Every few months, one of the wineries here in New Jersey holds a virtual wine tasting. Old York Cellars organizes the tastings so people all across the county — anywhere in the world — can drink the same wines and chat about them with the winemaker on Twitter. At the same time, participants watch a prerecorded video of the winemaker and a guest sommelier tasting and talking about the wines.

During these events, I taste wines I've never had before, learn about varietals, virtually meet other wine lovers and go through mini pairings to see which foods and wines complement each other. That's my favorite part of any tasting. I gather up small amounts of foods like fruit, nuts, cheese, meats and chocolates — anything I happen to have on hand — and try a bite or two of each of them with the wines. In the photo below from a tasting earlier this year, I tried both the red and the white wines with strawberries, cheddar, blue cheese, pecans, dark chocolate and pizza.

virtual-vinesA virtual wine tasting spread I put together for a tasting with Old York Cellers in New Jersey. (Photo: Robin Shreeves)

This is how a typical virtual tasting works for me.

  • A few hours before the tasting, I put any white wine in the refrigerator to chill.
  • About a half hour before the tasting starts, I raid my kitchen for possible pairings. Anything goes — and why not? There's no one else there, so I don't feel any pressure to create perfect pairings. This is a time to experiment, to see what works and what doesn't. A virtual tasting is when you have the chance to see if wine goes with peanut butter and jelly or even your favorite breakfast cereal. In fact, next time, I think I'm going to try both of those with whatever wine I'm tasting.
  • I gather my laptop, so I can tweet, and my tablet, so I can watch the video.
  • When the video starts, I taste the wines as the winemaker tastes them. Then I take to Twitter to talk with others about what we're all tasting. We get to ask the winemaker and sommelier questions. We also talk to each other about our impressions of the wine and which pairings work and don't work.
  • The event usually takes about an hour, and by the end of the tasting, I've learned even more about wine. Plus, I don't have to worry about driving home after having a bit to drink.

Old York Cellars is not the only source for virtual wine tastings. You can search online for other wineries or wine groups that hold them, too. Not all of them are hosted by a winemaker or sommelier. Some of them are groups that determine which wines to buy and then drink and discuss them through social media.

If you can't find a virtual wine tasting you want to participate in, you can create your own. It would be a fun way to enjoy some time with friends and family who don't live close enough to do an in-person tasting. Pick a couple of bottles that everyone is easily able to get hold of, choose a time to meet online, pick a social media platform to connect on (Google+ hangouts seem like a good option), and enjoy tasting and pairing with a group of people — even when you're all by yourself.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

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