Wineries around the country have been offering virtual wine tastings to help customers stay safe and socially distant during the current coronavirus pandemic. Wine drinkers as of late have—virtually, of course—visited Napa Valley through private luxury tastings with Priority Wine Pass or escaped to the Texas Hill Country to sip alongside Dr. Becker at Becker Vineyards on Facebook Live. But now local wine businesses and wineries in the Dallas area are hosting virtual tastings and wine experiences like nothing else out there.
The West Village’s own Cork Wine Bar has been offering curbside to-go orders and free local deliveries, and soon plans to start hosting virtual wine tasting and trivia nights via Zoom (check their Facebook page for dates). Nosh Bistro in Preston Hollow is teaming up with chef Ryan Carbery and winemaker Robert Hall for a virtual charcuterie and wine pairing class ($75) on April 23 at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.
Royal Blue Grocery has remained open for weeks, but has expanded its social media presence with virtual wine tastings on Instagram. Viewers can tune in to Instagram Live on April 22 for a virtual in-store tasting with Cloudy Bay Winery, where winemaker Jim White will speak on New Zealand terroir and Cloudy Bay’s iconic Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir styles. Foxtrot Market is also hosting virtual wine tastings through their Instagram page. Just be among the first 50 to purchase the wine bundles in their LikeShop when they post about one, and you’ll receive a Zoom link to the tasting hosted by their joke-cracking sommelier Dylan.
Lemmon Avenue’s WineTastic has been offering custom wine country tours around the world for years, but only recently have they started offering virtual wine tours through custom tastings and Facebook Live events. (Visit WineTastic’s Facebook page for more details.) Rockwall wine bar, The Downing Bottles and Bites, is hosting a virtual “Stimulus Wine Tasting” with sommelier James Amster for $40. (Purchase a ticket and place your orders to [email protected] by April 26 to receive 20 percent off.)
That’s a lot of screen time, but it’s certainly the kind of Zoom meeting we want to join.
See, wine has always brought people together, and there’s no denying that these virtual tastings are helping keep many local wineries and wine shops in business during these difficult times. For many owners and winemakers, it’s just one more way to connect with others over a glass of wine.
When San Martiño Winery and Vineyards in Rockwall was forced to close their tasting room doors, winemaker Emilio Ramos moved quick to open his home and virtually host his customers for a wine tasting and “family dinner” via Zoom every Friday. Guests purchased wine bundle packages (two bottles of tempranillo and two crystal glasses for $104) for the chance to sip along with Ramos and other participants—although anyone was free to join, regardless of purchasing a bundle or not. Everyone was encouraged to prepare a New York strip according to Ramos’ suggested recipe and be ready by 6 p.m. More than 80 wine lovers joined Ramos for dinner for an evening last week; the conversation effortlessly flowed between wine tasting notes and sharing stories of perseverance through these strange times.
“We decided to do this because our customers have been very loyal and have kept us afloat during these difficult times,” says Emilio Ramos, owner and winemaker for San Martiño Winery. “Many of them asked us to find ways to connect with us. Since we couldn’t meet at the winery yet, a virtual meeting through Zoom was the next best thing.”
It’s not only about wine, though the tasting is the primary purpose, Ramos adds, people “want to socialize and feel connected—having a meal together as we taste and discuss the wine creates a communal moment that transcends the situation we are living in.” For an hour or so, they’re a community through a shared screen, and the world can feel a least a little more normal.
“My family has been in the wine business since the 15th century in Europe, and my grandfather said to me when I was very young, ‘Wine is family.’ I never understood it until I built my own winery. My customers become friends and then extended family. I make wine for them. I cook for them, listen to them, share meals with them, and have travelled the world with many of them. Yes, the wine is important since it brought us together, but it is much bigger than that; it is about feeling connected and being part of something bigger than just a tasting.”
Kristy Alpert is a freelance travel journalist with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Food & Wine, Men’s Health, Esquire, Fodor’s Travel, Chowhound, and more. Follow her on Instagram @kristyalpert.