Unless you're a wine wonk like Mark Tarbell, Peter Kasperski, Amy Binkley or Dave Johnson, you probably find reading a multi-page wine list and making a smart selection intimidating. Too many wines to choose from and way too much terminology and lore to master. So you take a shot in the dark, shell out a chunk of change for an unknown bottle and end up wishing you could pour the stuff down the sink.
Ah, but there's a better way. Len Schultz, the grape geek behind WineQuest -- the Napa-based company that helps restaurants create and manage progressive wine lists any guest or server can understand -- has come up with a brilliant mobile phone app that saves casual wine-drinkers (that's 95% of us) considerable time, stress and money.
It's called WineQuest Mobile and although it's accessible only by iPhone for now, it will soon be available for androids as well. Here's how it works: once you've downloaded the app, you take a short quiz which asks you questions about your relationship with salt, coffee and other "tastes" that helps create a personal profile of your flavor likes and dislikes.
Then you begin to build your flavor profile by ranking each wine you drink according to its GSIFOTA, an acronym for the wine's general category (red, white, sparkling, etc), sugar level, intensity, fruitiness, oaky character, tannins and acidity. Wines are scored from 0 to 9 in each category by you -- because it's all about you here.
Just as is true for music-lovers who use Pandora, WineQuest Mobile zeroes in on your very specific wine preferences over time, which means that when you enter an unknown wine into WineQuest (there are nearly 175,000 wines in the database), it gives you odds (by percentage points) on your chances of liking it.
Now here's where it gets really fun. Any contact in your iPhone can also keep track of his or her preferences. You invite them to join, just as you would with Facebook. So if you're out with your significant other and you're ready to order a bottle of wine, you can predict whether you'll both like it. If there's an 86% chance for you and an 88% chance for her/him? Great! Go for it! 88% for you, 62% for your SO? Better keep looking.
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And just so you know, each wine was "fingerprinted" by a panel of wine experts Schultz rounded up in San Francisco.
At the moment, The Herb Box (both locations) and Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden (slated to open this coming Tuesday) are the only restaurants in the country beta testing Schultz's brainchild. Walk into these restaurants with your iPhone in hand and you can see in an instant which wines to order because their wine lists are plugged into the WineQuest system.
You can still use the app in other restaurants and retail shops. Difference is: you'll have to plug in each selection as you go, asking, "Does this wine work for me?" Go to Gertrude's or The Herb Box and you'll have feedback about every single wine on their lists at your fingertips in an instant. How cool is that?