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Uncorkd Offers iPad Wine Menus

By Amy Cavanaugh in Food on Jun 16, 2012 4:00PM

2012_06_14_argent.jpg Selecting which wine to have with dinner can be a daunting prospect, but Uncorkd, a Chicago start-up, aims to take the guesswork out of the process.

Uncorkd launched a year ago, and offers an iPad app and software to restaurants around the country, mostly on the east coast. Currently, you'll only find it in one Chicago restaurant—Argent Restaurant and Raw Bar, which opened in May in the Dana Hotel—thought CEO Josh Saunders is working to bring it to more. We recently stopped in to give it a test run and chat with Saunders about the menus.

Saunders got the idea for Uncorkd after seeing iPad wine menus pop up in restaurants around the country. Restaurants were paying for custom-developed apps, and Saunders decided to make it more accessible for restaurants by creating an app that restaurants could easily update with their wines. But since he had a tech background but no wine education, he hired Sean Parisi, who has worked with wine retailers for a decade, to handle the wine side. Restaurants pay a monthly fee to use the app; they can update the list through their computer, and it will immediately update the menu.

When you sit down at Argent, you get the iPad menu (the restaurant has six total). You can sort the wines by name, vintage, price, or region, which is helpful if you're bringing some wine knowledge to the table. Total newbies can use it to find pairings—you can scroll through the food menu and find suggested wines to drink. Argent's menu also includes their beer and cocktail lists, and there's also a featured section that highlights some of the noteworthy available wines. There are descriptions of each drink, and they're much more detailed than you find on most wine lists. Restaurants can input all the information themselves, or Parisi will help them out.

Argent co-owner Julie Darling told me that the app has made staff more knowledgeable about wines, and that more people are ordering wines—and making better choices.

"They know exactly what they're getting," she said. "It's very user friendly."

The app is definitely easy to use, though we'd also love to see it so you can search for certain terms and descriptions, like dry or fruity. But it's off to a good start—and maybe having an activity at the table will encourage diners to keep their phones tucked away.