While staying in, many of us are thinking of creative ways to connect with our friends. Some folks are doing digital game nights, virtual book clubs and online trivia. I’ve been connecting with my pals with regular happy hours, and we’ve been having a lot of fun showing off our cocktail game. We’ve also been enjoying sipping on our favorite wines.
Sure, opening a bottle of what you have at home works just fine, but sampling the same sips can make you feel more connected when you can’t visit in person. That’s where virtual wine tastings come in. These online meetups let you chat with your BFF while trying a rosé you’ve both been eyeing. Here’s how you host a wine tasting with your pals online.
Choose Your Wines
Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home
The first step of any tasting is to select the wines you’d like to try. There are lots of routes to take with this one!
- Have each taster pick a wine: This is a good way to ensure that everyone will get to sample something they’ll enjoy.
- Try a selection of one type of wine: If you’re all Merlot lovers, try three of them. Love a good bubbly? Try a few champagnes. Going in-depth with one type of wine can be a good way to parse out exactly what you love.
- Sample wines from a single winery: See what your favorite vineyard has to offer and try a few bottles from their assortment. This is what I did with my gal pals and Taste of Home coworkers. We sampled a few wines from Sonoma-Cutrer—a winery I’m fond of. We sampled Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, the Cutrer Chardonnay and a Rosé of Pinot Noir.
Once you’ve made your selections, all that’s left to do is bring them home. Try grocery store pick-up options, wine delivery services or get them shipped to your door right from the winery.
Grab Some Snacks
No wine tasting would be complete without a handful of snacks. You can prep yourself a mini pairing menu if you want to go all out, but simple accouterments like fruit, cheese, nuts and homemade bread are just as delicious.
If you ask me, no tasting is complete without a decent snack spread. These foods are fun to nosh on while you chat, but they also can help clear your palette between samples. My favorite wine tasting snack: a fantastic cheese board. I like to make a small scale version for myself with a few cheeses, grapes, almonds and water crackers.
Link Up with Your Friends
When it comes to hosting a virtual party, there are lots of options. You can try Skype, Zoom, Facebook and plenty of other video platforms. If you can, try chatting via your computer instead of your phone so you can be hands-free. You’ll need them at the ready for uncorking each bottle.
Taste Like a Pro
Nicole Doster/Taste of Home
Now that you’ve chosen your wines and readied your snacks, it’s time to start the wine tasting. You’ll want to sample your wines in a particular order. Camille Berry, sommelier and Taste of Home contributor, recommends this practice: “Go lightest to most full-bodied/lower alcohol to higher alcohol, youngest to oldest, white to red, driest to sweetest.”
With your order set, pour yourselves a small sample and run through the five S’s: see, swirl, sniff, sip and savor. Don’t fell silly giving your wines a swirl or swish. It’s the best way to unlock the flavors and aromas.
Once, you’ve sampled the wines, discuss! My pals and I had a long chat about this Chardonnay. We picked up on some of the same hints on this one. It was fruity but had touches of vanilla and baking spice. Essentially it felt homey—perfect for spending time inside and curling up with your friends via video chat.
Remember to take notes on the wines you sampled—particularly the ones you really enjoyed. Be sure to snag a bottle of your most beloved option and uncork it when you’re able to enjoy a glass together again.
1 / 44Taste of Home
I throw together these bold ingredients for a feisty seafood pasta. —Lynda Balslev, Sausalito, California (Here’s what “cooking wine” really means.)Go to RecipeTaste of Home
Parmesan Chicken with Artichoke Hearts
I’ve liked the chicken and artichoke combo for a long time. Here’s my own lemony twist. With all the praise it gets, this dinner is so much fun to serve. —Carly Giles, Hoquiam, WashingtonGo to Recipe Here are some expert tips on how to cook with wine.Taste of Home
These warm spiced pears elevate slow cooking to a new level of elegance, yet they’re incredibly easy to make. Your friends won’t believe this fancy-looking dessert came from a slow cooker. —Elizabeth Hanes, Peralta, New MexicoGo to Recipe
Beef Osso Bucco
Treat holiday guests to elegant comfort food at its best. Our osso bucco beef boasts a thick, savory sauce complemented by the addition of gremolata, a chopped herb condiment made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Greendale, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish. In this version, the rice is briefly sauteed, then slowly cooked in wine and seasonings. —Taste of Home Test KitchenGo to Recipe
Peppercorn Beef Top Loin Roast
