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Yes, wine tastings are back, but not the crowded, elbow-to-elbow, stretch-your-arm-for-a-miniscule-sample wine tastings. No, I refer to the innovative, consumer-oriented, structured tastings now being offered at some of our favorite wine and food destinations.

With social distancing and other virus-related protocols in mind, local restaurants and stores have made plans to adjust to the new Covid-19 normal and create enticing events. Whether you prefer a sit-down wine tasting with hors d’ourvres or a special offering of wines with dinner, you will find a good reason to return to tastings at one or more of the following events:

  • Grove, in Lakewood Ranch, is offering a four-week wine event, Wines Around the World, in its socially distanced ballroom. Each week, guests will be poured four wines and served lite bites to accompany them, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 15. Topics will include: Europe, "down under," South America and the United States. Cost is $20 per person.
  • Structured, Covid-protocol-following tastings originated with Michael’s Wine Cellar in July. Now, on alternating Thursdays, Michael's Wine Cellar Social Club offers six wines (three white, three red), presented with accompanying hors d’ourvres. A wine director moderates the event and usually provides a qualified speaker. I have found them to be entertaining and enjoyable. Cost is $35 per person.
  • Seasons 52, at the University Town Center mall, is celebrating the return of Rosé All Day All Summer. A curated menu celebrates this favorite summertime wine and even offers rosé cocktails. Wine selections include Vanderpump Rosé, Jansz brut rosé, rosé sangria and rosé lemonade.
  • Café Venice has been offering and will continue to offer wine dinners. The next one is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 21, and features wines from Oregon.
  • The Capital Grille, also at the University Town Center mall, is featuring The Generous Pour, showcasing wine selections produced by David Phinney. Guests can sample as many wines as they wish from a selection of seven different labels. Each wine is chosen with The Capital Grille’s menu in mind and servers guide patrons through the pairing experience complete with tasting notes. Cost is $28 with dinner. The Generous Pour at Home allows patrons to order from all seven selections with their takeout meal. A crystal glass and other amenities are included.

For similar events in St. Pete and Tampa, check out localwineevents.com.

Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.

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