Beer, wine, and liquor tastings are win-win events for purveyors and the thirsty public. Businesses get to showcase their wares while guests get to sip on some pretty delicious goodies while mingling with like-minded people. It’s an exercise in camaraderie paired with tasty snacks… unless you’re stuck inside, doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home.
As events are wiped from our calendars and we all start yearning for human interaction aside from immediate family and mad-dash grocery store runs, our nation’s distilleries, wineries, and breweries are getting creative. On the menu? Virtual tastings.
Why Virtual Tastings?
Put simply, virtual tastings are tons of fun with very little pretension. You don’t have to be so concerned about what you’re wearing or how to hold your glass. It doesn’t matter who you’re sitting with (your cat doesn’t count), and if you’re called on to answer a question you don’t know, you just pretend like your connection is spotty and nope out of there at lightning speed.
It’s also a chance to have some fun and experience a little togetherness while still staying a safe distance apart. Whether you have the exact bottle being tasted or something similar, whether you do it alone or get your buddies in different cities or even states in on the act, you’ll acquire some knowledge, enjoy a distraction, and hopefully get just the right amount of buzzed.
Virtual Happy Hour with The Professional Bartending Academy
The PBA is hosting live happy hours via Zoom. The tasting is interactive — anyone can ask questions — and the theme changes weekly.
- May 6 – Champagne Cocktails
- May 13 – Rum Cocktails
- May 20 – Vodka Cocktails
- May 27 – Whiskey Cocktails
Registration is through Eventbrite but the happy hour itself is absolutely free (just BYOB, of course).
Sing Sing Kill Brewery
New York’s COVID-related regulations have shut down brewery tasting rooms across the state, but Sing Sing Kill is still doing curbside pickup and free local delivery plus a series of virtual happy hours every Friday at 6pm EST. Themes range from spooky (ghost stories) to tree-huggery (Earth Day), but mostly it’s just a chance to crack a cold one and hang out with your bros from the bar.
Not in NY? No worries. There are countless local breweries in the U.S. running similar virtual get-togethers. Find your favorites on social media (Facebook and Instagram are the most popular platforms for these events) and see what they have coming down the pipeline.
Corkbuzz, a restaurant and wine bar with locations in New York City and Charlotte, is also going the Zoom route with virtual wine tastings. The team picks the theme ahead of time so attendees can register and choose a bottle from their home stash that aligns with the focus of the tasting. Not only can attendees ask questions, they can also volunteer to describe their own wine for the group.
Some previous and upcoming themes include Island Hopping, Blind Tasting, Vinification, and a Regional Profile on Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Tickets are just $10.
Cocktails & Culture with Dan & Dano’s
Ultra-premium tequila brand Dano’s makes their small-batch booze at one of Mexico’s oldest tequila distilleries under the watchful eye of Dano himself and his partner Chris. Now Dano is hitting up Zoom for a podcast-meets-tasting of sorts. There are interviews, cocktail demonstrations, Q&A — basically whatever comes to mind. It’s a great opportunity for tequila lovers to get tips while also enjoying more casual conversation than you might find at other virtual tastings.
List of events here.
At Home with Kendall-Jackson
Kendall-Jackson’s Winemaster Randy Ullom is hosting the winery’s Sunday Night Virtual Tastings on Instagram as well as Facebook. The videos go far beyond sniffing out bouquet and the value of swirling and spitting to cover everything from how to restock your cellar to virtual wine yoga. Recent videos touched on aromatic whites, the many expressions of Chardonnay, and a gnocchi demo.
K.Laz Private Tastings
Ditch the group settings and set up a special one-on-one tasting — or a tasting a deux, if your sweetheart or roomie wants to join the fun — with Kerrin Laz. Well known in Napa Valley for her expertise and personality, Laz offers curated collections of incredible wine through her mail-order club. Now, Laz is sharing her wisdom (and her wine) via virtual tastings that include a corresponding wine kit.
All you have to do is buy your wine from K. Laz, call or email to schedule the virtual tasting, then gather around the computer and prepare for stories and insights galore. You’ll also get special pricing on the wines tasted, just in case you want to go back for me.
The current package offerings are as follows:
Virtual Tasting Experiences with Ken Wright Cellars
The folks at Ken Wright are doing their own face-to-face Zoom tastings based on mail-order collections. Each tasting package includes three wines that represent different parts of Oregon — Mother Rock, Eola-Amity Hills, and Yamhill-Carlton — plus a white wine collection. Prices range from $90-$190 for members and $81-$171 for wine club members.
The winery will also schedule tastings around any Ken Wright wines you already have in your cellar, so you can learn more about the vintage, farming techniques, and philosophy behind your favorite tipple.