5 Questions with Aron Ezra of MacroView Labs

MacroView LabsThere are many a wine app for iOS and (growing) on Android.  Wine+Tech wünderkinds VinTank, have done extensive research on iOS apps (iPhone) over the last few years with the most recent count at 450+, as of 04/14/2011.  Indeed, my own content is distributed on two mobile apps, Hello Vino and Wine by the Bar.  With that many apps out there for a very specific genre, you can imagine that there is a lot of noise and a lot of well, mediocre (at best) apps for wine.  So, it is a refreshingly rare circumstance when one comes across an app that kicks some serious vinous booty.  And the new app (iPhone, Android) from Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog) by MacroView Labs (Twitter) gets my vote for kickin’ that booty.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and WineryThe app, co-launched with the nearby Vintners Inn (Twitter) does so many things right for a focused topic like a single winery and inn: a great usable design that actually works with no bugs.  High-res imagery abounds, with fully integrated social channels, live location-based maps and all of the information found on the full website including in-app purchasing of wine, via a wrapped browser functionality.  MacroView Labs has created an app that is dynamic, full of complementary information such as unique wine pairings and recipes and  designed all of this with a highly intuitive and beautiful design.  The app was launched in May of 2011 and by the publish date of this article, had already reached 3,100 downloads. I was so impressed that I requested an interview with MacroView Labs CEO, Aron Ezra (Twitter) for my 5 Questions series…and included a bonus 6th question, to boot.  Enjoy!

1. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): First off, I’d just like the compliment the thoroughness of your app for Ferrari-Carano and the Vintners Inn, well played! When a new winery or wine website approaches you about a possible app, what is the single most important piece of information that you need to start the development process? Who are some of your more recent clients besides F-C and VI?

Aron Ezra, CEO - MacroView Labs Aron Ezra (Twitter): Thank you for the kind words! When we start working with a new client, the most important step for them to take is to determine their goals and objectives in entering the mobile space. Some clients are most focused on improving the guest experience, others want to generate more revenue, others want to make their staff more efficient, and so on. Once the client decides what they want their mobile apps and mobile website to accomplish, we partner with them to build a mobile strategy that suits their needs, and we then begin developing the technology.

2. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): In line with the previous question, what are some things that a prospective wine app client can do to get things rolling pretty quickly after contacting MacroView?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Once we settle on desired functionality and sign a contact, we can get started with working with a client immediately. We can launch the first version of the apps and the mobile site a few weeks later.

3. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): After the initial meeting, how is the development process taken forward for a new app?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): After our kickoff meeting, we work with the client to create the right structure for the app, the right aesthetic, and the right functionality. We use our content management system to accomplish this — this is the same system that our clients can use to make any changes they want. We meet with our new clients regularly to show them our progress and make any changes they suggest. After a few weeks, once everyone is happy, we submit the app to the app stores, and then focus on getting the word out about the solution and continually making enhancements to allow the apps to evolve and improve.

Ferrari-Carano Mobile App4. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Also, do you tend to work with entirely new designs each time or do you have a store of app templates that clients can chose from to get their app up and running quickly?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide our clients with a variety of options for creating an app structure. We can create entirely custom apps, or we have app template structures that clients can choose from. Either way, we can work with our clients to create the right design to fit their branding.

5. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): I see on your site that you also promise to follow the client after the app is launched, including help for promoting their app across their various social channels. What sorts of activities are included in this follow-on service?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide ongoing strategic mobile consulting around setting business goals and identifying how best to use mobile to achieve those goals. We improve our client’s deployed mobile software every day to make sure it is helping them achieve their business goals. We also have a powerful proprietary data analytics engine that highlight things like: how customers are using the deployed mobile software, what features are generating revenue, and how we can improve the results.

For instance, if we notice that people in one part of the country tend to delete the app after viewing a specific page or feature, we change that page/feature. If we notice that a certain offer or social media feature tends to generate more interest or revenue, we expand upon that, often within hours of noticing the pattern.

We also help with generating positive buzz for the solutions through (1) internal training, (2) external promotions, and (3) word of mouth. First, we put together an app FAQ for internal staff to ensure all employees know about and can talk about the app to customers. Then, we work with our clients to make sure marketing collateral – from on-site signage, to employee email signatures, to direct marketing catalogues – mention the app. Finally, we help implement a public relations outreach alongside a social media push. We help create tools and campaigns to inspire the app users to tell their friends about it.

