It’s hard to think about the pleasure of wine tasting and wine travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wine tasting rooms in California, Oregon, and Washington are currently closed by mandate. I would imagine that’s true in any other state that’s currently under shelter-in-place orders.
But being stuck at home doesn’t mean we have to stop enjoying wine. Here are just a few of the ways you can continue to sample, taste, learn, and enjoy wine.
Virtual wine tasting
My friend, Allison Levine, owner of Please the Palate, is practicing social distancing while still having fun with her friends. Using Zoom, she participates in a weekly wine tasting with other wine bloggers, winemakers, and industry reps. Multiple people can participate in the video chat at one time, and it can all be done conveniently on your laptop from the safety of your home. Houseparty, a new app that works with any smartphone, supports online video chats with multiple friends.
Kendall Jackson Wines in Sonoma County just launched weekly virtual wine tastings on Facebook. Beginning March 29, 2020, at 4:00 pm (PST), sessions are led by KJ wine master, Randy Ullom. Customers can view the schedule and purchase wines ahead of each tasting. Each session features no more than three wines. KJ offers a 20% discount and free shipping for orders over $75.
Another wine friend, Brianne Cohen, a certified sommelier and event producer, uses Facebook to conduct free and interesting wine tastings. She’s also launched a new series called “Wine Bedtime Stories.” Each night on Instagram, dressed in pajamas, Brianne reads a selection from Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine. The stories are interesting, and the concept is adorable.
Up your wine education
If virtual tastings are not your thing, or you just want to learn more about wine from other sources, try a new wine blog. One of my favorites, StrongCoffeetoRedWine.com, is written by wine experts, Rick Dean and his husband, Gary Link. Based in Charleston, these two fun-loving characters mix it up with humor, food, and a little bit of travel.
Wine Enthusiast hosts a series of podcasts that provide listeners with tips on wine tasting, wine and food pairings, wine travel, and everything wine-related. While you’re stuck at home, you can learn about wines of South Africa, New Zealand, Austria, Washington, California’s Central Coast, Australia, and many others. There are more than 60 to choose from. They’re short in length, none more than an hour, and some as short as 19 minutes long. I’m using this time and Wine Enthusiast’s expertise to learn more about the world’s wine and dream about my next trip.
The Wine Bible, written by Karen MacNeil, is my favorite wine book. Karen has traveled to virtually everywhere in the world where wine is grown, produced, and consumed. Her book is informative, engaging, entertaining, and sometimes humorous. You not only learn the history of the region but everything you want to know about its wines as well. Each time before we head off for a wine travel adventure, my husband Gary uses this book to study the wines before we get there.
Stock up on your favorite wines with these specials
Wine is an important part of our culture. We celebrate with it, enhance our meals with it, and sometimes just sip on it for a moment of relaxation. We want to keep our local wineries in business as we wait out the pandemic. If your wine cellar is low, this is a great time to stock up as many wineries are offering deep discounts on wine and shipping.
Bella Grace Vineyards, one of my favorite Amador County wineries, is offering amazing discounts. Their website lists several specials, including 50% off a case of their 2016 Estate Zinfandel, with $1.00 shipping.
Brooks Winery, in Oregon, produces more Rieslings than any other winery in America. If you love Riesling, they currently offer 17 different styles. Shipping is free with orders of 6 bottles or more.
Airfield Estates in Washington State currently offers free shipping for 12 bottles or more or a $10 flat rate shipping for six bottles or more. Even better, they offer a six-bottle wine tasting pack to pair with their upcoming virtual wine tastings.
Stay safe, stay home and enjoy wine
I can’t wait to visit wine country again. You probably feel the same way. Until then, I’m using Google Hangouts to drink wine with my friends once a week. It’s almost as great as being together!