Nothing makes an extrovert like me happier than sharing wine with friends on my backyard deck or gathered around a table at a busy Vancouver restaurant. But a year ago, COVID-19 hit the pause button on wine tastings, dinner parties and in-person friendships. Without warning, it was just me, scrolling wistfully through social media.
My very full and gratifying social calendar went blank.
Then, in early April 2020, the universe sent me a lifeline. Wine blogger Thea Dwelle invited me to join a “Wine Wednesday Happy Hour” Facebook group that met over Zoom chats. My fingers couldn’t move fast enough to hit the “Going” button. I scrambled to write the event in my empty calendar. Finally, I had something to look forward to. Time couldn’t fly fast enough.
After logging in, familiar faces filled up my screen, people I’d met at wine media conferences over the years: wine and spirit writers, podcasters, journalists, bloggers and PR people, most of them in the United States. That first happy hour quickly turned into a weekly one. Make that two: Mondays to discuss cocktails and Wednesdays to discuss wine.
Themes explored on cocktail nights range from “All Eyes on Ryes” to maple syrup cocktails (as one of the few Canadians in the group, I love their fondness for Canadian themes) to pisco. I had no idea what pisco was and now can expertly craft a few killer cocktails out of this excellent Peruvian/Chilean brandy.
Wednesdays are my happy place. We feature wines from around the world, explore regions, and share stories about our wine-related travels. Valiant attempts are made to synchronize with international wine marketing days. Occasionally, the week’s theme is chosen by someone celebrating a birthday who then has to suffer through some of the worst renditions of “Happy Birthday” I have ever heard. Try staying on rhythm during a Zoom chat with 20-plus people!
One week, an ardent Chardonnay non-believer fell in love with Chablis. Another week, a red wine lover proclaimed her adoration for Sangiovese. I have learned more about Italian wine over the past year than I ever did in my WSET classes. I have become known as the #chardcore queen and a champion of Champagne and B.C. wine to people across North America.
This group provided a place to feel supported, loved and connected in a way that I would never believe possible in a virtual community.
I asked some members of the group how the weekly chats helped them through this crazy time. Mykha’el Wilson, a blogger from New York, told me: “This group provided a place to feel supported, loved and connected in a way that I would never believe possible in a virtual community. Our meetings have added closeness to existing friendships and created new ones. It also added a schedule and a sense of normalcy in a chaotic world.”
We named ourselves the Properly Corrupted Wineaux and since last April, I have only missed one session of this fun-filled happy hour group. (Note that it’s a private Facebook group open by invitation only.) Feelings of isolation and dismay have been replaced with laughter, banter, education and friendship.
I cherish my Monday and Wednesday evenings. They are sacred to me, and my family is utterly supportive. They know this group is a key to my current happiness. The Properly Corrupted Wineaux have re-ignited a spark that had been threatening to fade away.
You do not need an invitation to join public groups on Facebook. Go to your Facebook homepage and look for suggested groups under the “search” tab. When you find a group, it typically has an administrator who will grant you access and sometimes share housekeeping rules dealing with respectful language and proper ethics. Here are a few groups to check out.
British Columbia Wines (2,300 members)
Wine Study (14,000 members)
Fine Wine Buzz (4,000 members)
Friends Who Like Wine in the Glass (13,100 members)
#bcwinechat, Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
Another way to connect is through the B.C. Hospitality Foundation, which is holding its second annual Hospitality Hustle until May 31. Among the activities are weekly Instagram live chats on #winewednesday with a B.C. winemaker, viticulturalist or other wine star who will discuss two to three of their wines and their region. Stay tuned to the BCHF website (bchospitalityfoundation.com) and Instagram (#hospitalityhustle) for details.
@ Vitis Magazine