SBCC Channels

“Mr. Picky” provides guide to wine countries


Link to Channels article

Somewhere between the average wine taster and the experienced connoisseur lies the picky consumer, who is driven for quality but lacks the right resources – until now.

Former City College alumni, current senior artist for UCSB, and entrepreneur David Mallen makes it possible for anyone to traverse California’s wine country with the experience of a connoisseur in the palm of their hand. It’s his own iPhone application, called Mr. Picky.

“He’s picky but he’s not a snob, so I think people relate to him,” said wife and cofounder Patti Mallen, “Because everyone considers themselves as selective.”

David Mallen, a former City College student and Channels staff member, said the idea started as a desire to make an iphone application. His first attempt, Bushwacker, which would have allowed users to throw a variety of shoes at former President George W. Bush, was rejected because Apple Inc‘s policy does not allow defamation of people who hold, or have held, public office.

The Mallens said the rejection didn’t stop them from trying again. They were always interested in California wine tasting, and have been following wineries in Santa Ynez for 15 years, so creating an app was a good way to promote the activities they love.

Mr. Picky is good for wineries, and tasters, because it makes suggestions that make tasting easy, and will guide a user through wine country to quality wineries, free tastings, hotels, restaurants, and will even suggest good places to get a massage. Everything has been tried personally by the Mallens, and the information is updated regularly, said Patti Mallen.

She added that another good thing about the app is that it’s “green.” The paper maps that the wineries have been using are not very detailed, and they are wasteful, which isn’t good for the environment. But not only does Mr. Picky have elaborate detail, it’s completely digital, so there is no throwing away tattered maps after a long day sampling wines.

It took the Mallens and a small team, including developer Jean LeClerk, and artist Scott Trabaugh, to complete Mr. Picky, with an overall cost of more than $6,000.

David Mallen said Mr. Picky is gaining momentum. Since its launch last summer, they have sold around 600 of the app from the iTunes store, and recently, it has expanded to cover Temecula, San Deigo, and Paso Robles wine country, with Napa Valley launching soon.

It’s popular because it relieves the burden of figuring out the details of wine tasting for the novice taster. It’s loaded with insider tips that can guide users to all of the best spots in and around wine country, and at the same time, the industry loves it because it promotes their businesses, he said.

According to the application’s Web site, the Mallens have recently teamed up with the local, which uses the “Picky” design to show when restaurants have been personally approved by Mr. Picky. Right now there are 604 “hand picked” Santa Barbara area restaurants that can be searched by area, price, and cuisine.

Mr. Picky’s most recent advancement is the ability to connect with global position satellites, and Google maps, to give detailed directions from the users exact location, said Patti Mallen.

“It knows where you are,” she said.

David Mallen said that it’s different dynamics that come together to make Mr. Picky a useful resource, and before Mr. Picky was an app, it was a blog called “Picky’s Peaves,” which would go into detail about the little things whether they were good or bad about wine area businesses, such as what restaurants make you “pack your own doggy bag.”

There has been a little negative attention from mentioning wineries that are not part of the Santa Barbara’s Vintner’s association, but this isn’t a big deal to the Mallens, said Patti Mallen.

“We’re not the association,” she said, “so we don’t care.”

She said that their main goal is for people to know where the wineries are, and there is a feedback section on the app that allows users to add their suggestions to Mr. Picky.