For the last many months, the bulk of our interactions with those outside our household has involved looking nice from the waist up, ensuring we’re well-lit and tidying up our backgrounds. The grind of the ever-present virtual meeting is enough to drive practically anyone to drink.
In the absence of the ability to raise a glass with friends, attend in-person wine/beer/spirits tastings and so on, virtual events have become the new norm. Thankfully, there are plenty of forthcoming online local tastings for practically every palate that should be both educational and fun.
The Winehouse, for example, is running a March Madness series of tastings with 12 products from all corners of the wine-making world, including Croatia and Macedonia.
Many of the Kenaston Boulevard store’s Zoom meetings feature winemakers and product representatives. The only cost is that of the product, which can be purchased online for pickup or delivery. For a complete list of tastings, dates and Zoom codes see wfp.to/winehouse.
La Boutique Del Vino’s Virtual Vino series features the Taylor Avenue store’s in-house sommeliers talking with producers and reps from a range of different wineries. They prepare six two-ounce samples for the tasting kits, and attendees can taste along on the virtual event. The next Virtual Vino event is March 19 and will feature Ontario’s Malivoire winery, with winemaker Shiraz Mottiar answering questions and leading the tasting. Tickets for the events range from $35 to $45 and include the price of the samples. For more information and to book, see wfp.to/boutique.
Kenaston Wine Market has rolled out a series of “Old World New World” tastings featuring wines made with the same grape variety, but from different regions. The first session is March 16, and will highlight Malbec; future sessions will expore Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. Tickets for each of the events, which includes the price of three wines, is $60, or you can get all four sessions for $225. For more information, see kenastonwine.com.
De Luca Fine Wines continues their virtual events with tastings ranging from trivia to wine cocktails to winemaker Zooms, non-alcoholic mixology and more; the Portage Avenue store prepares the kits, delivers them to you (along with the access code to the tastings) and you’re good to go. They’ll have the winemaker from New Zealand’s Decibel Wines, for example, on March 25. The virtual events start at $50; for more information, visit wfp.to/deluca.
Jones & Company (formerly Banville & Jones) is offering a trio of events this month, beginning on the 12th with a natural wine tasting, followed by the Explore Canada tasting March 19 and Italian wine on March 26. Packages include wine, tasting notes/food pairing suggestions and a Zoom link/invite code. For details, see joneswines.com/events or pop into their St. Mary’s Road store.
Some local brewers are been getting in on the act when it comes to virtual tastings, as well. On March 11, Little Brown Jug is hosting a live home-brewing event at 7:30 p.m. Attendees will be able to quiz the William Avenue enterprise’s head brewers about all things hops and malt in the hopes of making their own better beer.
Tickets for the virtual event are $20, or for $40 you get access as well as four Little Brown Jug beer varieties and two sample glasses. For more information, see wfp.to/lbjbeer.
Whisky lovers still have so many virtual events to choose from this month, as the Winnipeg Whisky Festival continues through to March 25. Among the forthcoming batch of Zooms is a Canadian Whisky Masterclass (next Thursday) and a J.P. Wiser’s “Mastering Canadian Whisky” event. Proceeds from all Winnipeg Whisky Festival events go toward the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, but for these two, in particular, parent company Corby Spirit and Wine are kicking in an additional $5 per attendee, up to $1,000. For more info on all the virtual whisky events (some free, some with a cost to cover product), see winnipegwhiskyfestival.com.
Here at the Winnipeg Free Press, we’re already working on our second Brew Box package after the first sold out in hours. The inaugural box included two beer varieties from Fort Garry Brewing Co., a glass, chocolates from Chocolatier Constance Popp, macaroons from Piccola Cucina and a Zoom tasting with Fort Garry brewer Josh Berscheid and Yours Truly, which took place March 4.
The next Brew Box should launch around June. If you want more details, sign up to get the latest news in your inbox at wfp.to/brewbox.
Wines of the week
Doña Paula 2019 Rosé of Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina — $11.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Pale pink-orange in colour, this Argentine rosé from high-altitude vineyards brings bright fresh peach and strawberry notes on the nose, as well as hints of watermelon and fresh-cut flowers. It’s light-bodied and dry, with fresh red berry flavours kept lively by moderate acidity and a peachy note on the finish. Simple but quite pleasant, and very well-priced. 3.5/5
Pasqua NV I’Talja Rosso Italiano (Italy — $13.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Info on this wine is a bit sparse, but it appears it’s made from the Montepulciano grape, sourced from throughout Italy. Aromatically there’s plenty of plum, violet, blueberry and blackberry on the nose; it’s dry and medium-bodied, with those dark berry flavours coming through with just a whiff of tannin, a dash of cocoa and a relatively short finish. A solid pizza wine for the price for those looking for a simple, quaffable red. 3/5
Heron Ridge 2017 The Flight Shiraz Petit Verdot (Western Cape, South Afirca — around $21, private wine stores)
This deep, dark red brings enticing aromas of violet, black cherry, iron, earth and plum. It’s dry and full-bodied, with the cherry, tar and earthy notes coming with a peppery, blackberry component, some modest tannins and a long, warm finish. Drink now with some steak, or tuck this away for another 12-18 months. Available at Jones & Company. 4/5
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.