Can’t Be with the Ones You Love? Wineries Turn to Virtual Tastings

Vintners connect with the public on social media for tastings, happy hours and more

Courtesy of Michigan By The Bottle

With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order keeping Michigan winery tasting rooms closed for now, some are turning to virtual tastings and happy hours to create connections with their customers until things can return to normal.

Among wineries and tasting rooms planning virtual tastings are Aurora Cellars (today, April 15, along with April 22 and 29, at 6:30 p.m.) and Petoskey Farms (April 16 at 7 p.m.). For a related article on Aurora Cellars’ virtual tastings, click here.

The Michigan Wine Collaborative is teaming up with Chateau Chantal and Modales for a virtual Twitter tasting May 14 called #PinkSociety.

Bonobo Winery co-owners Carter Oosterhouse and Amy Smart are hosting virtual happy hours. (Photo courtesy of Bonobo Winery)

Bonobo Winery is holding virtual happy hours with Carter Oosterhouse and his wife, actress Amy Smart. They co-own Bonobo with Carter’s brother Todd and his wife, Caroline Oosterhouse. This Friday’s happy hour (April 17) features the couple with winemaker Cornel Olivier in the kitchen whipping up wine club recipes.

Hickory Creek Winery is hosting a virtual happy hour on Facebook Live on Fridays at 5 p.m. Owner/winemaker Adam McBride features a different wine each week; participants can order the wine ahead if they like and then taste it live time as McBride discusses the varietal, wine style and his winemaking approach.

“We’ve had people participate in the happy hour with their own drinks from all over, including participants from Maryland and California last week,” McBride says. “I’ve done four of them so far, with around 40 to 50 people joining in.”

McBride is also doing private virtual tastings, like one last week with the Chicago Chapter of the American Wine Society via Zoom.

“The chapter selected four wines and gave their members a deadline to order the wines so they would have everything in time,” he says. “Then we spent about 90 minutes on Zoom going through each of them and talking about the Michigan wine scene and my winery’s place in it.”

McBride is also offering personal tastings via FaceTime, Zoom and Google Duo for those who are interested.

Chateau Grand Traverse has hosted a virtual tasting and plans another for April 22, which will focus on on vintage years and what they mean/how terroir affects wine this time. Participants can order a few different vintages online at or use a variety they may have at home or find in stores. Here’s all the information. 

Michigan By The Bottle (MBTB) is featuring wines from a variety of its winery-partners in virtual tastings (including one April 18) and also hosting virtual happy hours (there’s one tonight, April 15) and Wine Wars.

A MBTB Drink Pink event on April 18 with Paul Hamelin of Verterra Winery replaces an in-person event previously scheduled during which Verterra’s Rosés would have been released. Participants can register and receive a Zoom link the morning of the event.

MBTB also presents a program it calls “Coronacast” on Facebook Live.

“It’s basically a half-hour of Shannon and I being goofy and being able to interact with our guests,” says Cortney Casey, who with husband Shannon owns MTBT locations in Royal Oak, Auburn Hills and Shelby Township. “(It’s to) give them a sense of normalcy, keep their minds off of what’s happening in the world.”

Each session features a trio of wines. Guests can buy at least one of the wines to taste along with the Caseys if they choose.

“We give background on the featured wineries, discuss tasting notes and have playful banter in between,” Cortney says.

Actual tastings begin at 8 p.m., with a Pre-Show Pre-Party running between 7:30 and 8.

“We do shoutouts and talk about random stuff from 7:30 to 8 p.m.,” Cortney says. “Last week, we did a shoutout to all of their health care heroes — their friends and family working on the front lines.”




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