Virtual dinners from Wine Wise provide a way to connect from a distance.

The current measures to fight COVID-19 are devastating for many local businesses. But I am also amazed at the creativity I have seen come from these stressful times.

Local businesses have shown impressive adaptability. Many businesses have found ways to pivot, seemingly instantaneously, from textile artisans who have transitioned to making masks or the rapid move to curb side pickup at some of my favorite breweries and restaurants. I know these changes can’t make up fully for the economic stress businesses are experiencing but it is impressive.

Recently, we took advantage of one such reinvention.

Wine Wise, a local company known for their wine & food walks as well as wine sails in Portland Harbor, was especially adept at moving to virtual and socially distanced offerings. In addition to their Wine Wise at Home, which offers curated wine selections for home delivery, they added a series of virtual wine events. Along with an opportunity to try some amazing wines, you can also enjoy unique and interesting dinners curated by some talented Portland chefs. You can support two local businesses at once.

We signed up for the virtual wine dinner for two with Chef Damian Sansonetti of Chaval. All of the wine dinners listed on the site sound delicious but the seafood focus of this meal won us over:


Featured Wines
2018 Domaine Adrien Besson, Chablis
2015 Sequoia Grove, Chardonnay, Napa Valley

Maine Scallop Crudo

Main Course
Maine Lobster Thermidor

Erica Archer the owner of Wine Wise and resident Sommelier was friendly and incredibly organized and has created a wonderful, unique virtual experience for guests.

Three days before the event, Erica called to arrange for our meal delivery. Since we live outside of the greater Portland area, delivery was not included which we knew when we purchased the virtual experience.

Erica was incredibly flexible and worked with us to determine the best pick up location although in the end we opted to just meet her at Chaval. We timed it so that we’d arrive as she was picking up the rest of the meals for delivery. It worked out great and it was nice to get out of the house even if just for a ride. We’re not getting out much these days.

Erica emailed the full menu and other event details a few days before our dinner. The documents provided information on the wines we would be sampling as well as the food pairings. Always the diligent student, I read through everything before our dinner. I wanted to be prepared. Learning about the food and wine increased my excitement and anticipation for the big night.

After picking up our food and wine, we headed home to setup for the virtual dinner. We immediately put everything in the refrigerator as instructed and focused our attention on getting ready. We put a festive table cloth on the kitchen table before setting out our plates, silverware and napkins. We placed two wine glasses and a water glass at each setting. We also setup a wine bucket with ice for the wine.

Unlike typical dinners, our laptop would be joining us for this meal so we experimented with various options. We found a few cookbooks that were the right height to raise the laptop to the ever critical “looking down” on you camera angle for the most flattering look. We turned on all the lights to help with video quality, set the oven to preheat and did a quick cleanup pass of the kitchen since everything would be on view to our fellow diners.

I lit a couple of candles too. We didn’t need them with all the lights but it’s all about the atmosphere. Candles are cozy.

At 7 pm, we logged into the zoom meeting and joined the other virtual guests along with Erica and Chef Sansonetti. We kicked things off with a virtual wine reception and as we sipped our Chablis, we each took a turn introducing ourselves before beginning the meal. Many of the guests had already attended some of Erica’s other virtual dinners.

The meal was well planned and required minimal effort on our part. For the scallop crudo, we simply had to mix the pre-portioned ingredients. I typically am not a fan of raw seafood but I dove in and sampled the scallops which were tender and flavorful. Not surprising as they were fresh off the boat.

We put the lobster thermidor in the oven as instructed and learned more about the Chardonnay we were drinking as we waited for our main course to heat up. The lobster was ready quickly and tasted amazing.

We wrapped up the meal with a dessert prepared by Chef Ilma Lopez, a 2017 and 2018 James Beard Semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef and co-owner of Chaval along with her husband Chef Sansonetti. I never say no to a good dessert!

We enjoyed a little more conversation with the hostess, chef and fellow guests before signing off for the night.

I would highly recommend the virtual dinners from Wine Wise. There is great care that has gone into creating the menu and wine selections to ensure that they work well for the at home dining experience. The food especially is planned knowing there will be reheating involved so it doesn’t suffer from the experience. The entire meal was perfect from beginning to end and the wine selections were wonderful.

While it doesn’t replace dinning out together at restaurants, it’s a great way to stay connected right now and support local businesses.

Be sure to sign up well in advance. The dinners sell out quickly. We booked ours a month prior to the virtual dinner date.

Also, remember to check out Erica’s new Wine Wise at Home service for curated wines delivered to your home in the Greater Portland area. If you’re outside that radius, check with Erica first to see what options are available. She’s great to work with and clearly loves what she does.

Have you tried any interesting virtual experiences during this pandemic?

things to know
Business Wine Wise
Event Virtual Wine Dinner
Website Wine Wise
Favorite ♥ The Wine & The Food!


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