Texas Wine Traveller – Why I Wrote It

Texas Wine Traveller main imageI am very happy and proud to announce the release of Texas Wine Traveller(TWT) in the App Store, and soon in the Android store. TWT is not a very complex program as far as programs go, but it took a long time to get it to market. This is the story of the whats, whos, hows, and – most important to me – the whys of creating TWT.
When Julie and I started visiting wineries last year, our primary source of information was Google. We would start driving and google “winery” or “vineyard” along the way to see what wineries were close; however, not all wineries would show up, and the information was often out of date. We quickly discovered the Texas winery passport program which led us to the GoTexan website and a list of Texas wineries; unfortunately, the information on the GoTexan site was also out of date or incomplete, so we ended up visiting wineries when they were closed or not even in existence anymore.

We have become such crazed Texas wine and winery fanatics that Julie – my girlfriend, wife, better half, and best friend – decided to create a database of all the wineries and their latest information. She started off by taking the list of wineries on the GoTexan site and hand entering all of it into an Excel spreadsheet, then she went to the website of every winery listed and verified the information: address, hours, phone numbers, emails, etc. If the “about the winery” information that was in the GoTexan data was incorrect or outdated, she would either copy the text from the website or actually re-write an “about” paragraph for her database. We wanted the latest data possible for our numerous, unpredictable road trips.App Store badge

Julie”s next self-imposed mission was to find out which wineries had Facebook pages and add them to her list as well as Twitter IDs. She kept hitting the search limits on Twitter – I bet you didn”t even know that Twitter has limits for searching.

A few months ago we found a site that contained links to the TABC permit lists, so we pulled those down and compared them to the database Julie had built and discovered more recent additions to the growing list of Texas wineries – additions that have yet to make it to GoTexan or Wine Wherever.

And then the Texas Department of Agriculture budget got cut.

We love Texas wine and Texas wineries, and although the Passport program has provided us with some cool perks, we have never avoided a winery that didn”t have a passport code – in fact we visited several wineries with codes and completely forgot to get them. It”s never been about the discounts, gifts, or perks for us – it”s always been about the wine, the history, the winemakers” stories, and most importantly the people.

As we have watched the winding down of the Texas Winery Passport program and increased staleness casino pa natet of the winery data on the GoTexan site, Julie and I realized that we may have the most accurate and current Texas winery database in existence, and we have often talked to other #TXWine tweeps about needing a central, comprehensive, and current database of Texas wineries available to the public. This was the birth of Texas Wine Traveller.

Getting Julie”s Excel spreadsheet into a database was easy, but “while we”re at it”, I decided that we needed to add actual GPS coordinates to the database. You see, we have found ourselves in Timbuktu or BFE several times when we followed Google, Mapquest, or Bing directions to some of the wineries that had addresses in rural areas. Those services use address estimations for rural roads, and they can be way off many times. So I dropped pins on the map for every winery on our list, honed the locations to the winery or winery entrance, and recorded the GPS coordinates. Along the way I discovered that some winery info had changed – again – so I updated our base data as well. We dropped a couple of listing for closed wineries and added a couple of rows for new locations. I ended up visiting almost every winery website and Facebook page again while finalizing the first TWT release.

No doubt TWT will soon have stale winery data, but the only way for us to keep the data fresh is to scour multiple websites, constantly make phone calls, send emails, and depend on users to let us know when info changes.

Or we can try to become the central data repository for Texas wineries and let the wineries maintain their own data on the database. The concept here is to give each winery access to their data records and let them update their own info in an easy-to-use web interface. This updated information would then be pushed to the TWT app over the air whenever a user loads the app. New info could be highlighted or listed on a separate window. We can also have a section for wineries to publish special offers for users, etc.

The possibilities for TWT are endless. Sine we have all the wine trails in their own tab, we could even add the ability for trail-wide news, specials, and updates. I have already built the basis for this in the underlying database.

So what”s in this for me?

Not a whole lot, actually. Hopefully some appreciation and a little money to offset the costs associated with TWT, but Julie and I are motivated to do all of this because we love Texas wine, wineries, and all the people involved. I have figured that TWT may sell 1,000 – 2,000 copies if I”m lucky, and that translates to $700 – $1,400 before taxes. Believe me, I make a bit more than that at my day job. Even if it were to go crazy and sell 10,000 copies, it”s still not enough to retire on or keep me from needing my day job

I have been building systems and software for many years, and have the knowledge and experience to pull the programs and websites together. Julie has the love, personality, and experience to help pull the people together if given the chance, and together we make a kick-ass team. Just ask the people in the industry who have met us. We created TWT for the Texas wine industry as a tool to help get the latest info out to all the current and potential customers. Yeah, we”re that crazy.

And that”s how much we love Texas wine.

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