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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Whether you're going full DIY mode or signing up for a private tour, these mobile apps can enhance your wine country experience.

The first thing to do is decide what you want out of your visit. Are you a hardcore wine lover? Or embarking on your wine education? Or going more as a traveler?

For those on a budget, Julia Weinberg, self-described "wine nerd" at the wine site Delectable.com, says to pick your priorities. "Visit fewer places but go for the deeper experience at your top-pick wineries," she says. "Personally, I'd rather allocate my money to buying wine than lavish accommodations, but to each their own in that department."

Define your wine experience

Start with Winery Passport, which lists nearly every region in the United States and Canada. You'll be able to navigate winery tours (and stamp a virtual passport for every one you visit), keep a tasting journal, join wine clubs, and share information with friends and family who also have the app.

If you're in Napa or Sonoma Valley in Northern California, try the WineryGeek app that allows you to search by varietal (Pinot noir? Pinot gris?). You'll also want to choose destinations based on what's important to you. Pet-friendly? Family-oriented? Organic? This app has you covered.

Choosing wisely

If you're one of the many people who pick a wine by the label alone, you can do a little better with wine-identifying apps such as Delectable and Vivino. Using your phone, you can scan the label by snapping a picture and get reviews, tasting notes, and ratings from other users, as well as links to purchase them. These types of apps are excellent for those who want to remember what they liked for better informed purchase decisions at the end of the tour.

"In addition, with such a huge number of winemakers using Delectable, it's always fun to follow your favorites both to learn from what they are drinking and to spark the conversation around their wines—whether you had the chance to meet them or not," Weinberg says.

Lodging and transportation

Ride-sharing apps such as Lyft and Uber offer competitively-priced transportation options, and in some places, actually cater to wine travelers. Uber, for example, has a list of its most popular wine destinations in San Francisco. But do research and make sure that there are rides available or alternate transportation, such as taxis or charter buses, so that you're not left tipsy and stranded at the end of the day.

If you're wondering where to stay, you can plan ahead with home-sharing apps such as HomeAway or Airbnb. For last-minute hotel lodging, score discounts through Booking.com's app or HotelTonight.

Regional wine exploration

At this point, wine country tourism is sophisticated enough that pretty much every region has its own portfolio of apps. Most of them include maps, directories, and reservation help, along with discounts and deals. You can find them easily by searching for the region plus "winery app." Here are a few notable ones:

Keeping it real

Finally, it's important to remember that you'll miss the joy of the full wine experience if you have your nose pointed toward your phone the whole time instead of in your glass.

"I firmly believe that the value of technology isn't to replace any in-real-life experiences, it should simply augment it," Weinberg says. "No app, no technology, no media, no book can ever replicate the experience of being in the actual setting where the wine is made, tromping the vineyards where the wine is grown, and sharing a glass with the people who made it. If technology can help guide you towards those experiences, fantastic. But it will never, ever replace it."

 

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