The bidding was electric at the first charity grape auction to take place on the Internet. WineryExchange.com, the leading online marketplace for the wine industry, inaugurated its Internet grape sales with a special charity event that took place in cyberspace on August 28-30. More than $13,000 was raised on the Web to support industry efforts to control a pest that threatens California vineyards.

The winning bidder, a Tampa, Florida wine distributor and his winery partner, took home three tons of prized Pinot Noir grapes from Santa Barbara's renowned Bien Nacido Vineyards. At a stunning $4500 per ton, the Bacchus Wine Corporation was both generous and determined to outbid its online rivals at the WineryExchange-sponsored charity auction.

A distributor with a plan, Bacchus Wine Corporation had already arranged for the Whitcraft Winery to produce and bottle its wine. Bacchus is patiently looking forward to releasing a premium Pinot Noir to its customers in two years time. Bacchus owner John O'Connor had high praise for the WineryExchange wine grape trading center: "Through WineryExchange.com and its technology, companies like ours can operate a continent away from the California wine industry and still participate in time-sensitive business transactions."

Online Bidding Opens Grape Sales to Web-wide Audience

The online charity wine grape sale marked the first grape transactions conducted by WineryExchange.com, the leading Internet commerce site for the wine industry. Peter Byck, President and CEO of WineryExchange.com, noted a few differences with in-person auctions, such as bidders waiting until the last moment to place final bids. "The technology worked flawlessly, even as everyone rushed to increase their bids before the closing bell. Participants were clearly comfortable executing their bids online." Byck also pointed to the new business models that online grape buyers can now pursue. "Retailers and distributors can buy bulk grapes quickly and easily over the Internet, then contract to produce wines under their own labels. This is exactly the strategy that our winning bidder is executing."

This unique charity event was masterminded by WineryExchange.com with the generous cooperation of Bien Nacido Vineyards and the Foxen Winery, who donated their option to buy grapes from Bien Nacido's sought-after 2000 harvest. Bien Nacido grapes normally sell for $3000/ton to holders of the jealously guarded option contracts.

Proceeds from the sale benefit the American Vineyard Foundation (AVF), a wine industry-sponsored non-profit organization dedicated to enology and viticulture research. The funds are designated for research on the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter, a pernicious insect that is posing one of the biggest threats to face the wine industry in many years. "In light of the challenges facing our industry, this innovative online charity auction gives us a leg-up in our efforts to tackle the problems caused by the sharpshooter," said AVF Executive Director Patrick Gleeson. "The industry will benefit from the largesse of Bien Nacido, Foxen Winery, WineryExchange and Bacchus Wine Corporation."

Wine industry professionals interested in future auction events, or in exploring WineryExchange's new wine grape and bulk wine trading centers should consult the WineryExchange Web site at http://www.wineryexchange.com. The wine grape trading center offers convenient, efficient access to the world's largest selection of wine grapes. Buyers can source grapes by variety and price, as well as by unique details such as appellation, soils, and farming techniques. Sellers can list inventory, review account activity, and negotiate transactions.

About WineryExchange

WineryExchange is a neutral, online business-to-business marketplace serving winegrowers, wineries, suppliers, and retailers. Founded in 1999 by leading wine industry, financial, and technology executives, the company provides products, services, and real-time market information for every link in the wine industry value chain -- from the dirt to the bottle. The Web site is also the premier forum for news, analysis, and discussion of issues affecting the wine industry worldwide.

WineryExchange is funded by venture investors Venrock Associates, 3i, and vTraction, and by prominent angel investors including Draper Richards and Fred Warren, founder of Brentwood Associates. The company is based in the San Francisco Bay Area with offices in Novato and San Bruno, California.