iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD And… Tasting Notes?

Vinted on October 30, 2012 binned in commentary, learning wine

I do not own a tablet computer.

I also do not own a smartphone (many of you who have seen me at events in 2012 can attest to teasing me about the miserable state of affairs of my “dumb” phone, which now goes by the nickname “Jurassic Cell” and employs technology so ancient that it was, I think, left by the Apostles and rediscovered before being sold to me by Verizon several years ago). The closest I’ve gotten to the tablet craze is lugging around what I refer to as my iPod, which is an Apple iPhone 3GS I received from a 1WD reader for free, the phone portion having been disabled. An avid reader, I still “process” e-books on my first-generation Nook (and, even more tellingly, still love it; e-ink FTW!).

By my rough calculations, this all puts me squarely into “old fart” tech territory, a status a share with about 0.0023% of the First World’s population. It might actually make me retro-cool, but probably makes me more anti-cool than anything else. Whatever –  invested the several hundred bucks I haven’t spent on that tech, you beeaaatches!

Anyway, the entire world continues to go tablet crazy, to the point where there are now people who are looking to sell the iPad they bought just six months ago in order to purchase the slightly more upgraded same generation iPad announced by Apple last week. And now that Apple has joined Google, Nook, and Amazon and has entered the 7-whatever-inch tablet market (news you will already have heard, unless for some reason you’re dead), it’s been nearly universally agreed that the small tablet format (bridging the “gap” between phones and larger tablets and/or laptops) has officially arrived in terms of price/quality ratio.

What the hell does any of this have to do with wine?

A small bit, actually, but an important one for any people out there wanting to seriously up their personal Wine IQ

You see, to really know wine, you have to taste a lot of it. Well, that and you need to bring a very open mind with you when you do taste.

And one of the most important steps to take for any budding (or even established) wine geek in all of that tasting is to take notes on what you tasted, what you liked, what you didn’t like, what moved you to screams or to tears of joy, or what didn’t move you at all.

Now, over the last few years I’ve seen people do exactly that at big tasting events, using iPads. Some, like Snooth.com’s Gregory del Piaz do that with a speed that seems almost to defy logic, and outpaces me taking similar notes using Pen + Paper Version 1.0. Vinography.com’s Alder Yarrow is pretty much never seen at a tasting event without his iPad, even cleverly employing its over-sized bulk by using one of the corners as a holder for a wine glass clip, so that his tasting glass has a home while he types his notes.

And something tells me that, given a properly-designed spreadsheet or making use of any number of a dozen or so iPad apps, I’d be able to make short work of that f*cking mess of wine samples in my basement; categorizing, organizing and logging all of them (or, rather, my intern would be ale to do all that, before she gets me coffee).

But the issue for me has always been the bulk of the iPad – it’s sort of like carrying around a laptop for a small guy with small hands like me. My trusty free iPhone 3GS can work in a pinch, but it’s so small that typing on it make me want to scream, strip naked, put my underwear on my head, punch a wall and have a psychotic episode.

So now you know where I’m going with this.

Enter the smaller-format tablets: presumably large enough to type tasting notes on effectively, large enough to view without feeling like you’re trying to stuff your entire head into the screen, and yet small enough to carry in one hand. I suspect that some of those tablets would still be big enough to house a wine glass clip, too. Just sayin’.

And so, while the Global Interweb talking heads debate if anyone will buy the iPad Mini or not, I find myself suddenly with a justifiable urge to finally join the 21st Century and enter the tablet fray, because I can se myself actually using one of them thar’ thangs within the duties of my “job” (tax deduction, baby!).

Alright, alright, that and watching Doctor Who episodes on a larger screen while I travel (those are tax deductible, too, right?).

I know some of you out there are already employing tablets in the wine tasting wild, and would love to hear your thoughts on how they work (or don’t) for you… especially if you’re using one of the smaller tablets…






  • Dusty

    Well I don't have a tablet but am in the same-ish boat as you. I really find myself wanting to take the plunge and get this new, smaller version of the ipad. I too have a baby sized keyboard on my Android. And though I have always had a smart phone, I still read my books in paperback and feel like a geezer for that.

    On top of that, Sasha's, a local wine bar here in St Louis uses ipads as their wine lists and I have wanted one ever since they started using them.

    • 1WineDude

      Dusty – maybe we should take the plunge… I'm eying-up the Nexus 7 tablet now…

  • Paulb


    I use a a smartphone (droid Razr Maxx) and there are days when I long for the simplicity of my old flip phone. (Though not for the Motorola satchel phone I started with). But It does have it's uses. I have been playing with a Samsung Tab2 10.1 and it's OK, Better than the phone but not as good as the netbook. I'm thinking about getting my wife a Nexus 7 so I can try that :-).

    For tracking your samples CellerTracker is the way to go. I use it on both my tablet and my phone for viewing and taking items out and my netbook for entering items. But that's only because I print labels for everything, so I need the printer output. The is a third party IOS (apple) app for the Ipad that access the CellarTracker Database so you can use an Ipad to maintain your wine.

