VinPerfect Twists High-Tech Wine Screw Cap into Big Success
Alumni Tim Keller and Collin Casper Open Plant in Napa Valley
By Marianne Skoczek
Overcoming a stigma synonymous with cheap, fortified wines like Thunderbird and Night Train, the screw cap has recently gained greater respect from higher-end vintners and wine drinkers as an acceptable alternative to cork.
Enter Tim Keller MBA 08 and Collin Casper MBA 08, who are poised to send their own ripple through the global wine industry with a revolutionary, high-tech screw cap.
Before pursuing an MBA, Keller earned his viticulture and enology degree from UC Davis and spent 12 years as a winemaker in Sonoma and Napa counties. Today he’s the co-founder and CEO of VinPerfect, maker of a patent-pending cap with a permeable liner that allow winemakers to let nano-amounts of oxygen into the wine bottle over time to guarantee optimal aging.
“Achieving oxygen control with a screw cap signals the start of a new era for wine closures,” says Keller. “For the first time, winemakers have control over the quality of their wine after it goes into the bottle. There’s now no quality-based reason to choose anything else.”
Traditional synthetic and bark corks allow in either too much or too little oxygen, Keller says, and cork can con-taminate wine with a musty-smelling compound known as TCA that affects an estimated one in 20 bottles, ruining $10 billion in wine worldwide each year.
Keller developed the cap’s prototype while at UC Davis, and won the $15,000 grand prize in the 2008 Big Bang! Business Plan Competition. The innovation was introduced to the industry at the 2011 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.
“Our GSM connections have been integral to our growth,” says Casper, Keller’s former classmate and VinPerfect’s co-founder and COO. “They’ve led to some of our biggest investors and best industry contacts.”
Grand Opening in Napa Valley
Following careful R&D, VinPerfect began accepting orders in January 2012. Last summer it celebrated the opening of new corporate offices and a production facility in Napa Valley.
A Series A-1 investment round brought in more than a half-million dollars, and VinPerfect recently sold its one-millionth cap. “Most important,” says Keller, “is that within our first year we earned customers who are returning with repeat orders.”
This year’s goals include growing sales to 12 million units—about $2 million in gross revenue— and expansion into the Pacific Northwest, Australia and New Zealand, and Europe. Going forward, Keller says, VinPerfect will benefit as the industry’s perception of cork versus screw cap changes.
“The industry will move as a whole,” he says. “The thought is the more liners we sell—the more people who talk about the experience they had with our different liners—you’re going to see those testimonials work through and there will be greater adoption.” That’s a business ready to be uncorked.