A red wine sauce complements the brown sugar rub on the roast in this inviting entree. You can’t go wrong with this down-home dish!—Taste of Home Test KitchenGo to Recipe
Chicken Piccata with Lemon Sauce
Once you’ve tried this tangy, yet delicate lemon chicken piccata, you won’t hesitate to make it for company. Seasoned with parmesan and parsley, the chicken cooks up golden brown, then is drizzled with a light lemon sauce. —Susan Pursell, Fountain Valley, CaliforniaGo to Recipe
Beef Filets with Portobello Sauce
These tasty steaks seem special, but they are fast enough for an everyday dinner. We enjoy the mushroom-topped filets with crusty French bread, a mixed salad and a light lemon dessert. —Christel Stein, Tampa, FloridaGo to Recipe
Wintertime Braised Beef Stew
This easy beef stew is incredibly rich. Since it’s even better a day or two later, you may want to make a double batch. —Michaela Rosenthal, Woodland Hills, CaliforniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Sour Cherry Sorbet
My mother-in-law has a sour cherry tree in her yard that yields many quarts of cherries each June, and this is a great way to use some up. This frosty sweet-sour sorbet is a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. —Carol Gaus, Itasca, IllinoisGo to Recipe
Ultimate Pot Roast
Dutch oven pot roast recipes are the ultimate comfort food. When juicy pot roast simmers in garlic, onions and veggies, everyone comes running to ask, “When can we eat?” The answer? Just wait—it will be worth it. —Taste of Home Test KitchenGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Chicken Sausage & Gnocchi Skillet
I had a bunch of fresh veggies and combined them with sausage, gnocchi and goat cheese when I needed a quick dinner. Mix and match your own ingredients for unique results. —Dahlia Abrams, Detroit, MichiganGo to Recipe
Honey-Roasted Chicken & Root Vegetables
When my whole family comes over for dinner, I make a big platter of roast chicken with sweet potatoes, carrots and fennel. My dad leads the fan club. —Kelly Ferguson, Conshohocken, PennsylvaniaGo to Recipe
Pork Chops & Mushrooms
My mother-in-law gave me this recipe years ago, and I have used it ever since. My family loves the sweetness with a little kick.—Hilary Rigo, Wickenburg, ArizonaGo to Recipe
Skillet Chicken with Olives
While I was visiting my cousin Lilliana in Italy, she made this heavenly chicken for lunch. Now it’s a family favorite stateside, too. —Rosemarie Pisano, Revere, MassachusettsGo to Recipe
Poached Pears with Orange Cream
End the meal with a flourish with this easy and elegant dessert. A hint of orange lends just enough sweetness to temper the wine’s bold taste. —Julianne Schnuck, Milwaukee, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Mixed Greens with Lemon Champagne Vinaigrette
Simple and delicious, this champagne vinaigrette recipe pairs perfectly with mixed greens or a salad of your choice. —Ray Uyeda, Mountain View, CaliforniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Sweet & Spicy Pickled Red Seedless Grapes
Most people don’t think about grapes when creating a canned pickle recipe. The pickling liquid for these grapes includes red wine, vinegar, and common pickling spices like coriander, mustard seeds and hot pepper; it also contains warm spices like cinnamon and star anise along with brown sugar. These flavor-packed grapes are unique and delicious on an antipasto, pickle or cheese tray. —Cheryl Perry, Hertford, North CarolinaGo to Recipe
The Best Chicken & Dumplings
Homemade chicken and dumplings from scratch harken back to my childhood and chilly days when we devoured those cute little balls of dough swimming in hot, rich broth. It’s one of those types of soup you’ll want to eat again and again. —Erika Monroe-Williams, Scottsdale, ArizonaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Duck Breasts with Apricot Chutney
When serving this entree as part of a buffet, try using chafing dish to keep it warm. —Taste of Home Test KitchenGo to Recipe
Chicken Thighs with Shallots & Spinach
What could be better than an entree that comes with its own creamy vegetable side? This healthy supper goes together in no time flat and makes an eye-catching presentation. —Genna Johannes, Wrightstown, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Sea Scallops and Fettuccine
This luscious and lemony pasta dish is so easy, it’s become one of our weekly meal mainstays. But it’s also elegant enough to serve to guests. —Donna Thompson, Laramie, WyomingGo to Recipe
Sausage & Cannellini Bean Soup
Here’s my reproduction of a dish from a famous Chicago eatery. We think it rivals the original. I usually cook this at least once a week. It’s a tasty way to keep my lunchbox full of healthy options. —Marilyn McGinnis, Peoria, ArizonaGo to Recipe
Anise & Wine Cookies
My grandmother did not speak English very well, but she knew the language of great food. These wine cookies are crisp and best eaten after being dunked in even more wine.—Julia Meyers, Scottsdale, ArizonaGo to Recipe
Spring Green Risotto
