Virtual Tastings, Free Shipping, and More: Your Guide to the Wine World During Quarantine
The caves at Buena Vista winery, one of dozens offering virtual tastings and events. Photo courtesy of Buena Vista winery
The new Napa? A bushel of wineries that offer virtual tastings
Spring usually heralds the beginning of traffic jam season in wine country, but this year it’s bandwidth, not bumper-to-bumper bachelorette parties you’ll need to worry about. Much as the rest of the world changed overnight with the arrival of the coronavirus, so too has the wine world had to respond to the pandemic. With the restaurant and wholesale retail channels decimated, an entire industry—from its vineyard workers to vintners and beyond—depends on its ability to innovate, connecting with the customer directly.
Lucky for all of us, no matter whether you’re talking Napa, Sonoma, the Willamette Valley, California’s Central Coast, the Walla Walla Valley in Washington—anywhere else wine is made—there are already dozens of opportunities to connect and share a glass with your favorite winemakers. The wineries and stores we’ve rounded up here have thrown open their digital doors to customers in a series of new approaches that may even set a course for the post-Covid-19 world.
You don’t have to buy wines to participate in every happy hour or guided tasting, but most of the businesses listed below are offering the tasted wines at discounted rates and free shipping. Some do require appointments and reservations while others are simply sharing a taste with any and all.
Discussions span platforms from Instagram Live to FB Live to Zoom conference call and beyond.
Additions can be submitted to [email protected] We’ll continue to update this guide as we add to the list.
Napa and Sonoma
ACME Fine Wines
A seminal Napa wine retailer since 2003, ACME was one of the first depots to adapt to the coronavirus era. Available by Zoom or by phone, owner Karen Williams calls her tastings “Isolation Libations.” Her focus? Cult cabs and first-time releases. Williams also plans virtual tasting forums for each of her four wine clubs. Click here for more info.
San Francisco Wine School
Just south of the city sits one of the best wine education organizations in the country. During quarantine, webinar only workshops found on this page are 40 percent off and master sommelier David Glancy is occasionally hosting free Virtual Blind Tastings. Check the school’s Facebook page for announcements or email [email protected].
Estate-driven wines from the far West coast of Sonoma are the focus at this vineyard, founded by brothers Andy and Nick Peay (pronounced “PAY”) in 1996. Dashing and knowledgable as they may be, winemaker Vanessa Wong is the reason you’ll want to tune into a virtual tasting: Wong worked her way up through Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Paulliac, France as well as Hirsch vineyards in California, so she knows a thing or two about viticulture. Wong hosts virtual tastings several times a month.; click here to sign up and check out the schedule of wines.
Inman Family Wines
Owner Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines offers “Meet the Maker” Happy Hours on Zoom—and has pledged 5 percent of proceeds to Meals on Wheels to assist the at-risk elderly demographic. More details here.
Club members have access to a scheduled virtual tasting experience, but everyone’s welcome to join the periodic Instagram Lives with winemaker Matt Crafton. Expect tastings, live Q&As, bottling line tours, and more.
Normally it’s a boon to claim you’re the closest winery to the Bay Area. But Ram’s Gate is pivoting during quarantine to regular Instagram Live tastings with winemaker Joe Nielsen. Click here to learn more about their wines.
Boisset Collection (Buena Vista Winery, Raymond Vineyards, DeLoach Vineyards, JCB Collection and 1881 Napa)
Owner Jean-Charles Boisset oversees several labels both in the United States and France, and his irrepressible charisma and know-how are on display during daily Facebook Live virtual happy hour broadcasts at 6 p.m. each day.
The Palmaz family offer casual conversation in a series of vlogs called The Wine Stream . The sessions promise memories from 20 years of winemaking in the Napa Valley, along with a preview of wines from their club collection. More info on upcoming sessions here.
One-hour virtual tastings with a view can be accompanied by a range of wine packages at this Carneros winery. Prices start at $59; choose a package and select a session you’d like to join.
Calling their Virtual Tastings “InJoy” (get it?) Napa winemaker St. Supery has been offering two tastings via Facebook live each week, one at 3 p.m. PST and another at 5:30. Currently the series is set to end July 30, but fingers crossed that they will extend it. Click here for more info.
The Sonoma Winemaker’s association has assembled this live-updating guide to discounts and virtual tastings in their region.
Crown Point Vineyard
Known for Bordeaux varietal wines, this Happy Canyon AVA producer plans a series of virtual tastings with winemaker Simon Faury. Click here for more info.
Low-intervention winemakers Seth and Audrey Kitzke are leveraging IGTV for tasting sessions, cracking bottles with followers and creating conversation. Click here to learn more.
Winemaker Kerry Shiels offers a weekly virtual happy hour from her Yakima Valley facility. In addition to stylistic choices Kerry covers pairings, tradeoffs, and more. For more info click here.
Focused on whole-cluster Pinot Noir, this Oregon winemaker will host a Facebook Live tasting and conversation each Thursday at 4 p.m. PST. Click here for more info or head on over to their Facebook page.
The Willamette Valley wine association will also be updating additional virtual tastings here.
Read the 2021 Gardening Issue
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