’s exactly the kind of wine we love to see and buyers love to see – wines that have been stored correctly, and that haven’t passed through too many different hands.
RWB: Tell me about wine as a way to diversify an investment portfolio.
MARIE KEEP: You don’t want to choose just one way of investing your money. The return on wine is one of the stronger returns you can have. You have to choose carefully, in investment-grade wines like classified Bordeaux or finer Burgundies. You want to pay attention to barrel tastings, to what critics are saying about it, and perhaps you walk in at a futures price. You’re investing in the belief that the wine is going to be glorious when it comes into its own. That’s a minimum of five to seven years before you’d want to turn it around again. Auction is really the way to go with investment wines because you’re realizing the market value on that day in the worldwide marketplace. You put in only as much money as you can afford to lose, but unlike other investments where you can lose your money totally and have nothing left to show for it, with wine you still have the collection. Chances are that the market will come back, and you’ll still have the wine. It’s an investment in something tangible. Wine is an evolving, beautiful thing and it has a future. It’s a more personal investment that is made to some people’s tastes and lifestyles.
RWB: How can a buyer prepare for the auction? What factors can help them decide what to buy?
MARIE KEEP: You have to know your palate. Know how the wine is drinking. Know the country, the vintage, the varietals you’re interested in. Search the index to see what’s in the book. Turn to the lot, description, where there’s often a critic’s note in it. Consult any number of wine reference books. Find out what people are saying about the wine’s longevity, it’s peaking, how it’s drinking right now. Put it into the context of your own home life and social life. Each of those lots becomes highly personalized when you’re looking at it through the prism of so many different criteria.
RWB: How will the opinions of new-media journalists influence the value of wines at auction?
MARIE KEEP: There are wine critics who are devoted to certain areas of the world – like Alan Meadows in Burgundy and Robert Parker in Bordeaux – who simply cannot be ignored. They are influential and respected. Opinions vary, but they’ve ridden to prominence for many good reasons. They’ve tasted an incredible number and range of good wines, and they provide a structure of criticism. Critics among the younger population, who are starting their careers in wine and have a really participatory following, have their place too.
RWB: When you look out to the audience on Tuesday night, what is the profile you’ll expect to see?
MARIE KEEP: All different faces and ages, both men and women. You tend to be able to slot their comfort level. Some have catalog ready, they’ve made notes and come prepared. Some are new and are taking notes on what other lots are selling for, because they’re trying to figure it out. They may just be watching, they may be buying the dinner party lots at the end because they want to stretch their dollar. Some people are buying for investment, and some people are buying for their needs. For every holiday, for example, between now and the first of January. We welcome that mixed group! Come, enjoy yourself, see the bidding, participate if you’re so moved. There’s a bottle for everybody at auction.
We are furiously working on the next release. I wanted to put out a few lines to keep you folks updated on developments behind the curtain -
1. The iPhone app update is currently with Apple. We expect to have it approved in the next week or so. Users will be able to download this app to their iPods too! It also includes some minor enhancements such as inclusion of store Twitter and Facebook links. This functionality is already out there on the mobile HTML and also on the website. We also fixed a few bugs (yep.. even stellar programmers like us do get bugs now and then ;)
2. Currently we are working on the ability for users to be able to add their own public comments for a particular wine. It seems like wine lovers have some strong opinions and we would love to see some good conversations! We are planning for this functionality to go out in v2.0 of the app.
3. We are adding stores almost everyday and its exciting to see people participating and the word getting out there.
Now for some technical thoughts - Implementing the comments functionality turns out to be more complicated than we thought cuz it requires implementing authentication aka login. Of course, we have a responsibility to our users once we start storing passwords (encrypted of course!). Alongwith that, comes the need to make the site SSL enabled. We found out some pretty interesting things about certificates. A single domain certificate is way cheaper than a wildcarded cert. Turns out that we are going to require the wildcarded. I have no idea why the wildcarded ones are so expensive. There is definitely no overhead of maintaining a wildcarded certificate. Its not like they have to spend x more hours on a wildcarded cert! Seems like another case of taking advantage of monopoly! Anyways, thats my rant for the day.
If any of the readers have some suggestions on using certs which might save us some money, please let us know (I might be able to convince Cathy to gift you a bottle of fine wine in return :0)
You came last night to Sonsie on Newbury Street to learn about the Red White Boston app for smartphones, and I am very glad that you did.
You came to learn -- I hope that you did! -- but I have a confession.
So did I.
I came to learn about you.
More specifically, I came to learn what this app can mean to you. How it can help you. How you will use it. How you'll take its functionality and apply it to your life.
Here's what I learned.
That you are generous with your ideas and your questions.
That, once I explained what the app is meant to do, you immediately took the idea and put it into your own context.
You saw the potential of tailoring it to your own experience, whether that's getting around the North End or adding music or wanting to know the very best person to talk to in each store.
That is, perhaps, what I love most about this app. That you can personalize it. That its tools are designed to help you take this huge subject -- wine -- and make it personally relevant. That it will, ultimately, lead you to great wines in great stores all over Boston that have great stories to tell.
Thank you for helping me to crystallize this thought in my head. It will help the RWB team improve what we do. I promise.
A few weeks ago a colleague of mine at the Boston Bruins asked me to look into a few gifts of wine for the three players who spoke at the State of the Bruins event -- Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Mark Recchi.
At that event someone asked Recchi his secret to success at age 42. Recchi's answer? That he drinks red wine.
(I knew there was something I always liked about that guy.)
