Can’t get to a winery to do tastings yet still want to enjoy wines? Consider joining a Zoom wine tasting or hosting a virtual tasting of your own. I’ve been doing both for the past year with increasingly positive experiences. Here are my tips for having a great tasting experience and connecting with like-minded wine lovers from the comfort of home. Although it will never replace the experience of an evening out with great friends, it is both energizing and heartwarming to spend an evening learning, laughing and drinking wine.
How can I learn about wine at home?
It is natural to use the pandemic time as a time to enhance our education in things. For example, I am taking Italian online and I do maybe 3-4 wine tastings or wine education programs per week. So if wine is your passion, one way to keep learning is through online classes at Napa Valley Wine Academy or San Francisco Wine School.
What to expect from an online wine course
Although not the same as in-person tasting, you can either do just the web education or purchase the wines that are discussed in the webinar. They may be simply examples of wine like Rosés from Provence or Cabernets from Napa or specific wines.
Almost across the board, wineries are offering online tastings hosted by members of their staff. Sometimes the experience is even offered by the winemaker or winery owner. With a winery-hosted online wine-tasting party, you sign up and order the wines beforehand.
This way, you may taste wines, get tasting notes, learn background on the vineyards and experience the winery ambiance with those who live it day to day. It almost makes it like having a local winery, no matter where you are.
Sometimes these tastings suggest recipes for food pairings or partner with a restaurant to deliver the appropriate meals for the wines tasted.
Consider joining a winery’s virtual wine tasting using Zoom
ONX Winery of Paso Robles figured out early on that they needed to do something to reach out to wine club members and potential customers who could not make it to the winery to taste new releases. You can always join a winery-organized online wine tasting. Many wineries currently offer online events to augment their in-person experiences.
But if you want to host your own Zoom tasting with friends or your lover, something like the ONX tasting kit makes a smart option.
An at home wine tasting kit
For about $20, ONX Winery sends two-ounce samples of five wines to everyone participating in one of their Zoom wine tastings. And then you simply organize a Zoom call virtual tasting among friends or relatives – or just you and that special someone – along with a rep from the winery.
It might not be the romantic visit to a favorite vineyard you pictured, but it still offers you a chance to connect over wine and learn a little bit about the wine country along the way.
Making new friends at a Zoom wine tasting party
One of my friends in Studio City, California serves as a great example of how to do wine Zooms the right way. To date, she’s organized about 20 ONX tastings via Zoom and sold 120 kits just by word of mouth, (and her Facebook group).
She put together the idea of ordering the ONX kits as well as a bottle of their popular Rosé of Tempranillo so that she and her ever expanding friend circle could taste together, along with a winery rep, and then enjoy a glass of rose on their own or together online.
Among these tasters, some were women and others were couples but the social interaction online as well as learning the wines was much appreciated, ONX Winery got many new followers (possibly members), online tasters made new friends and, of course, learned a little bit more about wines from the comfort of their kitchen tables.
ONX declared the program to be such a success that they are looking at expanding their remote tasting program, all thanks to my friend and wine lover, Debbie!
How to host your own wine tasting Zoom party
There are really only a few simple steps between you and an evening of wine and laughter with friends:
- Set up an account with Zoom or your preferred meeting-hosting service
- Choose the wine theme of your virtual wine tasting with friends (ie: Cabernet or Rosé, etc)
- Schedule your event and email invitations with event link
- Log in at the designated time and enjoy your wine Zoom!
If you feel comfortable with both wines and your Zoom facilitation capabilities, I highly recommend trying to organize your own wine Zoom with your friends following the 4 simple steps above.
Set up your Zoom account or try Google Hangouts
There are both free and paid tiers of Zoom accounts. A free account will allow you to host all of your friends, but you are restricted to a 40-minute time limit. You can also explore Zoom alternatives like Google Hangouts. And don’t forget, there’s always Skype.
Pick a theme for your wine tasting zoom party
Once you’ve scheduled your Zoom meeting, either choose the same wines to drink and compare or pick a variety, like Sauvignon Blanc or Cabernet Sauvignon or maybe a style like sparkling wine, and see what people bring to open online.
Depending on how you set up your virtual wine tasting, you might need extra glasses. Here is some of our favorite stemware for wine tasting.
Guests may stick with their California favorites or venture out and try something tart and crisp from New Zealand or a bit more rounded from Bordeaux. If you’re really organized, you can even create a list of wine recommendations for purchase from online sites like Drizly or Wine.com.
Simply go into Zoom and organize a meeting. Add your friends and pick a time, then send the invitation and see who can make it. This may become a weekly thing and may branch out to all kinds of wine varieties, cocktails and even food pairings.
Find a wine expert to host your online wine tasting party
If you aren’t comfortable picking your own theme and hosting a tasting yet, you can always join an organized tasting, or arrange one. Our own wine and spirits writer Annette Tomei offers very popular wine and spirits tastings through her website Wander, Eat and Tell.
Or check with your favorite winery to see if they will organize a private tasting for you. Charles Krug Winery has received great buzz for their customized online tastings. And I’ve heard that Willamette Valley Wine will help put you together with an Oregon winery for a unique, Willamette wine tasting experience.
Just when you feel you haven’t seen anyone or been out in society, a virtual tasting is the perfect way to spend time with a lover when you’re separated and to catch up with old friends, laugh and maybe learn a little something. Cheers!
And if you want to know what wine tastings I’ve been up to lately, follow me on Instagram @barbarabarrielletravels.
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