Fall is in full swing and there’s a sense of revelry in the air. In the blink of an eye—it will be New Year’s Eve, but before that there are so many good times to be had, gifts to be opened, wines to be sipped, and so much fun to be had!
One of the biggest parts of festivities is the joy of gifting. And as the season is all about celebrating with your loved ones, there is nothing like a thoughtful, personalized gift. Enter Chipmonkey Wine.
This gifting solution hits all the right notes, both literally and figuratively. Chipmonkey Wine pairs carefully selected bottles with customized sentiments for all of life’s events—from bird attacks and toddler trouble to new homes and birthdays, there’s a wine for that. Founded in Seattle by certified wine geek, (WSET 3 Graduate and Certified Sommelier), entrepreneur and former scientist Kanchan Schindlauer, the concept was born from personal experience and a need to send high quality wine with an authentic, custom message making for a personalized gift.
We love that the concept is based on personalization, and feels a bit tongue-in-cheek too—with categories running from regular ol’ congratulations for new babies. weddings and jobs, to eccentric ones like surviving a monster-in-law or passing your driving test (on the third attempt!)
How to go about ordering a gift, you ask? It is an easy 3-step process. For starters, visit chipmonkeywine.com to choose from more than 50 categories, or create your own, for e.g. ‘Glad the bad romance is over!’. Next up, choose from red, white, or sparkling wine, and choice of one, two, three, or six bottles. All the wines are delicious and sommelier-selected, so you can’t go wrong! Third and last—the wine is paired with each occasion in a clever signature wine-life pairing card. You can customize it with your own personalized message and photo. Viola! Your unique gift is ready for shipping.
Bonus: you’re also doing a good deed! For every six-bottle pack purchased, Chipmonkey donates $6 to Water 1st international, a nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
We loved the concept and received a special delivery of our own, with the cutest picture of our newborn baby. It was a joy to unwrap, and even nicer to toast to this yummy wine. We were left super satisfied with the wine and curious about the founder so we interviewed Kanchan Schindlauer to find out more about her science background, entrepreneurial streak, and sommelier certification.
Seattleite: Tell us a little about your background and growing up.
Kanchan Schindlauer: I was raised in the U.S. by hardworking, academically proficient Indian parents. I have always been a bit different than the rest of my family by prioritizing sports, friends and fun over anything academic. At some point in college, I began to appreciate learning as a joy in itself, as opposed to something to accomplish. Suddenly I found my desire to work hard and play hard align. Even 20 years, a husband and two kids later, I still find this balance to be integral to who I am.
Seattleite: When did you start developing an interest in wine?
KS: For years, I simply enjoyed drinking wine, never really giving much consideration to its nuances. Around 2012, my now-husband (who’s from Vienna) and I visited the Austrian wine region of Styria. I was simply blown away by how tasty and unique the wines were (not to mention how utterly stunning the region is too). We tossed around the idea of importing some unique wines from there, such as a dry style Gelber Muskateller. Wines that are traditionally not [readily] available in the U.S.. Although we quickly realized the challenges associated with such an endeavor, I was curious to learn more and picked up a few wine books. As someone who seldom reads for pleasure, I was extremely surprised to find I couldn’t put them down. My passion for wine was born. And to think, it was under my nose the whole time.
Seattleite: How did Chipmonkey come to be? Can you tell us a little about your ideation process?
KS: Last year, my dear friend lost her husband to cancer. After the service, she had mentioned she had a “go-to” wine. This was an easy to find, mass-produced label, that although isn’t known for quality, still carries a $20+ price tag. It struck me that although I couldn’t take her pain away, as a certified somm friend, I could at least send her better wine.
