$4.5M flows to online wine seller Vinfolio

Vinfolio, the online marketplace for fine wines, has raised $4.5 million in a first round of venture funding led by Panorama Capital. Based in San Francisco, the company was known best for selling management software (called VinCellar) to wine cellars. It only launched its auction-based store in July, allowing wine collectors as well as cellars to buy, sell and keep track of their goods more easily.

Vinfolio says the recent round of funding will fuel further development of this marketplace — now taking bids on more than 250,000 wines — and help it establish its presence in Asia (it’s had a toehold in Hong Kong since 2008). For now, the purchasing options are perhaps the best developed. Users can not only bid on wines or buy outright, they can also set a series of alerts informing them when certain wines and prices become available.

In addition to letting users buy and sell wine, the site offers a suite of tools for wine enthusiasts to expand their collections, decide which wines to invest in, reserve space in VinFolio’s full-service San Francisco storage facility, and even find other consignment auctions.

These are not features for layman users — only people who are truly serious about wine. To solidify this community, Vinfolio has introduced social networking, including forums to allow users interact and a listing of live wine events where they can connect in real life.

Vinfolio brings in some revenue by taking 15 to 20 percent from sales via its marketplace and about 20 percent from sales through its own consignment options. And, of course, it has a stream coming from storage fees and software sales.

Previously, the company only had private investors. It raised about $6.1 million between 2006 and 2007 from Jean Michel Valette of Robert Mondavi Winery and Colin Lind, a partner at Blum Capital Partners.