, the San Francisco- and Napa-based Internet start-up that intends to offer consumers access to the largest selection of wines available anywhere, today announced the opening of its site to California consumers, and disclosed that will serve as its strategic partner.

"Today is a historic day in the evolution of," said Peter Sisson, founder and CEO. "We begin with California consumers - 18 percent of the nation's wine-consuming public -- who are now able to access more than 1,400 wines, including the most popular wines in distribution, as well as rare wines previously available only at winery tasting rooms. We are well on our way to realizing our vision of becoming the first national, branded source for wine." "Today is also a milestone for our company because we are proud and excited to announce that, the world's leading e-commerce retailer, is our strategic partner," said Sisson. " will help introduce its customers to the new shopping experience at" Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said, " strives to be the leading e-commerce destination where consumers can find and discover anything they want to buy online. One of the ways we can achieve this is by joining with companies like who are determined to provide the best possible customer experience."

With a cheerful, punchy look-and-feel and an unintimidating, easy-to-use interface, the Web site targets the convergence of the power of the Internet and the estimated $100 billion global market for wine. It offers consumers content on a broad selection of wines that is unrivaled in scope and depth, along with advanced search functions, category browsing, and many cleverly merchandized specials.

Competitive Differentiation

"The model differentiates itself from other online wine companies in several ways, the most salient being its total commitment to lawful compliance within the existing three-tier distribution system; its state-by-state approach to ensuring a superb consumer experience; and its exclusive commerce alliances with some of the leading content providers in the industry," said Sisson. In addition, the company prides itself on its provision of unbiased information from trusted editorial sources to assist in the consumer's selection process.

"We are the only online wine company with exclusive content partnerships with Wine Spectator,, The New York Times on the Web, and (all part of Times Company Digital), Wine & Spirits, Food & Wine, and Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine," Sisson said. "Visitors to our site will be able to access reviews, ratings and editorial material from these and other leading content partners - including some of Wine Spectator's database of 77,000 wine ratings and tasting notes. In the near future, visitors to our partners' Web sites will be able to link to and order the wines they have been reading about." Sisson said.

"Wine is perfect for the Internet because it is an information-intensive product for which the current 'bricks-and-mortar' experience is information-deficient and mysterious," said Sisson. " will help solve these problems." plans to fulfill consumer orders through its site on a state-by-state basis with the goal of serving between 70 and 80 percent of the U.S. market by the 2000 holiday season. Following the California opening, the chronology of the roll-out will be based largely on wine consumption by volume.

"I am pleased to be a part of such an innovative venture that constitutes the most significant opportunity to expand the wine market in years," said R. Michael Mondavi, president and CEO of Robert Mondavi (MOND), who serves on's Board of Directors. "I look forward to working with others equally committed to the responsible integration of wine into a balanced lifestyle."

Currently, more than 550 wineries, importers and suppliers, and 250 wholesalers in 45 states representing about 85 percent of the U.S. population have agreed to participate in the WineShopper system. discusses its model regularly with various state regulators, 32 of which have already cleared it for operation in their states. will not open for business in a state until this process has taken place. It expects to receive the balance of acknowledgements within the coming months. Powered by a Twin-Engine System At the heart of the system is Naxon Network, a comprehensive database that provides electronic data feeds from participating wholesalers across the country indicating which products they have available to sell. developed the database under a five-year exclusive agreement with the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA). WineShopperBoutique, the other half of the model, is a proprietary mechanism that sources rare and small production wines directly from the winery and clears them legally through the network of partner wholesalers and retailers. Wines from either source will be delivered to a consumer's home or to a local retailer, depending on the law of the state in which they live. Pricing - wholly determined by participating retailers - is competitive with that of large retail chains, and the complete model ensures that all sales and excise taxes are paid. is backed by $46 million in funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The investment of $30 million was made in 1999. will close additional funding shortly. (, Inc., and its subsidiaries) is the Internet's No. 1 music, No. 1 DVD and video, and No. 1 book retailer. (NASDAQ: AMZN) opened its virtual doors on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth's Biggest Selection, along with online auctions and free electronic greeting cards. lists more than 18 million unique items in categories including books, CDs, toys, electronics, videos, DVDs, home improvement products, software, and video games. Through zShops, any business or individual can sell virtually anything to's more than 17 million customers, and with Payments, any seller can accept credit card transactions, avoiding the hassles of offline payments. The company also participates in, the leading auction site for guaranteed art, jewelry, and collectibles, at