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Robin Garr

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Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by Robin Garr » Fri May 15, 2020 11:07 am

This is kind of last minute, but as I work toward a noonish deadline on an article, I remember seeing Dale post something about a tasting group gathering and comparing wine notes via Zoom.

Dale, are you out there? Anybody? If any of you used Zoom, Hangouts, Skype and such to participate in a socially-distanced tasting, winery visit, wine shop demo, etc., I'd love a word or two from you about what it was and how it worked. Thanks!
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social=distance tasting?

by David M. Bueker » Fri May 15, 2020 11:27 am

I have used Zoom for both casual wine tasting/discussion and opportunities to interact with winemakers on a one-on-one and group basis.

The opportunity to interact with winemakers in California, Oregon, Champagne and Germany has been something I could never have done without extensive travel. While I previously knew some of the winemakers, others were only familiar through purchases, and the occasional email. I had ample opportunity to ask questions, and learned a great deal from the winemakers' presentations, as well as other participant questions. It's been fun, informative and a truly bright spot in the midst of a lot of gloom.
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social=distance tasting?

by Robin Garr » Fri May 15, 2020 11:32 am

Perfect! Mind if I use that quote in the Wine Advisor, David?

And a follow-up: Did you ask the wine makers to Zoom, or was it an offering on their website or social media?
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social=distance tasting?

by David M. Bueker » Fri May 15, 2020 12:46 pm

Quote away!

It's been a mix. Most of the tastings I attended have been consumers (folks on Wine Berserkers) asking winemakers to participate. One I reached out directly, and had the one-on-one. That was Sam Bilbro of Idlewild. Skurnik Wines has started arranging Zoom calls for consumers. I particpated in one with Johannes Selbach last weekend. Ridge is running their own on Thursday afternoons. It's available on their Facebook page. I know there are lots more.
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social=distance tasting?

by Robin Garr » Fri May 15, 2020 1:03 pm

Perfect, thanks. And yeah, once I started digging, it's everywhere.

Wouldn't it have been great to buy Zoom stock in February? :shock:
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social=distance tasting?

by Dale Williams » Fri May 15, 2020 2:31 pm

Sorry I didn't see this in time Robin. I've done 2 zoom tastings, with a group of people reasonably local (Westchester County) who mostly knew each other before, all tasting same wine (we chose wines one of us had 6 of). Next time including a couple people in city and one West Coaster (an Oregon winemaker) with 2014 VCC (available in city, and a member sent one to OR).
Tonight my local group is doing, I'm splitting 4 bottles of NSG into 8 bottles and delivering (everyone within 2 adjacent towns).
It's not the same as being with my friends and sharing food. But better than a blank. Not sure I'd be that interested if I didn't know majority beforehand.
And yes I wish I'd bought Zoom.
Good column.
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by Robin Garr » Fri May 15, 2020 2:34 pm

Thanks, Dale, and David. I had to get the column in the email, but the thread is still good. Keep it going, everyone, if you've got good stories or tips about doing wine virtually in these troubled times.

(This week's 30 Second Wine Advisor)

Wine tasting goes virtual

Wine is intensely personal: You smell it with your own nose and taste it with your own mouth. And yet wine is most enjoyable when the experience is shared.

These points never seemed to be in tension until a worldwide pandemic sent most of us scurrying to the safety of our homes, socially distancing from even friends and family until the contagion fades or a vaccine becomes widely available.

Suddenly we are isolating at home, and I hope you have plenty of wine available in your wine rack or cellar, or handy wine delivery services nearby. But the social aspect is dropping sharply as we are limited to sharing it with spouse, partner, or live-in friend.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But larger group tastings, with an array of interesting wines shared around the table for conversation and analysis, add a dimension to the experience that's harder to have right now. Even if you could join friends at a distance around an outdoor table, drinking through a mask really dilutes the experience.

But the wine-geek community quickly came up with a workaround, thanks to technology. Many of us have been typing words about wine on online forums for years. Our WineLovers Discussion Group goes back to 1995, and the old CompuServe Wine Forum got us started in 1985, long before social media entered the picture.

Then the pandemic added a new wrinkle with virtual meetings that made it possible for groups to get together with real-time video and sound. Yes, Skype and Google Hangouts, among others, had been around for a long time and had their fans. But when Zoom appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Founded in 2011 but not widely known, Zoom went viral overnight in the pandemic. Daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December, and Zoom became the top free app download in the Apple Store, CNBC reported.

It didn't take wine enthusiasts long to take advantage of Zoom to interact with the wine world, for enjoyment, education, and buying wine.

"I have used Zoom for both casual wine tasting/discussion and opportunities to interact with winemakers on a one-on-one and group basis," WineLovers moderator David Bueker said in a recent post. "The opportunity to interact with winemakers in California, Oregon, Champagne and Germany has been something I could never have done without extensive travel. While I previously knew some of the winemakers, others were only familiar through purchases, and the occasional email. I had ample opportunity to ask questions, and learned a great deal from the winemakers' presentations, as well as other participant questions. It's been fun, informative and a truly bright spot in the midst of a lot of gloom."

