Stealing Happy Hours

Now That You're Drinking, Get a Virtual Wine Education

Wineries and sommeliers alike have pivoted to video conferencing classes.

By Timothy Malcolm April 22, 2020

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Introducing Virtual Vino! Experience a new way to learn about wine with our private, one-on-one virtual tastings! • First, call your closest Messina Hof location and set up a tasting. • Next, choose a flight theme, and we will get you the 3 corresponding wine bottles via shipping, home-delivery, or curbside pick-up! - Themes include: New to Wine Pass the Bubbly Give Me One Good Riesling Raving for Reds Port in a Storm - • At the time of your meeting, we will teach you all about each wine and give you a personal tasting experience like never before! - Call your local Messina Hof to book a tasting! Bryan: (979) 778-9463 ext 223 Grapevine: (817) 442-8463 Hill Country: (830) 990-4653 . . . . . #messinahof #txwine #virtualtasting #virtualhappyhour #stayhome #athomeinbcs #staysafe #stayhealthy #winelover #wineeducation #winenight

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It may seem unusual, but what you do say to sipping three glasses of wine over the course of an hour while talking to your computer screen?

Over the past few weeks, as people have settled into a life where video conferencing is the norm rather than a stressful option (and, let's be honest, Americans are drinking more wine than maybe ever), wineries and sommeliers alike have been using Zoom and other platforms as a way to educate people about vino. 

"You set up a one-on-one tasting where you can be able to talk through the tasting, just like you were enjoying it at the bar," says Karen Bonarrigo, co-owner of Messina Hof Winery in Bryan. 

Messina Hof is offering customers a program called Virtual Vino. Call up the winery to schedule a private sampling of three bottles with the tasting room manager over a video conferencing platform. The winery offers multiple options, including a "New to Wine" tasting featuring a riesling, rosé, and cabernet sauvignon, and one called "Give Me One Good Riesling," which is self-explanatory.

Once scheduled, Messina Hof sends you a box of the three bottles, which should arrive within two days. All you have to do is log on and pour.

"For us, we've always been known for our personal hospitality," Bonarrigo says. "So in creating this, we asked, 'How do we reconnect in that way, be able to teach and educate about Texas wines and vineyards?' Because that's what we love doing."

Wineries are considered essential businesses, so they're allowed to remain open during this time. But to keep people apart from one another to help curb the spread of COVID-19, places like Messina Hof have decided this was a welcome pivot for customers. The winery is also selling wine via curbside pick-up, and folks are permitted to walk the vineyards like usual, just as long as they're practicing social distancing. So hey, another option: Get out of the house, stay in the car, and drive up to Bryan to pick up some wine.

Other wineries, like Blue Epiphany in Conroe and Gadela in Spring, have also pivoted, with the former selling wines via pick-up and local delivery, and the latter solely delivering, which is free within five miles of the property.

The somm speaks

If you're looking to try some wines from outside Texas, you might want to consult a seasoned sommelier. I'll Have What She's Having has enlisted Goodnight Hospitality partner June Rodil, a master sommelier, to host group zoom tastings, and Adele Corrigan, general manager of 13 Celsius, is suggesting wine pairings in a special I'll Have What She's Cookin' class Saturday with Evelyn Garcia, chef of Kin at Politan Row, and Sarah Linley Crowl, bar director of Penny Quarter. Check the website for updates on future I'll Have What She's Cookin' events. 

Plus, H-Town Restaurant Group beverage director and sommelier Sean Beck regularly teaches five-minute-ish classes on wine via his Facebook page. He's also raffling off wines weekly (you have to pay $1), and generally keeping calm during this wild time.

"We're grinding it out every day," Beck told Houstonia recently. "We're figuring out a different way to do it, and doing everything beyond, and going beyond in protocol."

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