Wineries Hosting the Best Virtual Tastings


Wineries Hosting the Best Virtual Tastings

  • Aug 10, 2020
  • By Rebekah Stoltz Weeman

Looking for a fun virtual wine tasting to experience from the comfort of your own home? Find out the best wineries that bring the wine country lifestyle right to your living room.

A few months ago, wine tastings via platforms like Zoom or Facebook Live would have been laughable. These days with the onset of the global pandemic, we are seeing more and more wine tasting experiences move to the virtual setting. While most of us can't visit our favorite regional vineyards right now in person, we can explore a collective experience from home. 

Since March, wineries, winemakers, Michelin-starred chefs and social media influencers have successfully made a pivot to the digital world. There is something to be said for the comfort many of us have found in tasting wine from our own kitchens or living rooms. While virtual wine tasting continues to evolve every day, there are some incredible opportunities to be part of right now. We suspect that this trend will continue to be a major platform for wine tasting and sales for months (if not years) to come.

The way it works is pretty simple. You can order a tasting kit from a wide variety of wineries and they will deliver wine and sometimes a few goodies right to your door. In the meantime, you can schedule a date for a private virtual tasting or even a collective one. In the latter, there is an opportunity to connect with other people (from all over the world) who share your passion for wine. Depending on what kind of kit you order, cost will vary. Typically speaking, you will buy your wine upfront and if you want to include a cheese or food pairing with the experience, you will need to prepare accordingly.

Depending on how much you can realistically consume in one tasting, there is one potential drawback - sometimes, there is a lot of wine left over! We have found that the small investment of a Coravin (professional preservation system used by wineries and restaurants) can preserve your wines for weeks after the virtual tasting has finished.

All that being said, are you ready to hear all about some of the best virtual wine tastings being offered right now? We are so excited to share a few of our favorites. Let’s go!

Schramsberg is well known for its beautiful line of sophisticated Napa Valley sparkling wines. Having been to the property several times, the virtual tasting translated beautifully, from my San Francisco apartment. A few days before the tasting, we received six wines. Included in the kit were four sparkling, and two reds  from its sister winery, J. Davies. Vintner Hugh Davies led the tasting from his kitchen, enthusiastically explaining the winery’s history and the nuances of each bottle in the tasting lineup. Hugh had some funny stories and his wife, Monique chimed in here and there. They had recommended several cheeses which we were able to pick up from our local cheese monger beforehand. We invited some of our friends from other states to participate at the same time we did and it was an absolute blast. For future virtual tastings at Schramsberg, you can either buy the wines in the lineup and drink along or just tune in and listen through Facebook Live.

The ultimate trifecta of virtual tasting experiences available are hosted by the JCB, Raymond Vineyards and Buena Vista Winery brands (Napa/Sonoma) offering a wide variety of content and guests hosted by wine country personality and proprietor, Jean Charles Boisset. While these Happy Hour, multi-weekly virtual experiences are not formal by any means, they are entertaining and informative about the world of wine. Most of the Happy Hour virtual events are held every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5 pm PST and Saturdays at 4 pm PST.

These events are free and usually are found on Facebook Live. For a more traditional virtual tasting experience, you can order a wine kit (starting at $205) through Raymond and set up a convenient time to taste with a wine educator Monday through Saturday from 10AM to 4PM.

Trinitas Cellars (Napa) has put together some excellent virtual programming. Be sure to sign up by August 15th for the Snake River Farms Virtual Tasting With Garrett Busch. This epic evening will include steaks shipped separately from Snake River Farms. Trinitas proprietor, Garrett Busch will lead the tasting with two of the most beautiful red wines Trinitas has to offer - 2015 Petit Verdot and 2015 Old Vine Petite Sirah. After you order your kit, you can sit back and relax until the event on August 21st, when you will get access to the Zoom session. We will be watching Trinitas to see what else they have in the works this summer and fall. We are sure it will be exciting.

Bridlewood Estate Winery (Santa Ynez) has created a mystery game out of the virtual tasting experience. Unlike other wineries, at Bridlewood there is a fun twist. The virtual experience is called the Bridlewood Challenge. In this forum, you will receive three unmarked bottles of Bridlewood wine, plus a challenge guide with competition metrics. You can set up your virtual tasting privately or in a group. Let us know if you decide to participate and how well you did with the challenge. We weren't able to guess our mystery wines at our tasting, but we sure had fun trying!

Robert Mondavi Winery (Oakville) was one of the first wineries to pivot into virtual tasting. It's no surprise when you consider that they were voted the #5 vineyard in the world and the best winery in North America. The Mondavi team has built a wine and culinary series that is wildly popular and followed. Not only can you cook and taste wine with the estate executive chef or staff, but you can explore the bud break in the vineyards and some of the action in production.  These educational experiences are both inspiring and free. If that isn't enough, Mondavi Winery also has an outstanding Sunday Summer Series that includes food, wine, conversation (behind the scenes) and the performing arts. From the comfort of your home, every other Sunday, you can expand your horizons. Wine and merchandise packages are available for purchase.