[caption id="attachment_3666" align="alignleft" width="283"][img src="http://wineloverspage.com/wp-content/uploads/Bouchaine-283x300.jpg" alt="Bouchaine Winery offers extensive virtual visits with wine maker face time, for a fee." width="283" height="300" class="size-medium wp-image-3666" /] Bouchaine Winery offers extensive virtual visits with wine maker face time, for a fee.[/caption]

How do you find those opportunities? They are as close as your nearby Internet. A quick Google search revealed, for example, a fascinating virtual tasting at a local wine shop. The staff at The Wine Rack in Louisville posted an announcement of its May 9 gathering via Facebook Live: "Who's ready for an Aquitaine Wine live Zoom tasting? Here are the details: We all get together virtually and do an online tasting! You may have to be home but that doesn't mean you have to miss this very special Wine Rack tasting. The amazing Veronique Barthe from Chateau La Freynelle in Bordeaux will be live with us, the estate has been is in her family since 1789." Needless to say, viewers were welcome to pre-order the wines tasted for curbside pickup or delivery.

Wineries and wine makers are getting into the virtual tasting act, too. In a Wine Enthusiast article, writer Kelly A. Magyarics wrote, "... the same way grafted vines adapt to suit their new terroir, wineries are pivoting to accommodate a new reality. Sextant Wines is among the increasing number of producers reaching consumers through an innovative method: the virtual tasting."

"Wine is about gathering people, pulling a cork and enjoying the company," says Chris Blake, director of sales for Sextant. "We missed that interaction and began to brainstorm ways to create that feeling." Each week they offer a three-bottle kit, and host a live tasting of the wines on Zoom. Everyone is invited, regardless if they've purchased the kit or just want to follow along. Blake hopes it provides much-needed connectivity and escapism.

The article went on to list dozens of other virtual tasting and education opportunities, with links.

Do you miss winery visits and tastings? You don't have to travel to wine country for a virtual visit! Here's an article in the San Jose Mercury-News listing fifty virtual wine tastings during May.

To find virtual tastings, the Internet search engines are your friend. A simple Google search for "virtual wine tastings" turns up plenty of resources. Or look up your favorite wine shop or winery in a search engine or social media and see what pops up. For instance, here's Andretti Winery's Facebook Live tasting.

Or, of course, just check in with your friends and set up your own virtual tasting! The basic Zoom app is free, and easy to set up and learn. You've probably read about Zoom's publicized security issues, but they're working on that, and following Zoom's simple best practices and keeping your app updated should protect you from Zoombomber pranksters.

Have you been virtual tasting with friends or visiting wine shops, tasting rooms, and vineyards via computer? Tell us about it!
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by Pat G » Fri May 15, 2020 4:12 pm

Thanks for those resources for additional virtual tastings. Similar to David, I have been doing most of the Berserkers virtual tastings. But I have chosen to view them after via recorded YouTube. The pause, rewind, take geeky notes, move on at my own pace has been helpful. Not to mention that I can do it on my own schedule. I have learned so much about Champagne, for instance. Unfortunately I now have a better understanding of why it's often so $$$$.

It's also been helpful to learn about wines I've recently purchased. And, of course, it has resulted in me contemplating another purchase....but it would support the vintner and charity. Sigh. :?

Also read last night that OR tasting rooms may be able to open....today? Wonder how many actually did open. Not that I would have gone if I'd been in OR. Like some of OR wines/brands, but believe time needed to settle into a safe routine. Abundance of caution.

https://www.vinography.com/2020/05/what ... ble-future
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by Robin Garr » Fri May 15, 2020 10:01 pm

Pat, I'm really conflicted. Whenever tasting rooms, restaurants, wine bars, dive bars, whatever, open near here, I'm going to be terribly torn between an ache to get into the action and a fear that, as a graying Boomer, I'm technically in a risk zone even if I don't feel old or unhealthy. It's a tough call, but this is a scary virus.
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by Pat G » Sun May 17, 2020 2:46 pm

Robin, I get it. Our 2019 vacation was a combo of museums and wine country. I feel fortunate that we did what we did when we did. It's unlikely that we'll return to tasting rooms for the foreseeable future. Virtual tastings will have to do for now. I do enjoy the education. Found a YouTube video from a wine store in Iowa last night. Focused on Piedmont and their wine club selections from a small vintner. Learned even more about one of my favorite regions.

I'm also focusing more on the wines I do have and how I can improve my tasting skills with each bottle. Don't want to go overboard and get in the way of enjoying the wine now, however. It is comfort food to me.
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by ChaimShraga » Sun May 17, 2020 4:25 pm

I hate when a cult artist or band I love becomes popular. I feel like people are treading in on my territory and get it wrong. That's how I felt with millions of eulogies for Lou Reed and that's how I feel about Zoom.
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by David M. Bueker » Sun May 17, 2020 5:07 pm

ChaimShraga wrote:I hate when a cult artist or band I love becomes popular. I feel like people are treading in on my territory and get it wrong. That's how I felt with millions of eulogies for Lou Reed and that's how I feel about Zoom.


Oh but come on, it would be fun if we could taste "together."

We could even have the original Velvet Underground album on for background. :)
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Re: Have you used Zoom for a social-distance tasting?

by Jenise » Sun May 17, 2020 5:14 pm

Indeed, six or eight times now. Even sat in on some winemaker sessions, though never with glass in hand. (Didn't have the wine, or too early in the day for that.) It's been fun, and mostly as a way of keeping up with people.
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