Geeking out often leads to information overload. One becomes so enamored of a thing that they seek data about it from any and, often, all sources. Such is my affliction when it comes to wine these days, and thus how I found my way to Winemaker Extraordinaire - a fun, "wine biz" game for the iPad.
If any of you have played the Chocolatier series of games then Winemaker Extraordinaire will be immediately (and perhaps shamefully) familiar to you. For all intents and purposes, it is almost a direct clone of Chocolatier. I cannot determine if the two games are made by the same developer, but at first glance it does not appear so. In both games, you play the part of the heiress to a family business, and it is your goal to get that business back on its feet and expand to take over the world! MU-AH-HA-HAHAHAHAHA!
In Winemaker Extraordinaire you begin your journey in Italy, having just inherited the family winery from your grandfather who has left your uncle responsible for training you in its operation. Ultimately, you are seeking pieces of a secret recipe for the ultimate wine blend, which only your grandfather knew, and he is dead and not talking to anyone. He did, however, tear up the recipe and distribute its pieces among trusted members of the defunct winemakers guild, of which he was the head and which you are also tasked with reviving. As you progress through the game, fulfilling quests issued by various members of the guild, you unlock different parts of the world to which you can travel and obtain new wine recipes and the grapes needed to produce them.
Managing your business in the game is simply a matter of maintaining a big enough wallet to buy supplies (grapes, bottles, barrels), improve the quality of your product (through a Bejeweled-style minigame), and ramp up the output quantities (through another mini-game that hearkens directly back to Chocolatier). As you improve quality and quantity your wine will sell for higher prices and better margins at local "cellars" in each city you visit. You are able to grow your own grapes at the winery vineyards, but that point-and-click minigame was woefully unsatisfying to me. Then again, you may have seen me mention my desire for a full-on vineyard simulator, so I am not quite the target audience for Winemaker Extraordinaire. (I'm sending telepathic commands to these guys to compel them to build my dream winemaking game.)
You can also expand your business by buying new wineries in select locations around the world, which gives you the ability to produce more than one variety of wine at a time. In each city is a branch of the winemakers' guild where you meet the local "chairman" (for lack of a better term) who has challenges for you to fulfill (usually preparing a certain volume of a certain blend for him or to be delivered elsewhere) before he will do further business with you and/or release his piece of the Ultimate Blend.
Overall, the game is not especially challenging. I think it could be a fun lesson for younger players to learn the basics (very) of running a business, but deep strategy here you will find not. What I really liked though - as a wine newbie - were the little tidbits of info the game provided about each wine variety (Cab, Merlot, Riesling, Chianti, etc.). You're given a little detail on the history and tradition of that variety. It's not a lot of information, but for me - as someone just starting out on this journey - it's information I certainly did not know and I'm glad now for having learned it. Good for baby steps, I suppose.
If you have an iPad and are looking for a fun, wine-centric game to pass a few minutes of time here or there, then Winemaker Extraordinaire may be for you. You won't be challenged, but it's a fair bit better than Farmville in my book!
Update: It is also available for PC (apparently has been for some time).