Though we don’t usually allow “gadgets” at our dining room table, there may be a good reason to include the computer now and then.

My first virtual wine tasting, a few months ago, was hosted by Campo Viejo. When I received the invitation, I was intrigued by the concept and agreed to participate. Before the tasting, three bottles of Rioja arrived in the mail along with tasting notes and instructions about signing online to meet the Spanish winemaker.
I sat at my desk in our basement office with three open bottles of wine and logged in through Adobe Connect. After a brief video about the vineyard, the screen opened to a live video feed of the vintner and a woman who interviewed him. We were guided through the tasting all the while “chatting” and asking questions in a chat room on the right side of the screen and tweeting using a special hash tag to connect our conversation. This is the new online world of culinary exploration.

For my second experience, I wizened up and invited four friends to engage in the experience and most of all, help me drink the wine! Last week, we took part in the Carmenere & Curry virtual tasting. A public relations firm representing the wines of Chile sent 8 bottles of wine from different vineyards but all made with the Carmenere grape. This time, I received spices and recipes for food pairings. They suggested that the Carmenere grape would pair well with tandoori and madras curry dishes. Also included were tasting placemats and notes about the wines and the vintners.

We perched the computer on the pass-through from the kitchen to the dining room and opened all the bottles of wine to watch and listen to the tasting. I prepared tandoori chicken, squash and spinach curry, basmati rice, yogurt sauce and cucumber mint relish. What ensued was an enjoyable night of consumption as we did our best to stay focused on the eight Chilean wine makers who each talked about his/her wine, added a few comments to the online chat room, agreed that the Indian dishes paired well with Carmenere, noted our favorites and engaged in some heated (wine induced?) conversation.
My first virtual wine tasting found me alone in the basement with three open bottles and a bunch of wasted wine. This time, it became clear that I had chosen the appropriate guests when we polished off the last drop of our 8th bottle of wine. These friends were determined to do whatever it took to help me make the most of the wine tasting experience! (It was during much of the next day that many of them realized the price of their faithful determination.)
Wine tasting seems like something best done in the caves of France or while traveling along the winding roads of Napa valley. For some, a computer would never be part of the process and might even be considered blasphemy. But, I have decided that technology was not a negative addition to my two virtual tasting experiences. There is no other way that I would have been exposed to all those knowledgeable wine makers guiding our experience. Tasting the wines side-by-side is the best way to learn more about wines. And, though traveling to wine growing regions is enjoyable, it takes time and money that I do not have at this stage of life.
Should I receive another invitation to take part in a virtual tasting, I will again shove aside the toaster oven and make room for the computer in my dining room. I’ll prepare foods to pair with wine and invite my friends over. The only adjustment I’ll make is adding cab fare for each guest as a parting party favor.