Tyler Balliet and Morgan First, Founders of The Second Glass
BY Donna Fenn
Balliet and First loved wine but felt that no one was marketing it properly to their generation. Their company connects wine sellers to young consumers through wine tasting events, called Wine Riot, and through its website.
Tyler Balliet and Morgan First share an appreciation for good wine. But here's the thing: they couldn't care less about some snooty reviewer's 95-point rating for a wine of "exceptional complexity," or his 70-point rating for one that's "straightforward and innocuous." Neither, as it turns it, do their 20-something peers. The Second Glass, an online resource for wine information geared toward Millennials, was founded by Balliet after a part-time job in a Boston wine shop taught him that customers were yearning for basic information presented in a down to earth way. 'The customers had a ton of questions about wine," says Balliet. "But to my surprise they weren't questions like, "can you tell me about the 2000 Burgundy vintage?" It was more like, "what the hell is Burgundy?" He began writing a wine column for a local newspaper, sending out weekly emails on great wines under $20,and producing a bi-monthly magazine.
Several months later, he met First, who had her own business, MAP Boston, a printed calendar/guide to Boston. The two eventually began dating and First signed on as a co-owner of The Second Glass. They began hosting small wine tastings, where vintners would pour their latest offerings for ticket buyers to sample. The popular gatherings evolved into "Wine Riot", a weekend-long expo-style event with 40 exhibitors. Attendees pay $45-$55 for one of three tasting sessions and, says First, " we get about 2,500 people at the events. The last one was sold out completely and people were on Craig's List begging for tickets." The events, she says, are very entertainment focused ("this isn't your parents' wine tasting", stresses the website), with top DJs, a photo booth, a lounge that's typically sponsored by a big company, as well as mini wine seminars. "The pourers tell us it's a really engaged crowd," says First. "We sell it as 'come have fun with your friends.'"
First recently moved to Los Angeles to be closer to wine country (too much "wine noise" in San Francisco, she says), and will help launch Wine Riot events in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, DC next year. The company also has a new mobile web site that Wine Riot attendees can use to make note of the wines they've tried and shared with friends. And in September, Balliet and First, who are no longer dating but remain committed business partners, will ramp up their website which will include a Yelp-like online directory on which wineries will pay a monthly fee to be included; First says the company has already singed on twelve wineries. The idea is to connect wineries to Millennial consumers who Balliet says have been "leading the growth in wine sales for the past ten years."