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Virtual tastings keep wine enthusiasts engaged in North Georgia
04222020 WINE 1
Since early March, Montaluce Winery & Restaurant, located at 501 Hightower Church Road in Dahlonega, has offered weekly virtual tastings on its Facebook page. Craig Boyd, winemaker at Montaluce, has teamed up with Tommaso Rezi, the venue’s restaurant manager, to showcase new and popular seasonal wine. Screengrab by The Times.

Wineries around Georgia have officially entered the virtual world.

Through video tastings, local winemakers have been able to engage their audience, both locally and across the country, without meeting face-to-face.

Karla Roper
Karla Roper
“I don’t understand why many didn’t do it to begin with,” said Karla Roper, executive director of Georgia Wine Producers. “Most people don’t know what kind of wines you have, and I think it has really helped create exposure to wine and online sales, and it engages people in our wine industry. “

The Cottage Vineyard & Winery, located in northern Cleveland, has held virtual tastings via Facebook at 5 p.m. each Thursday, for the past four weeks.

The Monday before the video is live-streamed, the winery posts the names of its featured wine and pairing options. Each bottle runs for around $20, which includes a 20% reduction in price.

Nathan Beasley, The Cottage’s winemaker, said this offers people a chance to order or pick up their wine ahead of time. The food pairings include dishes from local restaurants offering curbside pickup or delivery.

So far, Beasley said the live streams, which are hosted by the winery’s staff and owners, have attracted 3,000-7,000 views per video. 

“We as a winery believe that experience matters just as much as the wine,” Beasley said. “We showcase foods and also talk about the grapes we’re using.”

Beasley describes the videos as a gateway into wine tasting. Those who may find the alcoholic beverage intimidating or don’t fully understand tasting terminology, can now get their feet wet. 

“When you go to a tasting room, you’ll have more confidence in what you like and don’t like, and how to speak the language,” Beasley said. 

Simone Bergese, executive winemaker at Chateau Elan Winery & Resort in Braselton, will host his fourth episode of “Sip with Simone,” at 7 p.m. Friday, April 24, on the venue’s Facebook page

When the winery streamed its first tasting video, Bergese said it was intended to last 15-20 minutes. However, because of the strong interest from viewers, the videos have lasted up to 40 minutes. 

“We’re just trying to be more interactive and fun,” Bergese said. “There have been a lot of questions on the technical aspects of wine.”

Instead of only talking about the featured wine, which is listed days before each live stream, Bergese chats with people and encourages them to ask questions. He recently delved into his Italian heritage and even gave a short lesson on Italian Sign Language. 

To keep the backdrop interesting, Bergese said he changes up the location with each filming.

“I don’t want it to be just about wine,” Bergese said. “I just want it to be 15 to 40 minutes of just drinking, asking questions and enjoying the view too.”

Bergese said Chateau Elan will donate 20% of the featured wine’s sales to Hope Thru Soap, a non-profit that travels through Atlanta and provides haircuts, hot showers, food and clothing to those less fortunate.

Since early March, Montaluce Winery & Restaurant, located at 501 Hightower Church Road in Dahlonega, has offered weekly virtual tastings on its Facebook page.

Craig Boyd, winemaker at Montaluce, has teamed up with Tommaso Rezi, the venue’s restaurant manager, to showcase new and popular seasonal wine. The next video will be streamed at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23.

Haley Gilreath, the winery’s marketing director, said people have the option of buying the wine to taste while watching the video, or picking it up afterward. The venue provides curbside service and delivers bottles to locations in Lumpkin County. 

“When people watch it, they can really see what it’s like to do a tasting,” Gilreath said. “So when they’re able to come back and try it for themselves, they can understand the aroma and flavors.”

Through Georgia Wine Producers, an organization that supports Georgia wineries, Roper started a public Facebook group to engage wine enthusiasts in the state. 

If someone wants to see which wineries are hosting virtual tastings or delivering bottles, all they need to do is visit the Open Georgia Wine page. 

“We want to encourage people to keep drinking Georgia wine,” Roper said. 

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Simone Bergese, Chateau Elan winemaker. Screengrab by The Times.
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