Ferrari-Carano App6. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): You’ve made a large number of original, user-friendly and engaging apps over the life of the company. What’s next for MacroView Labs and how do you intend to continue to innovate?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Our clients depend on us to keep them up-to-date and keep them profitable in the mobile world. Mobile moves incredibly fast, so we’ll be working hard to keep innovating on the countless new hardware and software releases on the horizon. In short, our focus will remain on delivering outstanding service and outstanding new features that generate bottom-line results.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog)

[winelist query=”Ferrari-Carano” num=”100″]

Affordable Bordeaux in 2010: FTW!

Le Wine Buff - Enjoy BordeauxI don’t think it’s any surprise to you fine readers that I’m a big fan of Bordeaux and even work for the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) as one of Le Wine Buff, video broadcasting each week from my vino-abode.  Well the kids at Enjoy Bordeaux (Twitter) have hatched an incredibly rad new plan to create some fun on the interwebs, with oh, maybe a prize that might require a flight or two, woot!  I don’t want to spill alll the deets, but suffice it to say: it will be fun, it will be a contest on their Facebook page launching 11/15/10 (where you currently can see the awesome documentary short of our BDX trip in June), the prize is flippin’ awesome and you can get some of the gist by checking out my personal addition to the shizzy after the jump.  You’ll even find some wines taking home a WKBadge for their efforts. Cheers!

Bottles Away! - EnjoyBordeaux.com11/16/10 UPDATE: The Enjoy BordeauxBottles Away!” contest has finally launched on their Facebook Page.  Play hard and pick well and you could wine an awesome new wine fridge!

You’ve been hearing all the chatter: Bordeaux futures this year have been off the hook in quality, but also come with record massive prices. Can your fine self still find affordable wine from one of the most iconic and slammin’ wine regions in the world? Heck yeah and I’m hear to show to you how we do!

Enjoy Bordeaux#WKBadges - QPRWK2008 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc – $10

A zesty, citrusy white that kicks some serious QPR booty. Get some and get a lot.

2008 Les Vignerons de Tutiac Quintet Bordeaux Supérieur – $9

Crisp citrus flavors surround a very intriguing mineral core. Clean and exciting, like a nice slab of techno.

2006 Château de Bel-Air Lalande-de-Pomerol – $19

Let’s take a stroll on the right side of Bordeaux and agree to just enjoy the silky palate of toasty black cherry and both shut the heck up!

#WKBadges - QPRWK2005 Château Greysac Médoc – $11

All black fruit all the time from this savory wine that slides in from another expensive vintage…yet it still brings the value heat.

#WKBadges - OldWorldWK2005 Château Teyssier Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – $28

It’s unreal to find a Grand Cru St-E at this price, but I do what I must to please my fellow vinopanions. The complexity here is off. the. chain. Earth, black fruit, savory herbs and perfect balance, YES!

#WKBadges - QPRWK2007 Château Haut Mayne Sauternes – $19

It’s shocking sometimes, the value you find in sweet wines from Bordeaux. Here the sinuous mouthfeel combines with just-right sweetness for a delicious stickie to finish us off.

6 bottles, 5 AOC, Total Cost: $96 = BLEDOW!

All of these wines are tagged with “BottlesAway2010LeWineBuff” if you’d like to list them in your own WineLog.  Cheers!

The Wine Buff gang conquering Bordeaux (2) - Enjoy Bordeaux (Flickr)

The Wine Buff gang conquering Bordeaux (2) - Enjoy Bordeaux (Flickr)

As Le Wine Buff for EnjoyBordeaux.com, I am paid a nominal fee for most of my participation.  I also receive free wine samples and my participation on this trip is courtesy of the CIVB.

Wine 2.0 Spring Fling @ Crushpad

Wine 2.0 at CrushpadI was first initiated into the innovative world of Wine 2.0 when I attended their NRO event at Varnish last November. What I found was an extremely thriving movement of loosely knit and mainly younger wine aficionados, producers and entrepreneurs that were expanding upon the path set down by the original Wine Brats…they also tend to throw a party with a little more enthusiasm than your average wine event!

With those thoughts in mind, I geared up for some serious wine-drinking, networking and, well, partying last Thursday night. I was keenly aware of how the night would unfold and so I decided to BART and cab it to the event, held at the 3rd street warehouse of Crushpad in San Francisco. Crushpad is a custom crush facility, meaning that they provide equipment, bonded space, reagents and even fruit for boutique wineries and amateur winemakers, alike. They are one of the most well-known companies where winemakers can go to make their own wines with as much or as little hands-on participation as they might choose. I’ve been hearing about them for years and have been rather intrigued by their facilities, so I was quite happy to check out the space when I first arrived, just before the event opened.

