You love people. You love wine. You revel in putting the two together as a shared experience in a social gathering.
Along comes COVID-19—trashing the social landscape with all the grace of a stampede of pachyderms. No more wine tasting parties at home or at one of our local venues.
But help is on the way.
If there exists a ‘next best thing’ to those wine moments enjoyed with friends it must be the blind Virtual Wine Tasting and Virtual Happy Hour events from Chip’s Wine and Beer-- hosted by proprietors Phil and Laura Wayland.
Through the joys of technology you can share a wine tasting from the safety of your home while interacting with a few dozen other wine lovers. In the process you’re helping a local business keep that revenue flowing at a time when a store like Chip’s would usually be bustling with locals and tourists stocking up for spring and summer fun.
OBX.Live briefly touched upon Chip’s blind tasting in a previous article.
But we needed an excuse to drink wine and get paid for it. So we felt it necessary to attend a virtual tasting. And then another—just to make sure we got it right the first time.
There are some rules and general observations:
1) The technology is easier than opening a screw top wine bottle. You can do it!
2) Don’t be intimidated because you’re not a wine expert. Hardly anyone guesses the wines correctly. Part of the fun is watching the range of guesses submitted—most of them incorrect. Besides, by the fourth tasting round you likely don’t care if you’re right or wrong. You just want to make sure you pour it into the glass without getting any on the floor.
3) Eat beforehand. If you don’t our guess is Rule #2 may apply by the fourth round.
Here’s how it works:
Chip’s announces the event on their Facebook page using Facebook’s familiar event invitation format. There’s a link in the announcement to purchase the wines needed to participate.
Typically there are options—anywhere from two to four (and sometimes more) wines. The two-wine option usually prices out at around $35 and the four-wine choice at $70. The choices include a mix of whites, reds, rose and even some sparklers.
You order the wine online and pick it up at Chip’s Kill Devil Hills location at the MP 6 shopping center. If you call when you arrive, they will bring the wine to your car.
For an additional fee you can have the wine delivered. And you can add other options such as chocolates to your purchase.
Make sure you order well ahead of time—the tastings take place at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday nights.
Prior to the scheduled time return to Chip’s Wine & Beer’s Facebook page and locate the event announcement. A few minutes before the start a countdown timer will show in the ‘box’ for the event post and at 7:00 the event goes ‘live’ from the Wayland’s home. If you have the ability using Apple AirPlay or Bluetooth technology, it’s more fun to project the broadcast to your widescreen television.
For the blind tasting the wine’s come wrapped in brown paper coverings. They are labeled by numbered and those requiring some cooling before tasting have “Chill Me!” written on the bag. No cheating—don’t feel the bottle shape or peek at the foil or screw top cap to try to figure out what gem is hidden under the brown paper bag.
Chip’s will email you instructions, tasting and aromatic notes to look for and a sheet to write down your observations so have those handy.
Now the fun starts.
Open the first wine and pour. Phil and Laura—in a very lively and engaging style will guide you through a thorough examination of the wine—it’s color, viscosity, aromas, and eventually, the taste.
Phil is the straight man to Laura’s energetic and enthusiastic presentation. It’s humorous, engaging and educational.
Along the way the couple throw out some possible wine notes for you to ponder—sweet or dry? Do you smell flowers, earth, dark berries, spices? What country do you think the wine is from? Region? What grape varietal?
If you watch in full screen mode you can answer some of the questions in a box that pops up. But you can’t view the live comment in the chat box. To do that you need to watch in the reduced screen default mode and we found this to be more fun because now you can interact with the others—which is the whole purpose of the event.
You taste all of the wines first and after the tasting is over it’s time for The Big Reveal!
One by one the hosts unwrap the wine bottles and tell you about their pedigree and tasting notes. They recognize the participants who guessed correctly and generally have a good time. The comments streaming in the chat box indicates everyone else having the same good time while mostly missing in their guesses.
Chip’s will likely continue these for as long as the state’s Stay Home orders are in effect. In addition to the blind tastings the store has hosted virtual Happy Hours where the wines aren’t ‘under wraps’ beforehand and their sister entity—the Outer Banks Olive Oil Company has conducted some virtual cooking events.
Either way—if you’re sick of Netflix or drinking your wine in solitude we highly recommend visiting their Facebook page and jumping into the virtual wine tasting pool. You’ll find the waters warm and the natives friendly.
If you want to test drive an event the last blind tasting was recorded for posterity.