New Okanagan-developed wine app pairs wines with personal preferences

Founder Alyssa Farr’s goal is to support wine-growing regions across Canada

  • Jul. 26, 2019 8:00 a.m.

– Story by David Wylie Photography by Darren Hull

In the mood for a wine that pairs perfectly with a date night? How about a summer party? A bath? Networking event? Relaxing with your dog?

TasteAdvisor has a few suggestions just for you.

The wine app, which is set for release this summer, helps people discover new wines by making recommendations based on personal preferences. It suggests wines, wineries, tasting routes, events and relevant deals — all based on your taste.

It’s comparable to Spotify, a popular service that learns the kind of music people like and recommends songs that fit the mood.

“I’m glad I’ve had Spotify to help me find songs, but I needed something to help me find wine,” says the Alyssa Farr, who is the Okanagan-based founder of the app.

The app takes into account price-point, style, flavour, and sweetness levels, among other factors. A diverse set of characteristics define the wines that individuals like. Alyssa says she and her team have been working for over a year to find out what makes people decide what they look for in a wine.

“We learn as you go along about what you start to like,” says Alyssa. “You’ll be able to search through the database and look for genres and categories — like best for a wedding, best for a date night, best organic, for my dog and me — so you can try wines that really suit your profile.”

Those who adopt the app are referred to as “tasters” rather than “users.” There’s a “recommended for you” section, with wines that meet each taster’s unique criteria, and tasters can rate wines, take notes, make curated lists (like “Best Reds of the Okanagan”) and then share their lists with friends.

TasteAdvisor will have info on wine prices and availability, like whether a bottle is sold only at the winery, if it’s for wine club members only, or if the item is a quick seller.

“Those are pretty important if you are a lover of local wines,” says Alyssa.

The app helps eliminate the 50/50 chance people take when they pick up a bottle, especially when there are no tasting notes on the label. It also taps into the feedback of its tasters. Alyssa, who herself prefers full-bodied wines, says the team is working on a system to weigh wine ratings more heavily for people who prefer the style of wine they are reviewing.

TasteAdvisor has been in development for three years. During the first half of the process, Alyssa undertook exploration and research to make something that solved industry pain points while simultaneously being fun for its tasters. The second half was spent building the team, setting up the infrastructure and making countless revisions.

There’s a core Okanagan-based team of four behind the app, including Alyssa, whose prior ventures include a construction company and a manufacturing business. The team also includes wine researcher Darcen Esau, branding and marketing expert Linsey Reimer, and marketing, culture and events pro Cheryl Molenaar. The app development team is based in Ontario.

“I’ve never done something like this,” says Alyssa. “My construction background really was helpful because I’m working with the digital builders of this world instead of the physical builders. It’s the same thing, in that you really need to know what your designs are, have a good drawing and make sure you communicate — or you might not end up with the house you wanted.”

Originally from Belleville, Ontario, Alyssa moved to the Okanagan 13 years ago. She initially wanted to be a teacher, but decided instead to learn the skills that would allow her to build businesses.

Taking to heart a suggestion that she look at something in the wine sector, Alyssa was determined to create something scalable and rooted in tech. She dedicated over a year to trying to understand the key problems of the industry.

Most wineries are small, often with too little production for retail and not nearly enough to be sold out of province. Building a winery is capital intensive and takes a long time to get a return. It’s highly legislated, with regulations around both food production and alcohol sales. There are also retail and hospitality elements.

“I wanted to do something that would support them being more sustainable by helping these small businesses — who are running four different types of businesses in one — so that the rest of us can just wander down the road and find things that we love,” says Alyssa.

“I really want to support the entrepreneurial spirit.”

While the app helps tasters find the right wine for their unique palates, it also helps local wineries connect with customers. Alyssa says that’s a win-win and notes that there is nothing else like this on the market.

Currently, Vivino is the most popular wine app available.

“It focuses more on the 100-point system, which is based on the palate of a handful of people,” she says. “Our tagline is ‘Taste What You Like’ because we think wine is what you like it to be. It’s not about snobbery and it’s not about one person’s perspective.”

On the verge of the app’s official launch, Alyssa has been doing walk-throughs of it to get feedback. Prior to its official release, 2,000 people are already interested in downloading it.

The industry launch has given wineries, tour companies and retailers a chance to submit their profiles, tour routes and other info for inclusion on the web and mobile platform.

“Our goal is to support wine-growing regions across Canada and eventually in other countries,” Alyssa says.

“I’m hoping that people will use the app regularly when they go tasting; they’ll use it when they’re at a dinner party — they can tap it, rate it and say, ‘I love this, I really want to get it again,’ and put it in their cellar.

More information is at tasteadvisor.co.

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