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- With most Americans sheltering in place and bars and restaurants closed due to the novel coronavirus, many people are turning to online experiences for socializing.
- Wineries, winemakers, and wine connoisseurs are bringing the vineyards and tasting rooms straight to living rooms with virtual wine tastings.
- Many of the virtual tastings are free to join, and some ship wine right to your door as part of the package.
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Many people are still self-isolating due to the novel coronavirus, which means meeting friends for a glass of wine or spending the weekend at a beautiful vineyard is out of the question for now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t virtually gather with family, friends, or coworkers and enjoy uncorking a favorite bottle of wine.
While tasting rooms may be closed to in-person visitors, many are bringing tastings, classes, and events directly to living rooms instead.
Virtual wine tastings are a fun way to connect, learn something new, and discover new wines. It’s also an ideal way to take your tastebuds on a mini-vacation without putting on real pants. Sip a fruity Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or relish a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley — you might even get some inspiration for your next post-quarantine trip.
Many of the tastings are free to join, and some will send wine directly to your door as part of the package. For those that require buying your own bottles, it’s easier than ever to order wines directly from vineyards or from a local alcohol delivery service.
I recently tried a virtual wine tasting myself on Coursehorse. I’m no stranger to in-person tastings thanks to my background as a travel editor, and I remember the days of drinking Chianti in Tuscany, throwing back cava in Catalonia, and sipping Chardonnay in Sonoma. I was hesitant at first about doing a virtual class since wine tastings are such sensorial experiences. A huge part of the fun for me has always been looking out at a stunning vineyard view, chatting with whoever is pouring the wine, and sometimes even getting a chance to tour the cellars and learn about the winemaking process.
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However, when a couple of friends from college I haven’t been able to see in person for months suggested taking a Wine Tasting 101 class, it sounded like a fun way to reconnect with them. Plus, I was also eager to take a break from my usual quarantine activities of bread baking and puzzles to try something new.
We ordered our wines on Drizly and joined the class via Zoom. While the particular class we did was geared towards beginners, I still picked up quite a bit of new wine knowledge. My fiancé, who’s typically more of a craft brew guy than a gentleman of fine wines, also enjoyed the introductory level and the interactive aspect to the class since he was able to ask questions as we went.
We opted for a group class so we didn’t know who was joining in. If you really want the experience of having it just be your group, I suggest booking a private tasting, which many of the below options offer. We chose to connect more privately after instead, hopping on our own Zoom call over the last glass of our favorite wine from the class to discuss the tidbits we’d picked up.
Despite my initial misgivings, it ended up making for a fun evening and I discovered a new favorite Sauvignon Blanc I’ll definitely be drinking again in the future.
Wine Tasting: Sensory Techniques for Wine Analysis on Coursera
For those who want to seriously up their wine tasting skills while quarantining, Coursera offers a free class from UC Davis to turn beginner sippers into pro sommeliers. The class takes roughly 14 hours to complete. Throughout the class, students build sensory vocabulary to describe wine, learn to identify various faults in different varietals, discover classic wine types of the world, delve into food pairings, and more. The course culminates in a peer review project using all the knowledge developed throughout the course to assess a specific wine.
Starting price: Free
Wine included? No. Students will need to purchase the necessary wines on their own. Coursera anticipates that the total cost of the wines through the class is $150 to $250.
How to join: Sign up on Coursera here.
Virtual Wine Tasting 101 on Coursehorse
Virtual Wine Tasting 101 is ideal for beginner tasters interested in learning basic wine terms, how to properly taste wine, and trying different varieties to decide what wines most appeal to your palette. The two-hour, interactive class begins with a brief introduction to how wine is made and teaches wine newbies to speak confidently about acidity, legs, body, and more fundamentals through five different wines. It can be booked as part of a regular group lesson or as a private event.
Starting price: $35 per person
Wine included? No. Participants will need to buy the specific wines themselves ahead of time, but all of the wines are easily accessible at most wine shops and through alcohol delivery services.
How to join: Sign up on Coursehorse here. A Zoom link and PowerPoint will be emailed out just before the tasting begins.
Corkbuzz is offering a series of virtual one-hour wine classes taught by varying experts and broken down by region. Taste your way through Napa Valley or learn the basics of Burgundy. Classes discuss everything from the geography and soil to the winemaking techniques and popular varietals of each specific region. The classes are fairly informal and participants are encouraged to sip along with any theme-relevant bottle.
Starting price: $10 per person
Wine included? No. You can buy any wine from that region to enjoy while following along.
How to join: Sign up on Corkbuzz here. Zoom links are sent the morning of the class and follow-up notes are sent the next day.
A personal favorite winery in Sonoma, Bouchaine is offering customized 50-minute virtual tastings to bring California wine country right to your couch. Select from three different options depending on your knowledge and experience: Winemaker 101, 201, or 301.
Predictably, 101 is best for casual wine sippers who want to learn basics like how wine gets its color and how the same grapes can be made into completely different wines. Meanwhile, Winemaker 301 focuses on clones (different grape vines that are grafted together) and delves into topics like differences in aroma and flavor in Pinot Noir clones. Every class is with a live host overlooking the stunning estate vineyards. Once you purchase your wines, you’ll be able to set up a private time that works with your schedule for the wine tasting.
Starting price: $59
Wine included? Yes. Classes include two, three, or four wines from the vineyard depending on the level and are shipped directly to your door.
How to join: Select your experience here. Once you’ve purchased, you can schedule a private tasting session via phone or email.
