Mark Chaney is a High-Tech Sommelier

While recovering from an illness, the Jupiter resident invented a robotically powered system to store and preserve fine wine

Mark Chaney, founder of WineCab, photo by Tomas Flint 3
Photo by Tomas Flint

Mark Chaney has always been a mechanical tinkerer. At age 4, he took apart his grandfather’s clock—though he never put it back together. His dad owned a carpentry shop, and his uncle had a speed shop where he built and repaired race cars. Chaney’s childhood was spent exploring these magical shops.

“I always wanted to change things,” says Chaney, who was born in Daytona Beach and raised in Michigan and Rochester, New York. “I would tinker with Dad’s bikes and small inventions, but I always thought outside of the box to find something wondrous to bring to life.”

After studying engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology, Chaney—who now divides his time between Jupiter and Rochester—worked for a machine-building company. Eager to start his own business, he launched Calvary Robotics in 1995, which became a world leader in robotic platform design and automated manufacturing in the automotive, health care, consumer goods, electronics, and renewable energy sectors. The creative entrepreneur also started an Innovation Lab, which has developed new products like Opti-Cool (energy-efficient data center cooling equipment) and X-Cell (modular and redeployable assembly equipment).

Four years ago, when the divorced father of two was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, he took the opportunity to use the “downtime” wisely. “I was told to stay home and not do anything work-related in order to recover from multiple myeloma cancer because I had undergone stem cell and chemotherapy treatments,” he says. “I worked on 10 high-tech ideas during that period, but the one tied to my wine cellar was the most exciting, and I wanted to produce it.”

A longtime wine collector, Chaney felt he wasn’t knowledgeable enough about wine to make a sophisticated presentation to his guests. No wine-management system on the market, he found, had more than one percent of globally accessible wines in their operation. “I knew I could develop the software to close this gap and create something novel,” he says.

Utilizing the robotics he had perfected at his company, WineCab was born. The wine-management system offers a “virtual” sommelier powered by artificial intelligence, temperature control, security settings, and an industrial high-speed robotic arm that loads, scans, and delivers desired bottles in just a few seconds. Facial-recognition security has the ability to lock out important bottles for discriminating users. Chaney compares the system to live-performance art, operating a bit like a ballerina.

Every wine bottle is scanned with all of its original information so when a user needs to know the story behind a particular blend, it is easily accessible. “I didn’t love wine before, but I do now,” says Chaney. He envisions the wine wall—which comes in sizes ranging from 6 feet to 15 feet and sells from $180,000 to $250,000—as ideal for multimillion-
dollar homes and high-end restaurants. “Robots are faster, better, and very high-end luxury tech products,” he says.

WineCab has a wait list of customers eager to install the innovation in their homes. One local who has already taken the plunge is Master Sommelier Virginia Philip. The owner of Virginia Philip Wine Spirits & Academy was a development consultant on the project and has a WineCab in her Palm Beach retail store.

Chaney is now developing new ideas for other wine products, as well as for a robotic car wash. His hobbies of racing cars and boats and playing golf and tennis fit perfectly into his lust for challenge. He is also writing a book on leadership, encouraging others to better themselves.

“I am always working on bettering my own life and becoming an improved leader and innovator,” he says. “I want others to do the same. I get the most satisfaction when I achieve my dreams and see others do the same.”

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