Roshambo Winery Mobile Tasting RoomAs I walked up, Cornelius of RadCru and Wine 2.0 had just descended from the Roshambus, the tour bus wine room of Naomi Brilliant and her cadre of hip wine malcontents from Roshambo Winery. After a brief hello, he directed me inside and I began the night.

Pug Wine Amber Ridge Pinot Noir 2006My first tastes were actually (dare I say it) due to the label. I was suckered in by the great labels of Pug Wine. I have a pug at home and he’s a bit dear to my heart, so I figured that I just had to stop by and try the wines. She’s sticking with single vineyard wines and I tasted both the Amber Ridge Pinot and Saralee’s Vineyard Rhone blend. I dug the Saralee’s quite a bit actually, and it’s not just because I have a fur baby at home!

After tasting some canine wine, I headed off to do a brief survey of the wines and faces that were going to be available that night. One face I missed, unfortunately, was Jessica Yadegaran of the great blog, Corkheads. I’ve been following her blog for quite awhile now, as well as her wine articles in the Contra Costa Times. Breezing through the warehouse, I did spy some wineries that I wanted to hit later. First up however, was the Bottlenotes table and a chat with founder Alyssa over some great Rioja Viura. As I turned around, I spied Jason from Modus Operandi, winemaker for new favorite winery on the cusp of cultdom. I started the night purely on the hunt for whites and dry rosés, and Jason now has a KILLER dry rosé going, the 2007 Vicarious Rosé. While disappointed (but not surprised) that he wasn’t pouring the Vicarious red blend that night, I vowed to return later to taste his 2004 Cab. As another nice touch, Jason was also pouring his 2007 Sauvignon Blanc that has yet to be bottled.

As I traveled through the tasting rooms and tables the rest of the night, some highlights stood out from the crowd. The young kids representing Hahn Estates, one of the best value wine producers out there (Cycles Gladiator), had some great news about some higher end labels that they would be debuting later in the year. Midsummer Cellars, headed by Rollie Heitz, was pouring a tremendous Napa Cab, their 2005 Cañon Creek, which was one of my favorite wines for the night. Two other wines that hit the spot for me were the two Syrah’s that were being poured by Lionheart’s Leon Glover. One was from Santa Barbara County appellation and the other from the cooler Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard in Mendocino. I actually preferred the SBC Syrah the best but I really enjoyed both, which I found interesting as I usually prefer cool-climate Syrah better. In the grand scheme of things however, both really come from cooler wine-growing regions.

As the night wore on, anyone who goes to these trade (and consumer) events will tell you, the more interesting conversations begin to take place. A couple interesting ones were with the engaging couple Marshall and Brittany, behind WineQ.com, the brilliant NetFlix of wine clubs. They actually found me, as they had noted my name on a few signup lists for wine information earlier in the night. I also was intrigued by another website, VinVillage, that founder Rob Barnett created, partly as an outlet for his radio show about wine, as I surreptitiously took two more free Bottlenotes gift cards for some friends back home.

The final part of the evening was not nearly as boring as I might of hoped. My travels back to the East Bay from the Dog Patch neighborhood where Crushpad is housed took a full 2 hours! As I walked away from the event I realized that I should have called a taxi…3rd and 23rd is not exactly a hotbed of SF activity. I finally found a town car that I could flag down and figured that I’d soon be at BART, 2 miles away. Well…I quickly found out that though the gentleman driving the car had lived in the City for over 16 years…he apparently must never actually drive there! I finally got him under control and headed in the right direction and arrived at 24th and Mission 30 minutes later. Whew. Let that be a lesson to you City-drinking wine lovers…always call a taxi in the City!

Please find reviews of all of the wines I tasted at WineTwo below. If you’d like to list all of these wines in your own WineLog, I’ve tagged them all with “WineTwo2008Spring“. Wines that I’ve tasted and reviewed from all of the Wine 2.0 events that I have attended are tagged with “Wine2.0“. Enjoy!

Mollydooker McLaren Vale Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2006

Modus Operandi Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Modus Operandi Napa Valley Rosé 2006

Modus Operandi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Midsummer Cellars Napa Valley Cañon Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Pug Wine Russian River Valley Saralee’s Vineyard Pug Blanc 2006

Pug Wine Russian River Valley Amber Ridge Vineyard Pug Pinot 2005

Roshambo Sonoma County Imago Chardonnay 2005

Roshambo Winery Dry Creek Valley Frank Johnson Vineyard Syrah 2005

Lionheart Wines Santa Barbara County Syrah 2006

Lionheart Wines Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard Mendocino Syrah 2005

Twisted Oak Alta Mesa Silvaspoons Vineyard Verdelho 2006

Twisted Oak Sierra Foothills %@#$! 2006

Luis Alegre Rioja Viura 2006

Segue Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006