Sommsation Champions Independent Wineries to New Audiences
The interactive wine tasting venture bridges the in-person experience with the ease of digital connectivity, and in the process is introducing people to lesser-known purveyors. Sommsation CEO Danielle Diliberti tells us about how the company is delivering the pleasures of wine country to people where they are.
Like a wine-tasting experience, the wine industry is complex and interactive.Winemakers and sommeliers bring to life something that is truly unique and ever-changing. For anyone who has ever experienced wine country, it’s magical. Thepandemic helped us think innovatively and we decided it was time to bring wine countryto wine enthusiasts wherever they are.
What are the special qualities that make Sommsation stand out from competitors in the space?
We have agrowing roster of award-winningwineries and our experiences are designed to discoverthe stories behind the wines. Sommsation’s sommeliers are experienced, entertaining,and will captivate the group. Our experiencesare specially curated to offer various stylesof wine such as sparkling, white, red, rose, or blends.
Additionally, many virtual wine tasting platforms offer their wines outside of the bottlein sample-size containers. We want our customers to enjoy the wines even after thetasting concludes, which is why we send each participant three full-sized bottles. We bring the winery tasting room to your table to enjoy anytime, anywhere.
What are the benefits to focusing on independent and lesser-known wineries?
Many people might find this surprising, but a majority of wineries in the UScannot be found on a restaurant wine list or on a store shelf. A big benefit is our ability to connect people in new ways to discover and experience thestories, histories, and cultures of the wineries, and ultimately taste something different every time our guests engage with Sommsation.
How many wineries do you work with and what does the wine selection process look like?
We take this part of our work very seriously. We currently offer almost 25 varietals on our site and are continually looking to bring on new winery partners that align with our mission and ideals. We have plans to bring on 25-30 more wineries over the next few months. Our sommeliers are continuously tasting and getting to know the wines and we build relationships with wineries that focus on quality, have a unique story to share, pride themselves on safe vineyard practices, and pay close attention to detail. We want to offer our customers intimate details typically only found in wine country or at the vineyards themselves.
What can someone expect when they book one of your experiences? Are there a few that stand out in your mind?
With Sommsation, not only do you gain access to spectacular wines but you are also getting personal time with a sommelier to make sure you are fully immersed in a true wine tasting. The most popular experiences are ones with a variety of different varietals, whether that’s a sparkling wine, a rose, or a sumptuous red from the likes of Halter Ranch in Paso Robles, California or ROCO Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
There’s also interest in more specialized offerings such as Pepper Bridge in Walla Walla, Washington, and Revana in Napa Valley, California, because you very rarely have access to that sort of tasting outside of visiting the winery in-person. At the end of the day, Sommsation’s goal is to share new access paths into the world of independent wineries and world-class sommeliers for really enjoyable experiences. We aim to make our experiences unique and personalized.
How many sommeliers do you work with and what are their backgrounds?
We currently work with over 20 Sommeliers who have a wide array of industry experience and backgrounds: world travelers, people with culinary degrees, guests on podcasts, published authors, etc. What they all have in common is a showmanship quality and the ability to connect with people and talk about wine in a way everyone can understand. They showcase their mastery while making the world of wine more inviting. It’s a delicate dance that we love to practice.
Did anything surprise you when you first tried the virtual wine tasting experience? What kind of groups have you been getting and what feedback have you received from your customers?
From our Lead Sommelier’s perspective, one of the most surprising things we’ve found ishow thirsty—wink!—people are for wine education. They want to know more aboutwhat they are drinking and the stories behind the winemakers. Before Sommsation,typical knowledge is only learned through standardized classes or trips to winecountry. The variety ofexperiences we curate means that each tasting is different. There is always something to learn and a new varietal to try.
Our groups vary significantly from coworkers and clients, to friends and family. Recently,a financial advisory firm invited their top clients to try one of our experiences. Theadvisor told us after the event that he felt he was able to connect more deeply with theclients at the event and that there was a certain intimacy to their interaction despite beingvirtual and in the comfort of their own home.
What are a few of your favorite varietals on Sommsation’s roster?
One of many delights of my job is continually discovering new wines. It’s so hard tochoose a favorite. If I’m in the mood for something full-bodied andtextured, with a rich feel, I opt for Halter Ranch’sAlice Cuvee. Anything from Russel Bevan’sAddaxlabel is always a treat. A quality Napa cabernet never disappoints—Bell Wine’sCabernet Clone Poursis a set that will make all of your cabernet dreams come true.