So that's the info I took with me to Federal Wine & Spirits on State Street in Boston, to see about the gifts of wine. Off the top of his head, Len Rothenberg (Federal's owner who is widely acknowledged as one of the best wine merchants in the country) suggested a 1968 Louis Martini Reserve Cab from Napa. Why? If Recchi's 42, then 1968's the year of his birth, and 1968 also happens to have been the vintage of the decade in California.
Rothenberg's other idea for Recchi was the top wine from an estate in Australia called Caesler, whose best wine is called Old Bastard.
As for the bottles of wine for the other players, maybe a 1999 or 2000 Ceretto (essentially a reserve-level Barolo), a 1984 Chateau Montelena from Napa, and a 2007 Sine Qua Non in Syrah or Grenache.
None of which, to put it mildly, would be bad choices.
But here was the kicker. I learned from Federal about a man who works for the city of Boston, very salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, who comes to the store every time the Canadiens are in town to buy a $100 bottle of wine -- always something French -- for one of the players on the Canadiens. Someone (?) gives this guy the tickets to the game, and he gives them wine, mostly Bordeaux and some Burgundy. As a result Federal has become a resource for other Canadiens players, who end up liking the wine the Boston guy brings in and ask him to get them more to take home.
Which Federal, of course, is glad to do and I, naturally, am glad to know about. It's one of those stories that just makes me shake my head.
I love this town.
We complete our first full week of deployment and it has been fun and tiring at the same time. Its a great feeling to build something that people are using and finding valuable. And this is just the beginning! We have grand plans.
Through this blog, I would like to keep sharing with you the 'behind-the-scenes' picture of RedWhiteBoston. Be warned ... some of the posts may get very technical. I can't help it. I am a techie ;-)
SO, we have had multiple requests from stores asking for Facebook links, Twitter links, links to their blogs etc. We thought that this might be quite useful for the consumers to have this information in one place. So, we decided to give our store partners the flexibility to define any 3 URLs of their choice. Also, they can change these URLs at their own convenience if they so choose to. This change was pushed out yesterday. So you should be able to see this change on the website and mobile browsers.
For those with the iPhone app, the update (1.1.0) will be pushed out soon (its with Apple right now waiting for approval). Your phones should prompt you for an update once the update has been approved by Apple. Its definitely a bit annoying that Apple gods have to approve every single application update and it takes a good amount of time before the update becomes available to users.
The store details design has a changed a bit. Let us know whether this design works for you! Talking about feedback, I would also like to tell you about this neat little tool that we found to capture your ideas and opinions. We will be linking our website to this tool. You can find it at http://redwhiteboston.uservoice.com. Its pretty nice since you can also vote on other's ideas. Check it out and let the creative juices start flowing.
I would also like to share some tips and tricks on some of the application features that may not be readily apparent. So today's tip - If you have the iPhone app, and you are looking at the details on a particular wine, tap the wine label to zoom into the label picture. This will let you see the label a bit more clearly!
More soon...so stay tuned!
Andrea at Andover Liquors sent us this picture of a RWB shelf talker -
Is that cool or what! We want to see more of these out there in the stores. Also, folks, if you like the app and what we are doing, please go in and give us a good rating on iTunes. It helps! Really!
We already have a bunch of enhancement requests coming in and our goal in life right now, is to make sure we incorporate as many as we can, as fast as we can. We want our customers to be HAPPY!
I could go on writing a whole bunch, but right now, we need to go figure out our 'API versioning' challenge. If anyone out there is curious what that means, leave me a comment and I will explain in my next post. I have been kinda debating whether to share my techie musings on here. If there are sufficient geeks out there who would like to jam, let us know. We are always up for it!
The response has been terrific! Thanks to you all! Many more stores joining in and showcasing their wines...users downloading and using the app actively, and yes, the servers are humming! Sweeeet! We like that!
BTW - we are working furiously on the next set of features. So, we think that users, in addition to rating the wine, are also going to want to share their opinions about the wines and stores right within the app itself. More importantly, I as a user, would love to see what other people had to say about the wine before I buy that bottle of Cab, and then come back and share my thoughts!
So .... we are designing the best way for our users to rate the wine AND put in a few comments about their experience with the wine. That way the system can calculate and show which wines are getting the most attention and high ratings.
An interesting experiment, don't you think?
Let us know know if this sounds fun! Have other fun ideas that our community might enjoy? Want to share?
Almost forgot - we are pushing some changes tonight that will let non-iPhone app users also rate wines by clicking on those rating stars...just like on the iPhone app. Enjoy!
Just in case, the URL to the mobile app (Android, Blackberry etc.) - http://mobile.theredwhiteboston.com
(BTW - I am one of the developers on the app) Excited to have our app out there for folks to enjoy! We have been working diligently (countless late hours and weekends) to bring this concept to the market.
So I had a tiny scare this morning. Got up around 5am (could barely sleep) and loaded up the App Store on my phone. And there it was, the Red White Boston app! I installed it on the phone directly from the App store on the iPhone and gave it a spin! What do you know! The thing would not bring up any stores! It was like the iPhone would not let the app use the GPS. I felt doomed! It had worked flawlessly in testing. Anyways, hunkered down to figure out a way to make it work.
It was a relief to find out that the app worked when downloading from iTunes. So hopefully it would work for most people. Whew!
Later while doing more research on Apple's developer website, I found out that this was really an App Store bug. To fix it the users had to navigate to General Settings->Reset->Reset Location Warnings. This did the trick! So much for robust technology!!!
Anyways, makes life interesting! So hopefully those of you that decide to directly download the app from the app store see this blog entry.
Lots more coming! We need your feedback and support! Keep it coming!