What Really Came Of Corks Away Wine Cruise From Shark Tank?

ABC's entrepreneurial reality TV show "Shark Tank" brings some of the best business ideas imaginable — and some unique ideas that don't always take off. No matter what happens with the business in the long run, it's still impressive to even get a spot on the show. Plus, the exposure from "Shark Tank" does wonders for a business, even if one of the Sharks doesn't make a deal. We saw this happen with Getaway, a "Shark Tank" venture that offered city dwellers the chance to fully unplug at a reasonable distance from the city in which they live. Exposure on the show meant a boom in interest. Another business, LugLess, didn't get a deal from any of the Sharks, but saw its revenue increase by 400% in the month after its episode aired.

We saw another travel-related pitch come on the screen during Episode 10 of Season 4. Friends Captain Nathan Buffet and Shane Cianciolo showed up to pitch their business, Corks Away Wine Cruise. They began their business with one boat, a 1961 wooden mast sailboat named Wildflower, where they offered guests a unique California coastal wine tasting experience with appetizers. Their business had done well, and Buffet and Cianciolo were seeking out funding from the Sharks to be able to franchise Corks Away. However, they didn't make it very far...

What happened to Corks Away Wine Cruise on 'Shark Tank'?

Corks Away Wine Cruise began with one refurbished sailboat, where Nathan Buffet and Shane Cianciolo gave guests an experience of wines and vineyards along the California coast. They took up to six guests per cruise, averaging about 12 cruises a week, each lasting for an hour and a half. Cianciolo and Buffet told the Sharks that in their first year, they made over $250,000 in sales.

Buffet and Cianciolo arrived on "Shark Tank" asking the Sharks for $105,000 for 20% equity in their business. In their vision of franchising Corks Away, Buffet and Cianciolo planned on getting licensed captains to buy a boat and get the Corks Away business plan for $175,000. They also told the Sharks that they wanted to get their signature appetizer, the pesto torte, into grocery stores. Lastly, they said they had a long-term dream of having an indoor dining cruise in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, the Sharks weren't taken with either the franchise idea or the grocery store pesto. When the Sharks asked how much a captain could buy a boat for, Buffet and Cianciolo admitted that this would only cost $35,000. Compared to the $175,000 Corks Away price that included a business plan, the franchise idea didn't seem convincing. They also felt like the grocery store angle veered too far from their main concept. And the Las Vegas plan just seemed too far-fetched to be plausible.

Corks Away Cruise had a small surge after 'Shark Tank'

Despite the founders' enthusiasm, they couldn't get a Shark to make a deal. Mark Cuban felt like the business model was limited in terms of how much money they could make, since they wouldn't be able to have too many boats in one location. Robert Herjavec wasn't feeling it, and Daymond John pulled out because he didn't like the business model or their long-term plans, particularly their Las Vegas idea. Kevin O'Leary seemed to be the most enthusiastic of all the Sharks, but even he couldn't get behind the idea. Lastly, Barbara Corcoran expressed concern and ultimately could not invest. With that, all of the judges pulled out.

Despite getting no traction on "Shark Tank," Buffet and Cianciolo made the best of the exposure from the show and enjoyed a spike in bookings and interest at their location in Long Beach, California. They also increased their offerings with wine blending classes, a wine club membership, and private yacht charters — and they finally got a second boat that could seat even more guests. On Yelp, they had a surge of reviews from around 2010-2013, some bad, but mostly good ones. Despite this surge, the company ended up closing down.

Why did Corks Away Wine Cruise go out of business?

It's not totally clear what happened to Corks Away, but it seems like the business fizzled out around 2014. There's no definitive explanation, but some of the online reviews might lead to clues as to why the business died out. In terms of personality and hosting skills while on the boat, Nathan Buffet and Shane Cianciolo got rave reviews from guests. However, when it came to technical matters, Corks Away did poorly. Customers wrote that there was no customer service representative and that they couldn't get in touch with the company when they had issues. Their poor response rate seemed to be the biggest problem in terms of negative reviews. Cianciolo replied to customers on Yelp in 2013, to notify upset guests that Corks Away did end up hiring a part-time customer service representative.

"Captain Nathan and I, Shane Cianciolo, are not computer savvy and apologize for the delay in upgrading our customer service portion of the business!" Cianciolo wrote back to someone. In replying to another review, Cianciolo wrote, "We apologize it took us so long to get the customer service portion of our business under control, we were very busy working to make the cruise experience exceptional!" Meanwhile, other guests complained that the appetizer part of the cruise wasn't special enough, saying it was simply hummus and nuts. Customers expected something more creative.

What came after for Corks Away founders?

After Corks Away folded around 2014, Nathan Buffet and Shane Cianciolo took their boats to El Salvador. On the Corks Away Wine Cruises Facebook page, they gave the following update in March 2014: "Your Corks Away Crew is now in El Salvador helping build Eco Tourism for Santos Marina. We look forward to sending you comfortable/affordable/exciting Central American tours for your upcoming 2015 vacation."

One of the biggest complaints about Corks Away Wine Cruises was that Buffet and Cianciolo weren't technically savvy enough for their customers. Well, that lack of technology seems to hold true still, as both Buffet and Cianciolo seem to prefer keeping under the radar and staying offline. For example, Cianciolo has a bare-bones LinkedIn page and hasn't posted anything to it. So all we can guess is that they're cooking up their next big idea — and we can't wait to see them bring fun and adventure in one, creative entrepreneurship.