You definitely want a taste of Matthiason, a six-time James Beard Award nominee and Winemaker of the Year according to “Food & Wine Magazine.” Luckily for wine enthusiasts everywhere, the winemaker is offering complimentary private tastings online to everyone who purchases a Tasting Pack or a Wine Club Membership.
Get an inside look at the stories behind the wines and all your wine questions answered. If you do decide to join the wine club, you’ll also enjoy priority access to member-only and limited production wines, as well as 15% savings on all wine purchases.
Starting price: Free with purchase of a Tasting Pack or Wine Club Membership. Tasting Packs start at $249 for 6 bottles. Wine Club Membership starts at $315 for 6 bottles.
Wine included? Wine must be purchased to participate in a tasting.
How to join: After purchasing, reserve your spot in a private tasting via Zoom here.
Stony Hill Vineyard
Stony Hill Vineyard features three different virtual experiences. Sign up for a virtual Zoom tasting, join a Stony Hill Social Hour on Instagram Live, or take it to the next level and enjoy Club Member-Exclusive virtual meetups after becoming a member.
To enjoy a 45-minute Zoom tasting, purchase a Virtual Tasting Pack to be delivered to your door, then sign up for a time slot that works for you online. An employee will guide you through each of the wines and give an update of what’s happening at the ranch. If you want the tasting to be a private event for just you and friends, call ahead of time to arrange it.
Starting price: Virtual Tasting Packs start at $124. Tune in to Social Hour on Instagram for free.
Wine included? Yes. You must buy the wines first to sign up for a virtual tasting.
Lyon Wine Tastings
These fun and free tastings are hosted by Caroline, a British-American sommelier living in France. She typically hosts small group wine workshops in her gorgeous loft apartment in Lyon’s Croix-Rousse, but has moved her tasting experiences online. Join others from around the world for a free virtual happy hour via Zoom. If you’d like something a little more structured, you can also sign up for a private wine tasting either for yourself or a group.
Starting price: Free to join the virtual happy hour. Private tastings start at €150, or around $164.
Wine included? No. Buy whatever wine suits you ahead of time and email the host what you’ll be drinking so she can answer any questions you might have about it.
How to join: Sign up for a free virtual happy hour or private tasting experience here.
The United Sommeliers Foundation
The United Sommeliers Foundation has teamed up with Benchmark Wine Group for weekly virtual wine tastings. Every Thursday, wine lovers are invited to take part in exclusive virtual tastings guided by celebrity sommeliers. Participants can buy bottles from Benchmark for the event, or just crack open a bottle of whatever is handy. If you want to support the foundation, you can donate to participate on-screen and ask questions throughout. Alternatively, you can register and watch without participating for free.
Starting price: Free to register and watch. A $50 minimum donation to The United Sommeliers Foundation is required to participate on-screen.
Wine included? No. It’s BYOB.
How to join: Register for free or donate to participate here.
Join America’s oldest wine shop for your next virtual cheers. Every Wednesday Acker Wines offers virtual vintage tastings and every Friday is lunch in the vineyards, both via Zoom. Both events have a different expert host each week, from distributors to acclaimed columnists. Participants can see which wines will be featured before signing up and order them online.
Starting price: Free to register.
Wine included? No. Attendees can see which wines will be featured to order them ahead of time.
How to join: Register for virtual tastings and lunch in the vineyards online here.
Willamette Valley Wine
Willamette Valley Wine regularly adds and curates new virtual wine tastings, happy hours, and events with vineyards and winemakers across the region. Every tasting is a little different, but past events have ranged from blind tastings of Pinot noirs to a chardonnay tasting that included a mini cooking lesson.
Starting price: Free
Wine included? No. Buy wines from the specific winery or sip along with whatever you have on your bar cart.
How to join: Depends on the event. Many are held on the vineyards’ individual Facebook pages or via Instagram live. You can see all the upcoming events and how to join here.
Book a Social Sip package at Ponzi Vineyards for four people to 13 and virtually connect with friends, family, or work colleagues over a bottle. After placing an order, a Ponzi team member will gather each participant’s delivery address and send a Social Sip package to each person. Packages include at least four wines and custom Ponzi wine glasses.
While everyone will have the same wines to enjoy and discuss, there’s no official class with an expert to go over each wine, so this option is best for those who already have a deeper wine knowledge, or who are just looking to casually drink and connect with friends over shared drinks.
Starting price: $200 for four people
Wine included? Yes. Bottles and wine glasses are sent directly to every participant.
How to join: Purchase a Social Sip package here.
Big Cork Vineyards
Maryland-based winery Big Cork Vineyards produces unique and award-winning varietals, including Cabernet France, Nebbiolo, Russian Kiss, and more. They are currently hosting weekly interactive experiences with Master Winemaker, Dave Collins. Uncork a bottle and join in every Wednesday at 7: 30 p.m. EST.
Starting price: Free
Wine included? No. You can order wines directly from Big Cork Vineyards.
How to join: Join via Zoom at the link here.
Every week, catch winemaker Matt Crafton host Instagram Live sessions, where he’ll lead viewers through virtual tastings, cellar tours, vineyard visits, and more. For those wanting a one-on-one tasting, the winery has introduced virtual, Chateau Montelena tastings for guests to get the Napa experience from the comforts of home. Guests can connect with one of Montelena’s live, virtual hosts for an appointment tailored to personal wine preferences.
Starting price: Free to watch on Instagram.
Wine included? No. You can order wines directly from the winery.
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