    You've got a blog for god's sake, don't be a Luddite.

    • 1WineDude

      Paulb – Go easy, bro, I'm small so I need to plan stuff like this carefully. Most devices are way too big for my little hands! :) As for the phone, that's more a matter of me being a cheap-ass; I just refuse to pay more than $50 or so a month for service, and my only smartphone service alternative around here is T-Mobile which everyone basically has told me to avoid like the plague. BUt the 7″ tablet would get a sh*t-ton of usage around my house, and could replace the laptop on the road, and might be just small enough to take to tasting events. Maybe I am just trying to convince myself?

  • Timo at Wineshout

    I'm a mobile designer by day and haul around a slew of iOS gear, but I have to admit that I'm still mainly a notebook kinda "tasting noter". I'll use my iPhone for the pics and sometimes to take notes when my pen craps out, but I like the feel of scribbling away the way I enjoy an old school wine with a feel for its region rather than generic plonk.


    • 1WineDude

      Timo – I hear you. I might just be in the “I want a new toy let's justify it” phase, but I see some merit to using tablets in those circumstances, maybe I just need to take the plunge now that they're viable and under $200…

      • Timo at Wineshout

        Joe, I can totally dig that. And they are very, very good tools, esp iPad! My gear comes to me from my employer so that yearning is gone for me. Hey maybe it's just backlash against tech overload on my part :D (…am I lying on a couch? This feels therapeutic!)

        • 1WineDude

          Timo – ha!

  • Jeff Cope

    I used to use my iPhone for taking notes about the winery I was visiting, but we always had to let the people know I was really paying attention and not playing Angry Birds or something while I was typing away. So I got an iPad to do the same thing and they never think that now. But I don't find myself using it for much more than that.

    I have tried doing all my blogging/writing on the iPad when traveling but it just doesn't have the best apps/browser to do so compared to a regular laptop. Now I own a used Netbook laptop and that's what I use for the serious work on the road. I still use the iPad for my note taking at wineries but sure wish I could find some real productive use out of it to justify the purchase.

    • 1WineDude

      Jeff – the tablets always struck me as consumption devices, not creation devices. But also seems that *some* creation can be done with them, just not any serious writing, etc.

    • Timo at Wineshout

      Have you tried an external keyboard with your iPad …for at tastings, of course :) Makes it much more usable.

      • Jeff Cope

        I have a bluetooth keyboard which definitely makes it easier for typing. But with a WordPress site, the dashboard still doesn't work well on Safari/Chrome and the WordPress app and other blogging apps aren't great. I'm really a Windows guy and I'm thinking the new tablets coming out which will let you have a USB port, run apps like you have at home like Office & graphic editors, a browser with flash, etc. is going to be the key as a replacement device on the road.

        • 1WineDude

          Jeff – me, too. And while I can see adding a keyboard for serious typing, no way would I be doing that in a tasting session :).

          • Timo at Wineshout

            Yeah, sorry, meant to say "…not for at tastings, of course" :-/

            • 1WineDude

              Timo – no worries, is that a tablet or smartphone autocorrect typo???? ;-)

              • TabletPro

                Tablet keyboards are all over Amazon and you can get some really good deals there. They do help increase productivity over using the touch screen (in my experience).

  • Ted

    I have been a wine rep for over 20 years tasting and taking notes through it all. For the longest time it was all done old school-pad and pen. Finally I jumped to the ipad. It's a hate/love relationship. First off, I like to taste sitting down. I can't imagine being efficient trying to type while standing. My big success is using my Evernote App. I can have different file categories. The great thing it connects with my home computer and my iphone. Entered once and it is now on all three. Also, you can easily search. It is awesome.
    I talk to so many buyers who still take notes on paper and I ask the question, how often can you find a particular note on a wine. Usually it's not easy for them.
    Now I can walk with all my tasting notes on all my devices.

  • cbbrown3

    I love having my Samsung Galaxy 2, 7" tablet with me. I can take pictures and easily enter tasting notes. I use DropBox, so everything is automatically uploaded to the cloud and easily retrievable on my main computer for clean up and archival.

    My wife has the latest iPad, but it's just too bulky for me to comfortably use "in the wild".

    • 1WineDude

      cbbrown – that's the same concern I've got for the ipad, even the mini version.

  • Carl Helrich

    Joe, the three of us in the winery are all ex-IT guys, and we run a wi-fi in the middle of nowhere with a couple laptops, and old iMac, a Dell laptop, an HTC Droid, an iPhone and a Samsung tablet. I think we're the most connected place for 15 miles. But without Dropbox, on all of it, we'd be dead in the water. It's only as good as the apps you use. Check it out. –Carl

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Carl!

