A few friends and I headed into the Funk Zone on a late Friday afternoon to experience a Santa Barbara wine tour with Seeker, a new Santa Barbara–based web application that offers the only “multi-winery experience in the area,” according to the company’s website.
Seeker offers self-guided wine tours through the area where customers can tour at their own pace, follow a map from place to place, and handle all winery interactions over their smartphones. Users need only show their phones to staff at each location, and they can receive goodies such as tasting flights, cheese plates, and more.
“This is the rising culture of millennials in the Funk Zone because we are a self-guided generation,” Seeker founder Ryan Judy claimed.
My friends and I participated in Seeker’s silver wine package experience, which includes access to seven tasting rooms that cumulatively offer one tasting flight, three glasses, and three — two-for-one tastings.
Judy and Amanda Lyon, operations and marketing Seeker team member, met me at Oreana Winery— the first stop on our tour. A 2013 Oreana Rosé in hand, I listened to Judy and Lyon describe the beginnings of Seeker, which was launched only two months ago.
Judy, who had been coming out from a different line of work, wanted to get involved in something local. Initially, he conceived of a website that offered deals in food, activities, and services — but he soon discovered that companies like Groupon had “annihilated that landscape,” and businesses did not respond positively to Judy’s plans. Judy and Lyon brainstormed ways to transform the company into something more original.
“What we landed on was wine being a really good area to start because it’s so Santa Barbara, and no one was doing a multi-winery package in the Funk Zone,” Judy said. “So we said, All right, let’s do something that’s an experience we can sell that is a good price. But it’s something that people do on their phone. It’s tech based, so we landed on this model and started going around to the businesses and talking about it, and they all really liked it.”
Judy talked about the importance of the word “experience” to Seeker. “The deal — I want so much to change the language to ‘the experience,’ because the deal is — the connotation is — you come from Groupon and you slap down your deal — it’s like a one to one,” he said. What’s different about Seeker is that even after redeeming your “deal,” other buttons pop up that enable you to get other discounts—say 15 percent off a bottle, according to Judy. Seeker stands more for the experience, visiting multiple wineries and having access to certain perks and discounts, than just standing for a single exchange.
Although Seeker is still young, Judy has big plans for the near future, including linking wine tours to hotel bookings in the area. “Hotels are adding us in as package options during booking,” he said. “It’s basically when someone finds a hotel, they can book our package along with it … they can add it for a price, and it’s going to give them a discount on the package and the hotel rate.”
Moving on in our tour, Judy and Lyon accompanied my friends and me to Santa Barbara Winery, where I tasted a 2014 sauvignon blanc. The conversation turned to food as the sky grew darker, chasing the happy-hour crowd away. Lyon commented that the future of the company may very well include more extensive food deals — but in the meantime, she pointed us in the direction of Lucky Penny, a pizzeria and coffeehouse that offered a perfect pit stop between wineries. My friends and I said our good-byes to Judy and Lyon and proceeded to eat dinner before moving on to the next winery.
Bellies satisfied, our next stop was Corks n’ Crowns Tasting Room, where I tasted a Windstream Cellars 2013 chardonnay. Night had completely fallen, and the temperature was perfect to sit on the porch that wraps around the winery.
We ended the night at Area 5.1 Winery, where the menu reads, “Restricted access. Use of deadly force authorized. Violators will vanish without a trace.” Here, we had a tasting flight that included two whites, a 2014 White Light and a 2014 Close Encounter; and three reds, a 2012 Majestic, a 2013 Conspiracy Red, and a 2013 Collusion.
After an enjoyable afternoon, my friends and I reluctantly headed home. But the best part about the trip—it is not over. Seeker wine packages are redeemable for a full year, and there are still three wineries we did not visit. Until next time.
For more information, visit seeker.co.