Once a week I create a new recipe for my blog, An Officer and a Vegan. I first made this risotto when I needed something cheerful and comforting. It would be fantastic with asparagus, zucchini or summer squash, but use whatever veggies are in season. —Deanna McDonald, Grand Rapids, MichiganGo to Recipe
Spicy Lemon Chicken Kabobs
When I see Meyer lemons in the store, it must be spring. I like using them for these easy chicken kabobs, but regular grilled lemons still add the signature smoky tang. —Terri Crandall, Gardnerville, NevadaGo to Recipe
White Wine Garlic Chicken
This garlic chicken is great over cooked brown rice or your favorite pasta. Don’t forget a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, too. —Heather Esposito, Rome, New YorkGo to Recipe
Wine-Braised Chicken with Pearl Onions
This is a family favorite handed down from my grandmother in London. She made it for every family gathering. It was always the first food to go on the table and the first one to disappear. —Wayne Barnes, Montgomery, AlabamaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Contest-Winning Chicken Cacciatore
My husband and I own and operate a busy farm. There are days when there’s just no time left for cooking! It’s really nice to be able to come into the house at night and smell this wonderful slow cooker chicken cacciatore. —Aggie Arnold-Norman, Liberty, PennsylvaniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Chili Sauce Chicken
Chili sauce, garlic and basil add flavor to these moist chicken thighs. We enjoy the tender grilled chicken not just in summertime, but throughout the year. —Marilyn Waltz, Idyllwild, CaliforniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Chicken with Red Wine Cream Sauce
My creamy chicken tastes like a five-star restaurant dish but takes only minutes and few ingredients to make. Use fresh rosemary. Trust me. —Sarah Campbell, Terre Haute, INGo to Recipe
Cozumel Red Snapper Veracruz
Cozumel, Mexico, is home to magnificent Veracruz-style red snapper. You can’t bring it home, so create your own. Try parchment paper instead of the foil packet. —Barb Miller, Oakdale, MinnesotaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Slow Cooker Spiced Poached Pears
Some of the many reasons I love this dessert recipe are: it’s on the healthy side; it’s easy to make; the recipe can be mostly prepared in advance of company arriving; and the presentation is lovely.—Jill Mant, Denver, ColoradoGo to Recipe
Beef & Mushroom Braised Stew
Every spring, my family heads out to our timber acreage to collect morel mushrooms, and then we cook up this stew. We use morels, of course, but baby portobellos or button mushrooms or will work, too. —Amy Wertheim, Atlanta, IllinoisGo to Recipe
I got this easy recipe from my daughter, who lives in France. It’s become my go-to fondue, and I make it often for our family.—Betty A. Mangas, Toledo, OhioGo to Recipe
Italian Sausage Kale Soup
My mom dehydrates the last pick of tomatoes from her garden each fall—perfect for quick soups like this one. When I have time to prepare dried beans, I do—but don’t worry if you don’t. Canned beans are just as good. —Lori Terry, Chicago, IllinoisGo to Recipe
Make this refreshing summer treat when melons are ripe and flavorful. I like to garnish each serving with a sprig of mint or a small slice of honeydew. —Bonnie Hawkins, Elkhorn, WisconsinGo to Recipe
Sirloin with Mushroom Sauce
A mouthwatering combination of rich brown mushroom sauce and tender strips of peppery steak is a wonderful way to end a busy day. It’s special enough to make for company and ready in less than 30 minutes. —Joe Elliott, West Bend, WIGo to Recipe
Lehmejun (Armenian Pizza)
This pizza-style recipe came from my friend Ruby’s mom, who is a crazy-good cook. I added my own flair and tweaked it by using flour tortillas instead of making a dough. —Tamar Yacoubian, Ketchum, IdahoGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Warm Crab & Spinach Dip
In Maryland, we stayed at a hotel that sent guests home with a crab dip recipe and a spice pouch. Now I’ve made my own dip that rekindles memories of that trip. —Kristina Wenner, Jamison, PennsylvaniaGo to Recipe
Glazed Roast Chicken
I like to make this for weeknight dinners. You can make this roast chicken with apricot glaze or quince jelly. —Victoria Miller, San Ramon, CaliforniaGo to Recipe
Artichoke Mushroom Lasagna
Artichokes and baby portobellos add delightful flavor and depth to this impressive dish. —Bonnie Jost, Manitowoc, WisconsinGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Red Wine Cranberry Sauce
We were feeling festive when we started our holiday cooking, but a bottle of wine was a bit more than we wanted to drink. I added half a cup to the cranberry sauce, in place of juice, and a new recipe was born! —Helen Nelander, Boulder Creek, CaliforniaGo to RecipeTaste of Home
Red, White & Blue Potato Salad
Tossing the cooked potatoes with stock and wine right after you drain them infuses them with flavor. The liquid absorbs like magic. —George Levinthal, Goleta, CaliforniaGo to Recipe