One of the many things I love about the wine world is how it’s created an underground economy.
Entrepreneurs have left their current jobs and poured their hearts and life savings into the wine world. From building wine cellars, to converting wine barrels into end tables, to even sewing beautiful bags to carry your bottles, they have risked it all to somehow be involved.
“Maybe its because some of our best memories happen over dinner with wine,” says Pam Dillon, who once managed hotels and resorts and was a senior banker at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, covering technology, real estate and retail.
Maybe that’s why she gave it all up, too.
On a seven-week solo introspective trip to Medoza, Argentina, back in 2009, Dillon realized the locals were “so much more at ease when they talked about wine. They didn’t have the insecurities we do.”
And it was then she decided to create an app that would make wine conversations easier and help people understand their taste profiles.
She called her former business partner, attorney Andrew Sussman, and asked him if he thought the idea was viable and if so, would he help run this company.
She then recruited – of all people – her ex-husband Steve and asked him to be the Chief Science Officer. “His mind is a cathedral, and I knew I could trust with writing the algorithm," she says. (The world would certainly be a happier place if more people could say something nice like that about their exes.)
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And since her expertise was in retail, hospitality and tech – not wine -- she enlisted some of the smartest people in the wine world: five professionals who held the Masters of Wine certification and five who were Master Sommeliers.
They were brought on to create a database with thousands of labels and hundreds of data points behind each wine, says Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, one of the five Masters of Wine, who now is in charge of curation and currently manages the wine team.
Dillon believed the timing was right. “The first iPhone was just released and the wine market was ready to explode,” she says.
But it wasn’t until 2011 that the idea started to catch on and some capital finally came in. And they got a huge industry nod when one of the world’s most famous chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, signed on to use the product in his restaurants.
So, flash forward. They now have three patents and – practically six years later –the Wine Ring app finally was released to the consumer on October 27 of this year.
How It Works
First, find your wine in the database of over 500,000 labels, including 50,000 brands from 14,000 geographical areas with thousands of grapes.
Then rate it.
Do you love it?
Is it so-so?
Or, do you not like it at all?
And that’s it. The algorithm starts to keep track of your answers and your profile begins.
No need to input fancy details about whether it was fruity, oaky, had minerality, blah blah blah. Just click: Love it, Like it, So so, or Don’t like it.
And the more you participate, the better your profile will be. Then you can use it your when ordering at a restaurant or purchasing at a store. Either find the wine in the database or just take a picture of the label and the app will be able to tell you if you’ll like it based on what you’ve liked in the past. Check out this video for more details.
But while other apps compile users’ opinions, Wine Ring only cares about yours. After all, no one can taste and enjoy a wine the exact way you can.
Raise Your Glass to Perseverance.
Six years is a long time to see you dream come to fruition.
“But I couldn’t let myself fail and I couldn’t fail my people. They had trusted me,” says Dillon, now CEO of Wine Ring. They stuck with her because they all had skin in the game, too. Everyone involved was given equity in the company from the beginning and trusted in her that she was going to take the product to market.
“At 3 am, it wasn’t about me or my dream anymore," she says. "It was about the hundred or so investors that were expecting me to make it work.
“But that’s what America is about – perseverance.”
Click: Love it.