Some wine apps are deadly serious. Just the facts, ma'am. Or just the ratings.
But Washington State Wine's free iPad/iPhone app the Recommendeuer employs comedian Greg Proops to make learning about the wines and wine regions infectiously amusing.
Donning the character of a pompous but genial "recommendeuer," pronounced with all due hauteur, he gets down and dirty with Washington wines — and gets in some good one-liners. "When I speak, grapes listen."
The introductory bit in which he professes his love for the wines of Washington ends with the character trying to debonairly open a barrel of wine with an ax. When he's unsuccessful, he plaintively asks if anyone has a barrel opener, as if, of course, any winery of reputation would naturally have one in-house.
A short video titled "Varieties is the Spice of Life " features Proops discussing the state's wine varietals, stopping in front of a hand holding a glass of red labeled Merlot or Cabernet Franc and so on. The hands are fixed onto a wood plaque the way a taxidermist would mount a moose or deer head. Creepy, but funny.
Amid all the tomfoolery, the app packs in some serious wine info. You can read about each of Washington's AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) in detail. A nifty interactive map of the AVA regions by Washington State University's Viticulture and Enology department allows you to compare weather details of AVAs within a selected date range, and view the air temperature, rainfall, windspeed or soil temperature at any given time. You can also compare data for different AVAs.
The app is meant to present the wines of Washington and show what the state's wineries have to offer, so don't expect ratings or recommendations of particular wines. But you can look up the 2013 and 2014 winners of Washington State Wine awards.
If you're planning on visiting the state's wine country, the app includes a 2014 tour guide, a rather large document divided by regions or AVAs with maps, notes on what to do and where to eat and a listing of more than 600 wineries and tasting rooms.
Unless I'm missing something, it looks as if you have to scroll through the entire 124-page document in order to find the entries for Walla Walla or Yakima Valley, say. And when you find the name of a restaurant, for example, the celebrated Herbfarm, there's no link to take you to the restaurant's site. You'll have to look that up on your own. (A print copy of the Washington State Wine Tour Guide can be ordered at www.washingtonwine.org.)
If I were headed up to Washington to explore wineries or even just going to Seattle, which has a slew of tasting rooms right in town, this app would be a useful, all-inclusive guide. And hey, it's free.