Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winey Search Notes: Can Likelii Keep You From the Aimless Wandering of Wine Aisles?

I just realized as I sat down to write this that I started off my last review with a familiar scenario: Me, wandering around a wine department, trying to decide on a wine and being helped by a pitying wine clerk. (Winey Tasting Notes: Finding Found Object) Let's face it, it happens to us all. That overwhelming feeling when you're confronted with bottle upon bottle of possible new sipping pleasure - but you just don't know which one you'd like (this also happens to me at Sephora in the "skin care for moms of a certain age" aisle, but that's a totally different story). You could always go with an old favorite, but where is the thrill in that? Finding a new wine you love is great - getting stuck with a bottle of "ick", not so much.

The folks behind Likelii were in the same winey boat, having wandered in a daze through wine aisles, finding themselves drinking the same wine time after time. But instead of standing around looking helpless, they did something about it. And they did it with: "two algorithms and 1M data points to accurately recommend other wines you are most likelii to enjoy". Yes, that's a direct quote from their website, because I have never used the word "algorithm" willingly in a sentence, nor do I have any idea what 1M data points are.

It's a cool idea: you tell them what wines you like, they use that aforementioned math/techy stuff, and present you with a list of wines that are a good match for your palate. Kind of like Netflix - if you like a certain movie genre, the site recommends other movies of that type you'll like (this does NOT work in the Winey Household, by the way: Winey Daughter is into any movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, Winey Hubs is working his way through the top 100 movies of all time, and I would rather read a book, unless the words "Hepburn and Tracy" are used to describe the movie. Kind of hard to solve that with an algorithm. But again, that's another story altogether).

screen shot of Likelii home page
So when Likelii asked me if I would give the site a try, I was more than happy to do so. Heading to the home page, I was asked to fill in the blank: I pick up _____________ for special occasions. Assuming they meant wine and not a new pair of Spanx, I entered "Menage A Trois", a favorite red blend of mine.

Up popped the names of 9 wines that based on Menage A Trois. Promising results, since one of the wineries was Klinker Brick, and I loved their Syrah. The page also gave me the chance to enter four other wines I liked, in the hopes of narrowing down my choices even further. So I entered 4 other reds....and nine more wines popped up. Each wine was rated from 1-5 glasses on the "likelii"hood that I'd like it. At this point, you just want to start browsing the wines and this is where my favorite feature of the site came into play. I could read the description of a wine and enter it in my "saved wines" list. It keeps track of the wines you want to try, lists the wines you have tried and loved, and remembers which wines you've already purchased. So I read and saved and read and saved. After finishing the first 9, I refreshed the selections and 9 more came up. It was a bit addicting, actually. Kind of like gambling, or golf. You never know what will happen the next time you roll/swing/click (actually I do know with golf, which is why the Hubby never plays with me). Some wines I had tried and knew I liked so I rated them in order to help the search engine predict my tastes. Some wines  I knew I didn't like, and I rated them accordingly so that I'd be lead away from them in the future.
screen shot of Likelii's varietal choice pageYou can also search a different way by clicking on the "discover" tab and then "how it works" instead of entering a wine on the home page. This option lets you pick from red, white or both and also gives you the option of choosing a certain region you like or would like to try. I used this for white wines, entering my favorite varietals and areas I'd like to explore. Again, some promising results, including a Finger Lakes winery I liked (Red Newt Cellars), as well as Josh Cellars Chardonnay, which was kind of spooky, since I had just seen this one for the first time at the store earlier in the day.
screen shot of Likelii's regional choices pageI clicked and saved and clicked and saved...seriously, this really was fun. But at some point I had to actually choose the wines being recommended to me. So I headed to my saved wines page and narrowed it down to four: Josh Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon, Chateau St. Michelle Merlot and Elvis The King Cabernet Sauvignon (I couldn't resist). All of these wines were recommended to me were 4.5 glasses or higher, with the exception of Elvis, which came in at 3.5. I also stayed in the $10-$15 dollar range.
Likelii just doesn't list the wines for you (although you can take your recs and head out to the store) - you can buy them from the site as well. All my choices were able to be shipped to me in Ohio, they arrived within 3 days, and I got to work sipping.
First up was the Josh Cellars Chard (2011, 13.9%, CA). This was a big, buttery Chardonnay was predicted as a 4/5 on my likelii list, but there was just something about it. The big and butter sort of overwhelmed any other tastes (and there was some nice tropical fruit in there somewhere), so I dropped my rating of it to a 2/5. Just not for me.
Moving on to the reds, I poured Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon (2010, 13.5%, Washington State). It was rated 4.5/5 for me and it was spot on! This was a wonderful wine - cocoa and blackberries on the nose, cherry and chocolate in the mouth, smooth and supple. Winner!
Up next was the Chateau St. Michelle Merlot (2009, 13.5%, Washington State). It was rated as another 4.5/5 for me...but this time, I had to disagree and give it the full 5 glass rating! LOVED this wine. Warm oak and earth on the nose gave way to a different kind of taste than I'd ever had in the mouth. There were green herbs and fruit and oak all working together to create a wonderful sipping experience! Another winner.
(Elvis The King is not open yet. He will be debuting in the Winey Household on St. Patrick's Day. You may wonder why, since Elvis is not exactly known for being Irish. It just so happens that the Winey Hubby is a St. Patrick's Day baby and is also one of the biggest music fans in the world. So Elvis must wait until then to toast a happy birthday to the Hubby.)
Based on my three bottles, I'd have to say that Likelii did a pretty good job of telling me what to buy. Sure, the white wasn't a big hit (I was taken in by the fact that I had just seen this new-to-me wine earlier in the day - the description did mention "smoke", which I should have paid more attention to) but the reds were home runs. And I mean grand slam home runs - I'll buy them again and again. But not before I head back to Likelii and lose myself in another search!
I was given these wines for review purposes. The opinions expressed above about the wines and the website are all my own.

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