  • MyrddinGwin

    Hey, Dude. The tablet I own and use is a Blackberry Playbook. My Dad got it for me last year as a birthday gift. It does suffice for most of my everyday computing needs–I'm even writing this comment using it. While it does annoy me on occasion, usually a reset gets it working normally again. I also usually lock it in landscape orientation rather than portrait so the onscreen keyboard is bigger. That said, it is a fairly small device, still. I also have a convertible case for it, so I can set it on something somewhat upright and still type.
    I would agree with Carl–a tablet is only as good as the apps you use. My own notes are generally taken on the word processor included on the tablet because it fits my needs without costing me money or making me angry at how stupid the program is. Occasionally, I might take a voice note, though I would have to remember the date I recorded a note, then. Usually, I would write out my notes from a voice note later.
    For shows, though, I stick with pencils and paper. I worry less about having wine spilled on paper than I do electronics, and if I lose the papers somehow, I'm going to be more mildly annoyed at myself for losing a small bunch of notes rather than devastated that I no longer have reliable internet access at home. As well, sometimes an irresistible urge to scribble or doodle might come over you while waiting for entry or on transit, and while there are apps for that, and a thing called a stylus, I simply prefer the shading effects possible with pencils, or even pens.
    Anyway, good luck with your decision.

    • 1WineDude

      MyrddinGwin – I find your measured and intelligent approach to this highly at odds with my emotionally-based potential impulse buy… ;-)

  • Michael Graves

    I really wish that I could find an Android app for taking tasking notes. I have a Galaxy Nexus phone which I always use to to take pics of the labels.

    I also have a Nexus 7 tablet. You are so right that tablets are more about info consumption than creation. I also bought a Logitech BT keyboard but I find the Nexus 7 / keyboard combination a poor replacement for my 3 year old HP netbook.

    I don't really want an app to track my cellar, as I'm not collecting in that sense. I just want to track my tasting notes and labels. I really see this as an opportunity for someone to sell such an app. The trick is to not try to be all things to all wine-o's. Keep it simple. And don't ignore the Android user community.

    • 1WineDude

      Michael – well-put. I'd imagine that typing brief tasting notes in Evernote could work (and it's searchable!). But in terms of writing a long article? No way – I'd rather use the laptop (or preferably home PC) for that kind of heavy lifting!

  • Alana Gentry

    I still love my first generation nook. Some things should not be tampered with.

    • 1WineDude


  • iPhone5S

    I used to use my iPhone for taking notes about the winery I was visiting, but we always had to let the people know I was really paying attention and not playing Angry Birds or something while I was typing away.

    • 1WineDude

      Ahsan – ha!

  • Jarvis Markov

    To be honest, I never got the point of buying a new, slightly upgraded version of a gadget a few months after you bought one. Call me a little old-fashioned, but it just doesn't seem practical to me.

  • Mike McCool

    I don't own an iPad either and probably won't for awhile longer. I'm usually one that is the last to get even the old technology let alone the new. It just doesn't interest me like it does for most people. I don't have to have the latest and greatest with this technology thing.

  • Paul Brody

    First, there were smart phones, then tablets, and now mini tablets? I can only wonder what comes next.

    • 1WineDude

      Google glass, dude…

  • brian

    What I have found from my kindle fire review is that comparing the kindle fire and the iPad are like comparing a volkswagen and a ferrari. They are both cars but one cannot be expected to be as good as the other. Both are great within their price range 

  • Justin

    I'm kind of a iPad expert, even though i jumped on the iPad wagon quite late. I wouldn't recommend to get the ipad mini, wait for the second version to come out, it will have a much better display then the current version.

    • 1WineDude

      Justin – thanks, but way too late, bro. Went with the nexus 7 & love it. Unlike my Samsung Android phone, which is a piece of crap…

  • roberto

    I think that’s the point. They don’t need to include GV. It’s their for the taking for whoever wants it. Google is trying to prove a point with this regarding voice. Frankly, I’m surprised they offered video.

  • Danish Ahza

    i love my samsung galaxy note, android platform is the best one i think. but you love graphic then iphone is good choice. another one is google nexus 7, the new generation tablet from google

  • Jdesign

    Branding for all businesses! Just like good wines, good tablets rely on positive brands! I prefer apple because of the quality product, just as a prefer Gallo wine! Cheers!

  • Paul

    Bro I've reviewed all of the Apple post pc devices like iPad, iPod and iPhone Review and what i found so, far is that to maximize the productivity of your work it is better that you should use a bluetooth keyboard which works great. There is a keyboard from logitech or any other company which supports all apple devices over bluetooth and you can switch devices over the fly. So, you should definitely check that out

  • Zackary Richards

    I'm sticking with my kindle. If it works, don't fix it.

    • 1WineDude

      This old debate is over for me. I went nexus.

      • Paisley

        Agreed, WineDude.

        I used to have an iPhone and a Kindle. Then I went Galaxy Nexus.

        I never looked back!

  • Chris Hunter

    Only issue I have with the Kindle are the lower end ones (8GB). I bought two for my kids last christmas and have had major issues with running out of space for games. Out of the 8 GB, you apparently only have 1.5-2GB, so it's extremely limiting. They are constantly bugging me about running out of space and there not being any room for games. We can't even fit a movie on them. If we get kindles again, I'll probably get the 32GB ones.

    That being said though, I do like the platform. I currently have an iPad and am strongly considering getting a kindle to replace it though. Anyone have experience with the LTE ones?

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