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SPOTLIGHT: Whither Vintner? Web Site Uses Google Mapping To Inform Wine Customers’ Palates

By | April 30, 2007

      Similar to the real-estate cliche about location, in winemaking, too, "locality is everything," says Eric Quanstrom of Appellation America.

      His San Francisco-based company and its Web site,, aim to reinforce the point by making available to consumers of all stripe satellite maps of some 3,400 wineries throughout North America.

      Utilizing Google Maps technology, and after a year of programming, Appellation America placed satellite imagery on each of its winery pages online ( with the aim of bringing wine lovers virtually closer to vintners by showing where grapes and grown and wines are made.

      Quanstrom said the online feature is one step toward the company’s goal of becoming a premier Internet site for wine enthusiasts and members of the industry. The director of sales and marketing explained that "our big thing, from our very name on down, is that we’re really big on place. Every winery that we know exists has a winery page onsite that has a Google map showing their precise place. It allows users to dial into where wine is from." He explained that "the [American Viticultural Areas] in Napa Valley have 16 areas, all strictly defined as distinctly different, one from another. And those characteristics are hugely important to what comes out the other end. Those are interesting and relevant and topical."

      That said, "we think that making sense of the wine world is easiest done by linking it to place," he said. "Whether people are wine consumers or not, Napa Valley conjures an image to them, and more often than not that has to do with wine. It harkens back to the European tradition that location is everything, even above [a] varietal. Place is only one aspect, but characteristics to that are kind of unchanging, and the wines that come from that place are a reflection of that. Our mission is to take [that notion of] place and create mindshare to give people something to talk about."

      Thus customers are invited to virtually drop in on the mountaintop plantings at Ridge Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, scheme to visit Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley, see the Long Island vines surrounding New York’s Pellegrini Vineyards or head upstate to flip through the labels along the Finger Lakes.

      "It’s mainly instructive," said Quanstrom. "It’s a centering device more than anything else. Google is almost eerie in that respect. The technology really gives a sense of place." He said since the company launched the Google Maps application last summer, "The feedback has been outstanding. It drives our readership as a portal for information and value."

      And there’s some pretty good wine, too.

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