The wine industry is like the music industry... before Tower Records went out of business.

You buy a bottle of wine not just for the product, but for the story behind the winery. Just like a teenage girl buys her music not only for the song, but to fuel her unrequited love for Justin Beiber. The store just happens to be the medium through which you procure the product; the brand association, obsession and identity is with the artist him/herself.

In the U.S., the vast majority of wine (over 90%) is sold by retailers. The winery sells the wine (indirectly) to retailers, who then sell it to consumers. In this triangle, the weakest connection is between the winery and the consumer, although it's the one that the consumer almost always wishes were stronger. The winery conveys passion, excitement and image, while many stores only convey price and accessibility.

For those few fortunate enough to visit a winery and witness the heart and soul that each winemaker pours into his or her wine, they end up hooked and loyal customers for years, if not decades. This is known, and it's why tasting rooms are generally so well-staffed and -appointed, and why domestic wineries sell more than a billion dollars via this channel annually.

Not everyone has the opportunity to go to Napa, or Tuscany, or Walla Walla, and for the rest of us, the only experience with wine is often intimidating, either through the "wall of wine" in a retailer, or via a snooty sommelier in a local restaurant.

The internet is, slowly, changing this, allowing wineries to interact and forge relationships directly with consumers. Through sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snooth and Yelp, wineries are able to build communities and interact directly with their most excited and loyal consumers, and to listen in return. These digital brand ambassadors are best positioned to extend your reach, and with the proper tools can be empowered to do so.  

Shrinking the gap between a winery and a consumer is powerful, and the internet presents the incredible opportunity of being able to do this at scale and cost effectively. Whether the goal is increased online sales, or just to drive consumers to know your brand and to ask for it in their local stores, the internet makes it possible for a winery to get its message to the buyer at the point of consideration.