During these moments at home – where my local radio stations joke “bar jumping” now means placing another bottle of wine in each room – many wineries have been offering tastings online on Facebook, Instagram and Zoom for weeks. Many are free. You often do not have to buy the wine to watch (but of course it is more fun to sip while each is discussed), and you can write questions during the tasting. They can be formal or casual, and some have cooking demos. Some allow you to book a private tasting for you and your friends. Many tastings are still available online, so you can watch the long time the desire for Happy Hour strikes. As Jimmy Buffett once sang, “It’s Five O’Clock Somwhere.”;
Seeing the list of virtual tastings in Napa, Sonoma and Washington State is a great way to introduce yourself to new wines. Let’s compare some:
This Napa winery offers free guided wine tastings (the Hess tasting room is shown in the picture below left) of its many red and white wines with the main wine producer Dave Guffy on Facebook (link here). A new summer day exhibition with white wine presented its Gruner Veltliner, Austria’s leading white wine but rare in Napa, Pinot Gris, a mineral tasting wine that is a signature white from Alsace, Albarino, a Spanish white with lemon peel notes and scenic videos of morning mist on Mt. Veeder, where the vineyards are located, and suggested food connections, such as macadamia nut-crusted goat cheese crostini with asparagus and fennel. Other videos offer cooking demos from its executive chef of, for example, chicken, fried with spring onions and tarragon, and virtual tours of the winery’s museum. The artwork, by contemporary artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Rauschenberg, is a fraction of the private collection of the vineyard’s founder Donald H. Hess, which is also in museums around the world.
This Sonoma winery in the Russian River Valley offers free Spanish cooking classes along with its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs Fridays at 5pm (PST) on Facebook (link here). Learn how to make paella, chocolate coffee bread or potato omelettes from the vineyard’s founder Marimar Torres, author The Spanish tableand her daughter Cristina, who discusses the history of food and how to make and their wines. The mother-daughter duo comes from Spain’s acclaimed Torres wine production family, which also owns vineyards in Chile. In real life (oh, how we miss it) Catalan antiques and porcelain adorn the vineyard reception room, and whimsical 10-foot metal dog sculptures of the vineyard’s spaniels are located near the patio.
Pigs & Pinot
Sonoma wine producers choose their Pinot Noirs to pair with pork-based dishes in a free cooking demo from chef Charlie Palmer on Thursdays at 13 (PST) on Instagram (link here). The weekly series, featuring James Beard-winning chef known for Charlie Palmer Steak and Dry Creek Kitchen in New York, California, Nevada and Washington DC in his home kitchen in Healdsburg, began in early April. You can watch the movies for 24 hours after they are broadcast. Wineries include Bollinger Champagne and Mauritson Wines. BBQ spiced pork fillet, burgers au poivre and miso pork are some of the prepared meals.
Domaine Roy & Fils
This Oregon Willamette Valley winery lets you book a custom virtual tasting for up to eight people on any day, as long as your group buys three bottles (from $ 110 total) of their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Allow 7-10 days for the wine to ship. You will receive a private link to Zoom before the tasting, which also includes a video tour of the vineyards and the wine cellar’s production facility.
Photo by David Köhler for Unsplash.