Tasting wine goes online: Zephyr Wine Bar + Cafe hosts weekly virtual wine tastings

glass of white wine and rose are pictured. (Photo courtesy of Zephyr Wine Bar + Cafe)

MARQUETTE — Whether you’re new to wines or quite the connoisseur, downtown Marquette’s Zephyr Wine Bar + Cafe is offering interactive virtual wine tastings via Facebook live.

Amid the coronavirus crisis and the executive orders that came with it, the Zephyr staff wanted to ensure they would still be able to taste with their friends and customers.

“Wine is really about community in ways of connecting to humans around the world and a way of sharing a meal, sharing a glass of wine, sharing in the history and culture of where that wine came from,” said Daniel Rutz, owner of the Zephyr Wine Bar + Cafe and Everyday Wines. “One of the casualties (of COVID-19) has been the ability to create community easily.”

Those interested in participating can pick up their “Survival Kit” — which contains the three bottles of wines to be discussed during the tasting — in advance from Everyday Wines for around $45. Individual bottles can also be purchased and typically cost $15 or less.

What wines will be featured are released through Zephyr’s email list, which interested parties can sign up for at everydaywinesmqt.com or zephyrmqt.com.

Tasting wines are also posted on their various social media platforms and can be purchased through the Zephyr website, by pickup, delivery or over the phone by calling 225-5470.

The Facebook live sessions are interactive, allowing viewers to ask questions, comment on the wines and chat with one another.

Rutz, along with business managers Marcella Krupski and Julia Dehring, have covered a variety of topics in their last seven tastings and conversation is often driven by those tasting with them in the comments section.

The trio may cover things like body, sweetness, grape varietals, the decanting process, temperature, the region where the wine comes from and more.

“So far we’ve done several regions. We did northeast Italy. We’ve done three bargain French wines, so that tasting pack was a little less expensive, because we were highlighting some of the great quality and great prices from France,” Rutz said. “We’ve also done three radically different reds. That was a way to talk about a lot of different wine basics such as body and sweetness levels in wine and the topic of structure and balance and that type of thing. We just picked three reds that were very different from each other that really allowed for a lot of conversation about why that is and why you might like one over the other. A lot of education happens during this… I think anyone who has stuck with us this whole time has probably gotten the bulk of our wine 101 class actually just by tasting with us.”

Often, a nice glass of wine is poured to accompany food, like a charcuterie or cheese board, snacks such as popcorn and nuts, or a decadent pasta dish.

The tasting hosts also mention foods that will pair well with the wines each week and viewers can share what they’re having with their wine.

“A big aspect of enjoying wine too is the wine and food combination. And with every tasting, we’ve been suggesting food pairings, which kind of create an outline of ideas. And it’s cool to see the folks joining us for these tastings, the different food they’ve prepared and things that they’ve paired white wines with, that’s been a really fun aspect of it too,” Rutz said.

As for the audience, the tastings “run the gamut,” he said.

No knowledge of wine is necessary to participate and the tastings are a chance to learn the basics or refine what you may already know about wine.

“It’s a connector and it’s a bridge,” Rutz said. “It’s something that can be talked about by everyone and during these tastings, questions are often thought of as basic and someone who we know to be really someone very familiar with wine and very well versed with wine will chime in saying they just learned something new because we went back and covered that basic. So far, it seems like we’ve had people all across the spectrum as far as knowledge. And knowledge is just familiarity and having tried different things, so this gives people the opportunity to step outside of their regular palate, their regular tastes and explore some new things in a way (where) we’re there to help them dig into it.”

Virtual tastings will continue as long as the pandemic prevents individuals from gathering to enjoy wine at the Zephyr and the regularly scheduled classes and events resume.

For now, Rutz hopes the tastings foster the sense of connection people may be missing due to the coronavirus.

“It’s fun and it’s a level of connection with folks that you may or may not know that’s different from your average Zoom meeting or get together,” he said. “We all have a common thread that we’re tasting this thing that was created by someone else and we’re all able to talk about it and share and experience across distances. Pretty much every tasting, we’ve had people from coast to coast and certainly across the Upper Peninsula, but many from the Lower Peninsula as well. So I think that sense of connection, which is essentially why we care about wine, is to connect to one another in a really unique way.”

Visit Zephyr Bar on Facebook to tune into the virtual tastings or learn more.

Trinity Carey can be reached at tcarey@miningjournal.net.


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