Daniel Feder is out to trump a grade-school buddy, Steve Kaufer, who hit it big with the online travel service TripAdvisor. He plans to do it by putting a sommelier in the pocket of any wine lover with a smartphone.
The lawyer-turned-internet entrepreneur will launch WineLuxury.com and a related mobile app in October.
"It is kind of embarrassing if you are out on a date and have to rely on a sommelier," Feder said, while demonstrating his budding service at the eighth annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium in Napa Valley.
"This will help people look more impressive in front of their friends and dates," he promised. "You will be the big cheese when you walk in there."
WineLuxury is starting in restaurant-rich San Francisco, amassing a database of wine lists from the city's restaurants, along with tasting notes and food pairing recommendations from sommeliers.
The information will be correlated to critics' ratings, and tools will provide based-on factors including personal tastes, types of wine, and value for money.
"We are a pocket sommelier," Feder said. "You will be able to fully deconstruct a restaurant wine list based on whatever parameters you want."
After launching in San Francisco, WineLuxury will be extended to Los Angeles and New York City next year in the belief that those cities represent a significant chunk of wine-drinking restaurant-goers.
The start-up's website will let people scrutinize wine lists ahead of time and even email questions to restaurant sommeliers.
"We are trying to create interactive relationships between patrons and restaurants through the wine list," Feder said. "Our main purpose is to enable people at restaurants to get the best wine for them."
His vision is that users will eventually upload wine lists from restaurants, helping the start-up to create the world's largest database of its kind. WineLuxury hopes to make money through premium memberships, or even by selling wine to people using smartphones or tablets.
However, only a handful of wine-related apps have achieved success. According to a 2011 study from Vintank, a digital think tank for the wine industry, "only two to five apps have any critical mass in users."
Wine in hand, Feder laughingly explained that the idea for a business meshing technology and wine was fueled by a drive to one-up a classmate from grade-school days in California.
"My friend from high school founded TripAdvisor, which went public and he made some obscene amount of money," Feder said.
"The whole motivation behind this is basically a high school rivalry; it is born of total immaturity," he continued. "Steve Kaufer, I have you in my sights buddy."