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Top Picks for Virtual Tastings and Online Classes

IT IS TEMPTING TO TEMPER sweeping statements, but in this case, there’s no need: COVID-19 has transformed the world. Wine country has been impacted, along with other hospitality sectors, including restaurants, bars, and hotels. When it comes down it, really all forms of interactive entertainment and recreation have borne the brunt of the impact.

In New York, the wine and grape industries generate $6.65 billion in annual economic activity, $1.8 billion of which is tied to wine tourism, according to the 2019 Economic Impact Study conducted by John Dunham & Associates for the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. New York brewers, meanwhile, generate about $3.5 billion annually, and cideries and spirits producers generate hundreds of millions in economic activity. It’s unclear how much of that will be lost due to coronavirus shut-downs, but it’s safe to say that the repercussions will be deep and wide.

The tangible loss of profit is serious, not to mention the intangible loss of community and connections—the kind that so often happens over a glass in a tasting room. The loss is massive, impossible to calculate, and deeply felt.

But there is an opportunity now for both producers and enthusiasts to embrace the history and culture of wine, beer, cider, and spirits in a completely different way. Below, our favorite ways to support makers, learn something new, and live deliciously—from home.

TASTE THE LOCAL TERROIR

Most local and regional beverage makers have small brands that depend on their local community and fans from neighboring states to support them by visiting their facilities. Until you can get there, take a virtual trip!
Owners of Green Wolf brewing
Happy hour with Green Wolf Brewing Company’s Caleb Wisemand and Justin Behan.

Who: Think NY, Drink NY is organizing free virtual happy hours with New York brewers.
Details: Happy hours take place Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30pm ET on a different brewery’s Facebook page. Bring a beer, and if possible, make a donation to the New York State Brewer’s Association to support the local beer community. On Friday, July 17th, there is a virtual farm-to-table experience in which participants will be shipped the ingredients to craft a meal using 100% New York-grown produce, paired with two farm beers and a guided tasting. Tickets are on sale now.
How To: Check out the schedule or watch the re-runs here

Who: The New York Wine & Grape Foundation is organizing free virtual happy hours with New York winemakers
Details: The times vary, but the tastings happen several times a week on the scheduled producer’s Facebook and Instagram page, and often feature a look at the winery’s history and process, plus ideas for pairings. The best way to give back in exchange is to grab a bottle of New York wine.
How To: Go here for the lineup or to search the archives

pink cocktail with strawberry and mint on white backkground
Applewood Winery offers informal classes on bringing bar culture home.

Who: Applewood Winery is hosting virtual cocktail classes
Details: On Facebook and Instagram, Applewood Winery offers live classes that teach wine lovers how to bring bar culture home, and among other things, polish their cocktail- and mimosa-making skills at home.
How To: Tune in live or delve into the archives on their Facebook page.

Who: Hillrock Estate Distillery rolls out live cocktail classes
Details: On Instagram, Hillrock Distillery is offering lessons in cocktailing. Tune in on Fridays at 8pm ET to fine-tune your Old Fashioned, and more.
How To: Learn more on Instagram

EXPAND YOUR PALATE

Things in the Empire State are loosening up and we will be streaming back into wine country close to home. But we’re still not sure when we’ll be ready to hop on a plane. Thankfully, there are several opportunities to explore the world, prime our tastebuds, even entertain guests…while tasting and learning from the comfort and safety of home.
screen grab of man and woman during video chat
Tune in to Straight Talk with Wine Spectator on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Who: Wine Spectator’s editors chat live
Details: Straight Talk with Wine Spectator is a new Instagram Live series that features conversations with tastemaking vintners and leading culinary lights like Emeril Lagasse and José Andrés, restaurateur Danny Meyer, and winemaker Alecia Moore. Topics tackle terroir, and the business and pleasure of wine and hospitality. Tune in every Tuesday and Thursdays at 7pm ET.
How To: Find the upcoming schedule here

Who: Annual Rosé Wine Festival goes virtual
Details: 90+ Cellars Rosé Wine Truck, a mobile wine garden that launched last year in Boston, Chicago, and New York City, is going virtual with a summer-long event series that will cover a range of topics and activities, including rosé cocktail recipes and grilling/ rosé tutorials from top chefs.
How To: Follow @90pluscellars on Instagram or sign up for their newsletter for the latest details on the bi-weekly event.

Who: The New York City Wine & Food Festival is opening up a virtual kitchen with guest chefs and celebs (through June 30th)
Details: Bring your own ingredients and a glass of wine, and cook along with the pros. Take on French Cuisine with Daniel Boulud, Spatchcock Chicken with Sides with Marc Murphy or The Greatest American Patty Melt with Jeff Mauro. Classes last about 45-60 minutes, and include a 15-minute Q&A.
How To: Check out the schedule here. Classes cost $25 and benefit the NYCWFF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, which assists restaurant workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

group of people holding wine glasses
Supper Share connects beverage enthusiasts with sommeliers, chefs, and bartenders for virtual dinner parties.

Who:  The Supper Share offers curated virtual parties

Details: Supper Share is a concierge service that connects beverage enthusiasts with sommeliers, chefs, and bartenders for virtual dinner parties to create memorable events you can invite “guests” to share in. Prices range from $60-$150 per person which also supports out-of-work hospitality professionals.
How To: Go to the website for more information on how to coordinate the wine and food delivery, as well as the hosting.

GET SERIOUS OR GO PRO

Times of uncertainty can sometimes lead to a re-evaluation of life goals. Anecdotally, that means many of us are reading, learning, and generally pursuing knowledge—with more gusto.

Who: Online Wine School from the Wine School of Philadelphia
Details: Declared “The Top Wine School in America” by Somm, there are a range of options from Wine 101, to Cocktail Class, to the wines of Bordeaux. For those who want to take their love of wine to the next level and earn a sommelier certification, there are several classes to choose from.
How To: Register here. Classes start at $10.

Who: Corkbuzz offers one-hour classes that focus on wine regions
Details: Fans of Napa or Burgundy or places in between will learn how geography, soil, climate and winemaking techniques come together to create the distinct terroir their favorite region is known for. There are also classes on blind tastings and pairings. Order a wine “backpack” filled with hand-picked selections to supplement the class.
How To: Register here. Classes start at $10.

Who: Winestudio hosts month-long deep dives into wine around the world
Details: A four-week-long virtual beverage education “classroom” where winemakers, students and wine lovers connect on Twitter under the hashtag #winestudio.
It is completely free, held Tuesdays from
9pm-10pm ET, and focuses each week on the terroir, history, grapes, culture and food of a particular region. In the coming months learn about Spain’s Ribera Del Duero region, and New Zealand.
How To: Log on here for more info.

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