The Tolosa Tasting Room in San Luis Obispo may be empty these days, but its tours bring tasters there virtually (Courtesy photo)

Virtual California winery tours and real wine tastings while sheltering-in-place

Several wineries have taken this opportunity to more fully engage in social media and use various available platforms

As we all know, travel and travel planning are being disrupted by the worldwide spread of COVID-19. And while one can’t predict a pandemic or what will be its ultimate impact, for those of us sheltering-in-place in attempts to help flatten the curve, we have had to get creative to maintain sanity.

Viral musings Part I listed some suggestions to make good use of time while sheltering-in-place, and now we have come to one of my favorite ways to pass the time, enjoying good wines.

Several wineries have taken this opportunity to more fully engage in social media and use various available platforms to invite those sheltering-in-place to virtually visit their wineries, meet the winemakers and sommeliers as well as educate themselves on various aspects of wine production. Then of course there are the non-virtual, very real wine tastings. One can order the wines in advance then taste them during live virtual events – and ask questions – or watch afterwards at your convenience, all while safely sheltering-in-place.

Here are three wineries, two in Paso Robles and one in San Luis Obispo that I like which produce good virtual events and more importantly, really good wines.

Parrish Family Vineyards

Paso Robles

www.ParrishFamilyVineyard.com

@pfvineyard

The Parrish family has a long history in the central coast region but didn’t start producing their own wines until 2004 though owner/winemaker David Parrish spent almost 20 years working in Napa with several growers including Robert Mondavi. Today the Parrish family has 150-acres under vine across three vineyards: Creston, the oldest, Templeton, the largest, and Adelaida, where the tasting room is located.

Their site has several ‘take a minute’ videos that give concise snapshots of various aspects of the wine making process. Current videos on offer are “The importance of mechanical cultivation,” “Bud Break,” “Racking” and “Blending.” These give viewers a good bird’s eye view to whet their appetite for more in-depth information.

The patio at Parrish Family Vineyards in Paso Robles is filled with guests in non-pandemic times. (Courtesy photo)

Their site offers several virtual tastings. I opted for their “White Flight with Winemaker David Parrish and Sommelier Vanessa Igel.” At $16 a bottle their 2017 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is a good value for a summer staple wine. As Parrish noted, this wine is more tropical, with guava and pineapple notes, rather than the more typical citrus aspects that most Sauvignon Blanc’s possess. I giggled in agreement when Igel said this was a “great morning wine easily paired with raspberries.” Breakfast of champions anyone?

Generally not a fan of Chardonnay owing to its often over buttery characteristics, I liked Parrish’s 2018 Chardonnay as those buttery elements were not overpowering. No doubt due in large part as it rests only 40 percent in new French oak with the balance in stainless steel. Without those overpowering buttery overtones, the grapes’ fruitiness is more available. I can see this Chardonnay being easily paired with a wide variety of shellfish.

DAOU Vineyards & Winery

Paso Robles

www.Daouvineyards.com

@daouvineyards

In the breathtaking hilltop Adelaida district of Paso Robles rests a lovely vineyard producing some fantastic wines that have won numerous accolades. With 177 acres under vine, DAOU Vineyards is owned by Lebanese-born, France-reared, San Diego-educated wunderkind brothers Georges and Daniel Daou.

The passion and heart that has made DAOU Vineyard and their wines so successful, comes through in their virtual events.

I attended DAOU’s Instagram launch of their Rosé where Georges spoke about his memories of summers in the south of France where food and family were connected to the French heart by Rosé wine.

The traditional Provençal blend that is 95 percent Grenache Noir and five percent Sauvignon Blanc is peachy in color and housed in a beautifully designed bottle with its label cleverly screen printed onto the glass – thus nothing to peel off when being chilled in a wine bucket. Tasting it, DAOU Rosé is great mid-palate and fabulously dry with no added sugars, so I was fully able to enjoy its authentic flavors, summery in flavor.

At 13.7-percent alcohol, DAOU Rosé could easily cause those sheltering-in-place to happily sip throughout the day. On Instagram Live every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., the winery holds virtual tastings with winemaker Daniel Daou and Master Sommelier Fred Dame. On Fridays at 5:30pm Katherine Daou invites a special guest for a live virtual happy hour. Both of these events can give you opportunity to try some of DAOU’s other excellent wines such as their 92-point 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon. And DAOU’s 92-point 2018 Pessimist has a tendency to make even me an eternal optimist despite the pandemic.

Tolosa Winery

San Luis Obispo

www.Tolosawinery.com

@tolosawinery

Located in San Luis Obispo, with grapes sourced from six distinct sections of Edna Ranch, Tolosa is known for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays with 728 acres under vine.

I joined one of Tolosa’s Technical Thursdays “Tour of the Tolosa Crush Pad,” on Zoom led by Estate Host Sommelier Collette Van Gerwen and Winemaker Frederic Delivert.

Here I was able to virtually see how the grapes were dropped into the Hopper – which acts like a conveyer belt. Then onward to the De-stemmer – like a rolling drum that gently “fingers” the stem off the fruit – so that the grape remains in pristine condition. Finally grapes move on to the Optical Sorting Machine. It is here that grapes are scanned by computer and camera which identifies MOG – matter other than grapes – as well as bad grapes. A synced air stream then removes the MOG and undesirable fruit. The machine can sort about four tons an hour.

Delivert noted that “care must be taken not to over sort.” And generally “less than 10-percent don’t make the cut.” The whole, sorted grapes then make their way into the bins by forklift to the tank room to continue on to the fermentation process.

Tasting Tuesdays were far less technical and certainly tastier. Joining a tasting of Tolosa’s2018 Pacific Wind Pinot Noir 1772 with Winemaker Delivert and Master Sommelier Bob Bath, I agreed with Bath that this “joyous cherry on the palate” Pinot would be great accompanied by spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs, game birds or medium bodied cheeses like Manchego.

Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience” and “You need experience to gain wisdom.” What better time to gain knowledge, experience and above all wisdom all while participating in flattening the curve?

Perhaps more importantly, when COVID-19 is just a distant memory, you will have a list of lovely wineries to visit in person along with terrific wines to enjoy.

Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney and legal columnist based in Los Angeles and the author of the award-winning travel memoir “Fifty-Fifty: The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com.

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