Clif Family Winery (St. Helena) has an excellent selection of food and wine virtual tasting kits to choose from. Get a real sense of the Napa Valley lifestyle through the guidance of the Clif Family team. Both the King of the Mountain Kit ($160) and the Aperitivo Food and Wine Kit ($100) are unique and the tastings are engaging. Each wine is paired with a delicious and organic, Clif family product. You can pick up the kits or have them shipped to you for an extra $20. In the summer when it can be triple digits, tasting from your air-conditioned home is a great option. We had a few friends in town cycling who decided to do the Clif Family virtual tasting right from their AirBNB. They loved it! 

William Chris Vineyards (Texas) is a great option for a virtual wine tasting.  The wines are different from Sonoma or Napa Valley and full of complexity in their own way. Now is a perfect time to explore something you have never tried before or revisit a place you already love. At William Chris every Saturday, you can hop on Facebook Live with the founders and go through the wines. For about $150 you can pre-purchase the 4-pack of wines online. They make suggestions for cheeses (and food items) that will pair well with each wine. After you have gotten everything together, all you need to do is tune in to the 4:00PM Saturday Tasting that coordinates with your wine pack. They also have a virtual Happy Hour every night at 5:00PM that is free to join.

 CellarPass TV is an awesome way to get some lifestyle focused wine education from wine country personalities all over the country. With state-of-the-art technology the CellarPass crew have made the virtual experience appear seamless. Moderator Sarah Elliman (co-founder of CellarPass) leads her guests and you through an entertaining adventure of wine, exciting stories and a lot of laughs. Sarah often introduces some creative ideas for home entertainment or innovative products that bring life to our now, very home centered, new world. You can go back to the beginning of 2020 and view past episodes for hours of fun. We are looking forward to the fall when CellarPass TV will launch another season focused on the holidays, what to serve, how to entertain and much much more. CellarPass TV does a fantastic job of promoting the episodes well in advance. This gives you plenty of time to order the wines, gather your nibbles and set the stage. What we love most about CellarPass TV is the way it's always current and full of authentic wine country energy.

 The Wine Militia is an edgy (almost hipster) alternative to the virtual wine experience. The company (founded in 2008) takes pride in revolutionizing the way we see and experience wine. Mastermind behind the concept is Canadian born musician, Lamar Engel. Lamar has drawn from his array of experiences in Napa, Sonoma and San Francisco and pulled together a great team. Probably some of the most creative programming that we have ever seen, the Wine Militia deliver experiences that will shape the way you see wine forever. You can book a Private Virtual Tasting Event ($25/BYOB), a Virtual Wine Tasting Class ($70), a Virtual Blind Tasting ($75) or a Virtual Wine Game (starting at $65).

The Virtual wine Game option has three or four different packages to choose from. Each will include wine, trivia, game cards, prizes and a sommelier host that will challenge the participants in an exciting way. This can be a fun virtual corporate event or entertainment for friends, both near and far. Varying levels of difficulty are available. Most of the sessions are held on private Zoom meetings. If you are looking for something different, definitely check out the Wine Militia.

Located at Feast It Forward (Napa), led by wine country personality and native, Katie Hamilton Schaffer is a great resource for anyone interested in the food, wine and music lifestyle. The Feast It Forward team has been doing virtual experiences from their live studio since opening in 2018. Having earned their pre-pandemic wings, pivoting to meet the virtual needs of their followers, was a no brainer. You can watch and participate in cooking demonstrations with celebrities, Katie and her adorable daughters, winemakers and wine country personalities. Since the action at the studio is live, there is never a dull moment. Often one of the wineries from their ‘winery collective’ such as McKahn Family Cellars will offer a virtual tasting experience. The experiences are always well promoted and have large followings. Somm Sessions, Meet the (wine) Maker and Vintner to Vinyl are awesome live studio events to check out this fall.  

In the virtual setting, there is an added value in that most of the tastings are led by the actual winemaker or proprietor (or both). In the past opportunities to be face to face with such winery personalities was next to impossible. Often the tasting is monitored by a wine educator or staff who vet the questions and discussion. Sometimes there is even live entertainment or cooking demonstrations included.

The overall experience is unique and has an element of surprise that makes it fun. And unlike real time experiences, if it isn't fun, you can always put your camera or microphone on mute! Here's to hoping that you will have as much enjoyment as we have had in this new (and likely lasting) frontier.

Want more? We've got a whole Virtual Tastings section on our website, providing you plenty of options to fill your appetite for your favorite wine brands.

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