Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Virtual Dinner Party Lets Us Drink Wine Together – Digitally

Using technology to share wineHunkered down during the coronavirus lockdown? Try a virtual wine dinner with friends.

Internet Helps The Wine Flow

In this time of COVID-19 and social distancing, the opportunities to raise a glass of wine together are almost nonexistent. Thankfully my wife and I are in the coronavirus oblivion together and we can uncork a bottle whenever the mood strikes us. We do miss sharing a bottle with old friends.

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The business world has moved online with telecommuting, Zoom meetings and apps to order meals and goods delivered to your doorstep. Wine tasters, including us, have followed suit.

Last week we were able to “have dinner” with our good friends Steve and Tracey who live hundreds of miles away in Ohio. The “Cabernetor” and “Glorious T” have been part of our tasting team for years, even before this blog was founded more than a decade ago.

Our dinner was a virtual one but in this time of pandemic lockdown, it was a joyous and welcome thing. I had to pick out a pair of special bottles for the occasion.

Virtual Wine DinnerBottles With A Story

Dipping into the wine cellar, I first plucked the Meeker Vineyard Combination Code Three. The bottle is special to us since it was a gift from Steve and Tracey on the occasion of my “landmark” birthday a few years ago. Not only that, but they picked the bottle up when the four of us visited La Scola Italian Grill in Toledo for a tasting of Meeker wines paired with some crazy good food.

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The Combination Code Three back in 2016 was paired with slow-roasted poblano infused short ribs. Last week our pairing was peppercorn beefsteak with mushroom wine reduction sauce, Hasselback potatoes, and grilled Brussel sprouts.

Once we both joined the Zoom meeting, Steve and Tracey popped open a rosé Champagne. As the screen showed us opening the Meeker Combination, Steve slipped off-camera and soon returned with another bottle of Meeker Combination! Both bottles were signed by Molly Meeker, who owns Meeker Vineyard along with husband Charlie. Each of our bottles was signed by Molly and Charlie.

It was truly a special moment, although we were huddled separately in our foxholes, figuratively, we were able to enjoy the same wine through a digital connection. The Meeker Combination is 60% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah and 20% Barbera -- a smooth and luscious wine that blended seamlessly with our steak. It brought back great memories -- I was sorry to learn that La Scola closed last year.

Glorious T watches the decanting of Meeker CombinationJust One More

Perhaps we should have stopped at one bottle, but we didn’t. We don’t have to drink all of the wine in each bottle, I reasoned to Green Dragon, my wife. With that logic firmly in place, I uncorked the World’s End If Six Was Nine 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. This also had a special connection for our group.

I picked up the World’s End (an unfortunate name perhaps considering the current situation) at a tasting at Walt Churchill’s Market in Maumee. Back in 2013, Austin Beeman was the wine manager at Churchill’s and he hosted an iconic Cabernet Sauvignon tasting. Austin went on to manage marketing at Bonny Doon winery and then fill key management roles at a Toledo-area distributor.

The tasting that day, which Cabernetor and I attended, was breaking the bank before any bottles were purchased. For a two-ounce sample of the top iconic Cabs, it was $25 a sip!

The 2009 vintage is one of my favorites for Napa Valley and Steve and I purchased bottles of the World’s End If Six Was Nine. The bottle I opened last week was Napa Cab at its rollicking best: bold tannins with currant, chocolate, and waves of vanilla. The wine has small amounts of Cab Franc and Merlot. A dynamite bottle.

Is a virtual dinner a replacement for a face-to-face meal? Certainly not, but it represents a lifeboat in a sea of uncertainty and negative news. Imagine if this pandemic occurred in 1970 or 1980. Today’s technology allows us to keep in touch and boost the spirits -- as well as one more reason to uncork a special bottle.

Cheers to good friends and to a quick end to the current crisis.

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