The past year has been devastating for restaurants, hotels and other hospitality venues, and many continue to struggle. However, some dining establishments have found success banding together in marketing groups such as the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, which recently organized the Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival, and with programs like Visit Sarasota County's Savor Sarasota. To attract the largest number of potential attendees and minimize expenses, both organizations and many other restaurants and wine bars sent their messages through LocalWineEvents.com.
The unique website hosts the largest posting of wine events in the world, with between 5,000 and 6,000 listings each week. Events are posted by the host, and organized by city or region. The website is loaded with info about events, trips and educational opportunities, and blog posts and articles that are all wine-related. It even has a section dedicated to trade events.
Each experience listed has a link to a standardized page, which gives all the pertinent details, and occasionally an event will require a ticket purchase, which can be arranged through the link. There is no cost to post an event, but each new one is scrutinized for applicability. Fees are charged for embellished listings and ticket fulfillment.
Eric Orange of Pennsylvania is the site's affable and engaging founder and chief executive officer. With serious wine credentials, Orange hosted in-person wine events, but found the attendance was small. When the internet was in its early stages, he worked with programmers to create a usable site for events. Twenty-one years later, LocalWineEvents.com is reaching its full potential.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, events dropped off, but wineries and influencers soon began listing virtual tastings, and then the Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine & Spirit Education Trust offered online courses. These helped provide a base for more wine events to come. While the event schedule is not at pre-pandemic levels, it is gaining quickly.
In addition to the website, there is an appealing weekly email newsletter named "The Juice," which lists all wine events by region. In addition to listing events, Orange spices up the newsletter with extremely esoteric wine questions. This week’s was, “The Zierfandler grape is known by what other name? A. Frurot. B. Spatrot. C.Pinot Noir. Or D. Rotgopfle." The answer was B. Questions like that one cause even wine aficionados to search for their reference books.
The website and newsletter are an indication of the health of the hospitality industry. This weeks "Juice" includes events hosted by Mélange, Michael's Wine Cellar Social Club and The Butcher’s Block. Hopefully, there will be many more soon.
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.