Last week I spoke about the Capozzi Winery's virtual vineyard project in Second Life. A lot of people asked for more information about this. I reached out to Josh Hermsmeyer, President of the Capozzi Winery, who agreed to this interview. This is the first interview I've put on this forum, so I'm pretty excited. Thanks very much Josh:
Can you start by telling us a little about your real world winery?
Our real world vineyard is located in the Russian River Valley. We have 17 acres planted to 4 clones of pinot noir on the Laguna Ridge located right in the center of the AVA. Our winery is still being designed and permits are still being issued. We plan on breaking ground on the winery next spring. In the meantime we're producing our first vintage at a custom crush facility later this year using the best of our estate fruit.
What do you see Second Life and simVineyard as?
The Second Life (SL) project is an experiment in online marketing. Along with the blog, it serves as a kind of a stake in the ground that helps to define us in the marketplace and set us apart from pack. In the ultra competitive wine business that's not an easy thing to do.
The SL project is also an interesting way to help folks who frequent the game to learn a bit about the wine production process in a way that's hopefully both fun and addictive. The player will be presented with a series of choices ranging from the percentage of stems to leave in the must, to the type of yeast and oak to use when crafting their wine. Each decision will affect the wine's quality and at the end of the process a "Farker score" will be awarded.
If you've ever played a massively multiplayer game like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online and tried your hand at crafting, you'll be familiar with the concept and hopefully also have some fun attempting to create a perfect 100 point wine. It's designed to be challenging.
There's also some hope that folks might use the tasting room we've built to check out the wines we will have for sale in the near future. There will be links embedded in terminals in the SL tasting room that will allow visitors to purchase wine directly from our website if they decide they'd like to find out for themselves what our pinot actually tastes like.
What led you to starting simVineyard?
Around August of last year I stumbled upon American Apparel's island and thought it was an extremely cool way to experience a brand. It got me thinking of how we might be able to do something similar to build our brand awareness. While I don't think AA's island is interactive enough to keep most visitor's interested for long, they did set the bar by being one of the first companies to create a presence in SL.
What do you hope to gain from having a presence in Second Life?
This kind of overlaps with question 2, but what I expect we will gain is a bit of PR and hopefully some goodwill from the community for providing a pretty cool experience. We've built a wedding arch and a stage to host performances in the middle of the vineyard, and our hope is that SL residents will find these useful enough that they will spend some time there enjoying them. I have to be honest however: the odds are pretty long. To date the SL community hasn't taken well to commercial ventures. It's a pretty big gamble.
How do you plan on integrating the on- and offline- worlds?
We have no immediate plans to integrate the two other than via the in-game link to our winery website. That may change in the future depending on how things go.
Second Life has gotten some bad press for its sexual content, and many companies there have had a hard time getting the SL community to accept them, how will simVineyard be different?
That's really the million dollar question. I'm not too concerned about the sexual content - there's plenty of content on the web that puts most of what you can find in SL to shame (or so I've heard). As you astutely point out however, most residents have greeted commercial efforts in SL with a collective shrug of the shoulders.
Ultimately my hope is that the wine crafting game will be interesting enough to draw some traffic, but much will depend on just how a commercial winery on an island (which some residents tend to shun as the exclusive provence of slick marketers) ends up being perceived by the residents. Can we convey our small size and artesian roots adequately?
I do think that actually being in-game when people visit will help quite a bit. Too often businesses build sims and then woefully under-staff them. It sends an inconsistent message about your commitment to the SL community.
Between this and your blog (pinotblogger.com) youre seen as a very early adopter in the wine industry, what advice do you have for wineries that are skeptical of such technologies?
I wouldn't think I'm in any position to give established wineries advice of any kind. From their point of view it's perfectly rational to let folks like me, with little to lose, take the risks in unproven media. In fact for some wineries it is probably wholly inappropriate for them to either blog or fool around with their brands via platforms like SL. There's just too much downside if you get it wrong.
There is also a pretty good chance that SL won't come close to living up to the hype it has generated. In fact, it's probable. However I think that both blogging and the 3D internet (of which SL is just one player, much like AOL was in the early days of the world wide web) are here to stay and will continue to increase in importance. If that's true, Capozzi should enjoy an advantage by virtue of our experience and early forays into these new media.
How that will translate into actual sales, we'll just have to see.
Interview with Pinotblogger and simVineyard
- Reply by amour, Jan 21, 2010.
I AM BRINGING THIS TO THE FORE
specifically to assist the person who is
seeking ideas on the future of wine.
The role of modern technology in all
aspects of wine is increasing as well as fascinating !