Virtual wine tastings in B.C. become the new norm (for now)

E-learning applies to vino, too

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      When sommelier Khristian Laroche took a sip of the Mas Roig Solà Fred 2018 during a recent wine tasting, he described the unoaked Spanish red, fermented in stainless steel vats, as a perfect example of “wine without makeup”—one that doesn’t need wood to mask the purity of the fruit.

      From the Montsant (Holy Mountain) region of Catalunya, the 100-percent Carignan (Samso) wine is perfect for making the transition from the dining room to sun-splashed patio. It takes well to a slight chill (about 20 minutes inside the fridge door, similar to a Pinot Noir or Gamay), and is super aromatic: “The aromas jump from the glass,” said Laroche, sales manager of Waldorf Wine Group, a family-run importing company based in Steveston.

      A versatile crowd-pleaser, the Solà Fred 2018 goes nicely with tacos, pizza, dips, charcuterie, and grilled salmon with teriyaki glaze, Laroche noted. (It’s also $2 off throughout the month of May, going for $17.99 rather than $19.99, as a BCLS Select product in 62 BCLDB stores.)

      During the COVID-19 era of physical distancing, the tasting Laroche was leading was, of course, not at the wine shop or a restaurant or anywhere else we’re not currently allowed to gather, but online, in this case, on Instagram live.

      Laroche is planning a weekly tasting via the social-media platform, called Waldorf Wine Wednesdays. (The time of day will vary; follow the company on Instagram for updates.)

      With the global pandemic having led to the temporary closure of so many bricks-and-mortar wine stores and winery tasting rooms, virtual tastings are, at least for now, the new normal.

      Here are other B.C.-based online tastings: just what you need to help you better appreciate and understand all the wine that seems to be disappearing these days.

      Wines of British Columbia 

      Vancouver sommelier  and wine educator Kurtis Kolt leads a B.C.-focused event with Sperling Vineyards’ owner/winemaker Ann Sperling and Le Vieux Pin Winery winemaker Severine Pinte as part of the BC Wine Institute’s ​​​​​​​Virtual Tasting Series. Among the featured wines are Sperling Vineyards Organic Pinot Noir 2017 BC VQA Okanagan Valley and Le View Pin Syrah Cuvee Violette 2017 BC VQA Okanagan Valley. Geared equally to wine pros and non-somms who simply enjoy good wine, the 30-minute webinar on May 13 will highlight what makes our province’s offerings so noteworthy.

      Singletree Winery

      Winemaker Andrew Etsell will be leading the 2019 Vintage Virtual Tasting on May 22 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. He’ll take and taste you through the 12-acre family-run Fraser Valley winery’s seven new releases: 2019 Siegerrebe (Siggy); 2019 Gruner Veltliner; 2019 Rose (Syrah/ Merlot); 2019 Pinot Gris; 2019 Viognier; 2019 Sauvignon Blanc; and 2017 Merlot.

      Okanagan Crush Pad Winery

      Leave it to Christine Coletta and Steve Lornie to put a creative spin on things. The team at the Summerland winery (home to Free Form, Haywire, Narrative, and the just-launched Bizou + Yukon label) will work around your schedule and preferences for its virtual wine tastings. Here’s how it works: You and at least three friends pick a date and time for an online gathering, whether it’s via Zoom, Skype, Facebook, or whatever other app you fancy. At least four days in advance, you order the wines you want to swirl and sip (each person buys a wine tasting pack consisting of two full bottles and one half bottle). A winery rep will meet you and go over the wines, and you get to say whether you want “geeky facts” or “fun and stories”.

      Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country

      The organization’s Uncork the Sun Podcast Series and monthly Facebook Live interactive tastings are hosted by instructor Moss Scheurkogel from the Vinstitute, a wine school in Oliver.

      The themed tastings will cover the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country’s 44 wineries. The series kicked off in April with a look at the basic differences between red and white wines; the next virtual tasting (on May 26 at 7 p.m.) focuses on rosés and spring pairings. Sip wines from Hidden Chapel, Hester Creek Estate winery, and Culmina Family Estate Winery.