New Okanagan-developed wine app pairs wines with personal preferences

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.

Food and WineLifestyle

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The Sylvan Lake Food Bank with fully stocked shelves. File Photo
Sylvan Lake Food Bank to open for donations in lieu of Stuff-A-Bus

The annual stuff-a-bus event has been postponed until sometime in the new year

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake Grade 2 students in Holiday Healing Campaign

Students in Nicole Eleniak’s class worked to share love and joy with other children this holiday

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Brewpub owner pleased Alberta not closing sit-down dining as COVID-19 cases soar

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at B.C. campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

A pedestrian wears masks while out walking in front of the Alberta Legislature as the COVID-19 numbers spike in Edmonton on Tuesday November 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Doctor says Alberta restrictions not enough to reduceCOVID-19 strain on hospitals

Mithani notes people are still allowed to gather indoors at large places of worship and in bars,

Most Read