About 25 years ago, a soon-to-be-icon named Mr. Picky was nosing his way through the emerging Santa Barbara wine country, tasting at such seminal wineries as Sanford, Foxen, and Rancho Sisquoc. “I was born with a Riedel glass in my hand,” recalled Mr. Picky last week, as he all-too-proudly detailed his latest adventure: an eponymous iPhone app that reveals in a remarkably thorough fashion the wineries of Santa Barbara County, from our urban wine trail near the waterfront to the wine ghetto in Lompoc. “I use it all the time,” admitted Mr. Picky in a properly snobbish tone.
The Mr. Picky’s Santa Barbara Wine Tasting app, downloadable through iTunes for a mere 99 cents, serves as a continually updated wine country directory, allowing users to scroll through wineries alphabetically or employ the “Near Me” function to see which are the closest establishments to your current coordinates. The app features the typical maps and descriptions published every year by the Vintners Association and other assorted organizations, but has also culled the black market maps put out by secret insiders, thereby presenting a more exhaustive database of Santa Barbara County wineries than ever before. “There are so many wineries that never make the map, and they’re popping up every day,” said Mr. Picky, adding that those maps are only published once a year. To keep up with the continually morphing wine-scape, Mr. Picky explained, “I have to do a lot of homework.” On top of that, Mr. Picky gives recommendations of his favorites, lists which places were highlighted in Sideways, includes some selected restaurants and bottle shops, and presents a page of useful tips, including where you can taste for less than $10.
Released without any fanfare on the Fourth of July, it’s been purchased by nearly 100 winos-including six Europeans and one Canadian!-and already boasts 12 glowing reviews on iTunes, all but one adorning the app with five-out-of-five stars. (The one four-star review simply has some recommendations on making it better.) And, said Mr. Picky, “It’s snowballing on Facebook,” the social networking tool that many winemakers love even if they can’t return emails.
Mr. Picky’s right-hand associates are David, a graphic designer at UCSB, and Patti Mallen, who manages commercial property in the Conejo Valley. The couple lives in Santa Barbara, where David was born and raised, and helped Mr. Picky employ French-Canadian Web developer Jean LeClerc and Pennsylvania illustrator Scott Trobaugh to round out the app. They currently are fashioning a program to work with other smartphones and, if all goes well, Mr. Picky and crew might expand their operation to include Paso Robles and perhaps Temecula wine countries, with the wine-saturated Napa Valley a very far-off goal, as that would require full-time research. Together with Mr. Picky, the Mallens explained, “We hope it will help you have a good experience wine tasting and allow you to save some time, too.”
Check out Mr-Picky.com for more info, and purchase the app at iTunes.com.