Soon after, I had six wines sent to her from a nearby winery. But that same night, at 3:00 am, I woke up in a panic, feeling that my gift was such an inadequate, impersonal gesture. Thinking about our conversation after the service, it occurred to me that night itself, that I could pair the wines to her life. That morning I canceled the initial wine order and wrote her wine pairings that were relevant to her life. For example, I paired a light straw New Zealand Pinot Gris to the bleach blond first mustache hairs her oldest son was sprouting, as “although not a typical sommelier pairing technique, in this case I feel it’s best to match color to color”. To deter the many well-wishers who mean well but often overstay their welcome, I matched a robust Aussie Shiraz, because, “if your dark stained teeth don’t scare them away, at 15% alcohol, your slurring certainly will.” My hope was to just bring her a smile during such an unimaginably tough time. And it worked.
Through the encouragement of this dear friend and others, I turned this crazy idea into a scalable business, and developed a website where anyone can personally and easily send high quality wine for any number of life’s celebratory and/or challenging occasions. Enter Chipmonkey Wine.
Seattleite: What is the story behind the brand name?
KS: Chipmonkey is a combination of my two kids’ nicknames: Chipmunk and Monkey. They are my reason for everything…including why I drink. (Kidding, not kidding 😊).
Seattleite: What is the Chipmonkey experience like?
KS: I worked hard to make the website both easy to use, and fun to peruse. After selecting from over 60 occasions, customers choose how many bottles they’d like to send (1, 2, 3 or 6) and of which type of wine (white, red, sparkling). Every wine gift is packaged in our special custom printed shipper box and includes our signature Wine-Life Pairing card, where we outline exactly why the wine(s) fits with the given occasion.
Customers can then choose to make their gifts over the top personal, by uploading a photo to include on the front of the card and writing a message that we’ll have printed on the left inside flap. Every card is written and printed to order, so no two are ever exactly alike!
We also offer optional accessories like wine keys, bottle stoppers and wine charms to throw into any box. It’s that simple.
Seattleite: Who are your customers?
KS: Our customers range from friends sending gifts for new babies, brides thanking bridesmaids, businesses thanking clients and realtors sending congratulations for home sales and purchases. The diversity of who is using and loving our wine gifts goes to show there really is a wine for every occasion.
Seattleite: What is the most outrageous/funniest request you have ever received?
KS: Although there are certainly some occasions that sell more often than others, it’s most fun to see (and write pairings for) the off-the-beaten path ones. “Sorry Dating Sucks” and “Sorry Your Baby Won’t Let You Sleep” are two of my favorites. Probably because not that long ago I would have loved to receive both gifts! I think the biggest surprise has been how popular the “Sorry for Your Loss” occasion has been. But when I think about it, it shouldn’t be that surprising, seeing as it was the impetus for the whole business anyway.
Seattleite: Where do you source your wines from and how do you ensure quality?
KS: I work with numerous distributors and wineries to find the best wines. It’s safe to say I tasted over 100 wines to find the first 10 gems that the company launched with and I’m adding to and changing my inventory constantly. Although on occasion I’ll include a Cabernet blend or other recognizable varietal, many of our wines feature more unique grapes, such as the killer Spanish white, Godello, or an intensely flavored red, Barbaresco (Nebbiolo grape). I also try to steer clear of wines that you can easily pick up at any grocery or corner store, as I want this gift to be special. By gifting unique wines, I find preconceived notions about likes and dislikes don’t get in the way and people are always happy about discovering new wine types to add to their favorites list.
Seattleite: What’s next?
KS: I’m currently focused on getting the word out there that there’s a fun, new way to send delicious wine in a personalized way. I hope to inspire people to gift not just for the typical occasions like birthdays but send a smile via wine for life’s zanier times too. I mean, is there anyone who needs wine more than the parent of a hormonal teenager? (See “Sorry Your Teenager is Hormonal!”)
I’m also starting to build unique winery partnerships. Although I’m finding most people prefer to leave the wine selection in the hands of the professionals, some already know what they like and want to send but want a way to do so with our unique, personalized gift experience. So, I’m just beginning to set up partnerships with various local wineries to allow their loyal club members to gift wines through our company. If you have a winery you already love, have them reach out to us to learn more.