With many of 2020’s big drinks conventions, events, and gatherings either cancelled or postponed, beverage professionals and enthusiasts (and you, our readers) have had far fewer chances to explore the scenes they love this summer. That’s why VinePair decided to launch the Great Drinks Experience, the first-ever digital drinks festival bringing wine, beer, and spirits events to you starting this Wednesday, June 24, 2020.
From Wednesday, June 24 through Friday, June 26, VinePair’s Great Drinks Experience will bring online seminars, classes, and conversations to your couch, kitchen, or (if you’re lucky), car ride. Events will feature industry icons such as Dwyane Wade, Kyle MacLachlan, Shannon Mustipher, Casey O’Neill, Marc Farrell, and many more.
To prepare you for all that’s coming your way this week, VinePair CEO Adam Teeter, CCO and editor in chief Erica Duecy, and co-host Zach Geballe have devoted this week’s episode to previewing all the experiences you can take advantage of this week, including insider tips and suggestions for preparing for this remarkable event. And all sessions are free. Check out our podcast below and sign up for a session today.
Or Check Out Our Conversation Here
Adam: From Brooklyn, New York, I’m Adam Teeter.
Erica: From Connecticut, I’m Erica Duecy.
Zazh: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.
A: And this is the VinePair Podcast. Guys, when this comes out, is it going to be the first day of summer? Is the first day June 21 or June 22?
Z: This is the point where I admit something embarrassing. I don’t totally understand. The solstice is sometimes on June 21 and sometimes on June 22. I’m sure that some of our listeners are pulling their hair out at our ignorance, but growing up I always thought it was on June 21. And no, sometimes it’s June 22. I’m lost.
A: For me, the beginning of June has always been summer. It’s weird that people say no, that’s actually spring. Oh, OK, so now we’re in summer? Interesting. Why is that? This is just so odd.
E: It has something to do with the sun traveling the longest path through the sky. The day before that day has the most daylight, I think. I’m not an expert, but I believe more or less, that’s what it is.
Z: Let me add: The thing that added to my confusion as a child is there’s a quasi-holiday called Midsummer’s Eve, which I think of as being in the middle of summer, but it always comes three days after the solstice. It’s June 24 this year. So apparently summer starts on June 21 and is over by June 24.
A: It’s weird. I always relate summer to that really long daylight, but it’s really only in the beginning of summer that daylight’s super long. Then, we’re marching back toward shorter days after the solstice.
A: We’re in summer! Let’s do it. Let’s hang out in our homes in quarantine still, but pretend that it’s summer and that someone, somewhere, is going on summer vacation.
Z: I don’t know how it is on the East Coast, but it definitely feels like summer in Seattle today. It’s 80 degrees and sunny.
E: Nice. That’s great.
A: It’s warm here. Not super hot, but it’s going to get there. So, this week we’re going to talk about this really amazing festival that we’re running at VinePair, Wednesday through Friday of this week, the VinePair Great Drinks Experience. We conceived of this digital drinks festival a few months ago, with this idea being, how can we bring the drinks community together while we’re all in quarantine? We’re really excited about it, and we’re hoping that you as our listeners are really excited about it. We’re going to take this episode to talk about the festival and get you excited about some of the sessions you can join. The sessions are free to join. We wanted to make sure that was a priority when we put this together, that it would be free for our readers and listeners to attend. All you have to do is have a computer and a Zoom account. You can watch all of these amazing talks and tutorials. With that in mind, let’s jump right into the schedule.
E: That sounds great.
A: The festival starts on June 24, Wednesday. We’re doing two things. Some sessions are trade-focused, for people who actually work in the alcohol and beverage industry. The others are consumer and trade. There’s information for both groups to get out of them. There will be more explanation in the consumer sessions so everyone can follow along with what everyone’s talking about. The first two sessions on June 24 are trade tastings: Wines from Rueda and Wines from Ribera Del Duero. They’re going to be awesome sessions, talking about white wine from Rueda as one of the best kept secrets in white wine around the world, and how Tempranillo is a great year-round red for people to look for, especially when it comes to buying wine from a wine shop. Those sessions are at capacity, so it’s not worth us spending too much time on them because they’re already totally filled. The next one is going to be really great. That’s at 6PM, Eastern Time. All of these times are in Eastern, but if you live on the West Coast, you can join us as well. We’re going to be doing a session at 6PM Eastern called “The Role of a Brewery in Community and Culture” with the Bronx Brewery. For those who aren’t familiar with Bronx Brewery, as the name suggests a brewery in the Bronx. They have always made it a part of their mission as a company to be ingrained in that community. They’re going to come on and talk about culture, what it means to employ a diverse staff and what it means to work with a community that may not be as familiar with craft beer as some other communities, how you speak about beer and educate others to come into the world of craft beer. I’m super excited about that session. It’s going to be led by our associate editor and beer expert, Cat Wolinski.
Z: Adam, I know you did an interview, and I’m blanking on the name. You did a Covid Conversation with someone who has a brewery in Manhattan.
A: The guys at Torch & Crown!
Z: Yeah, that’s right. It’s interesting, and not that this is the place to get into it, but New York City is one of those place where you have the equivalent of all the borough breweries, or neighborhood breweries. Presumably, the Bronx is different than Manhattan, Queens, or Brooklyn. It would be interesting to hear what they have to say about that Bronx-specific mentality.
A: I’m really curious. Also, they have a pretty strong position that they take in the world of craft beer, that they’ll get into in this session with Cat. People say that beer is culture and it’s welcoming, but the problem with craft beer across the country for the most part really is an industry heavily dominated by white men. They’ve tried to be a small part in fixing that. They want to talk a lot in this session about what that means and how you do that. And a lot of that means changing the way you do beer. It means become a place that’s more inclusive and how through hospitality you create that inclusivity. How do you make people feel welcome? You can still make the crazy beers that everyone else is. Bronx Brewery still makes a New England IPA, but the way they talk about it to their customer base that makes the customer base feel comfortable and at ease. It’s not like they’re talking about it like it’s this beer that if you don’t know what the kind of style is before you got here, you probably shouldn’t try it anyways. It should be a really fun conversation to hear from their perspective how they’ve been so successful in reaching communities that historically haven’t been craft beer drinking communities, that should and could be, but that in the craft beer industry have been somewhat ignored because they think that’s too hard, that they aren’t going to like the beer, so they go to the same customer base everyone else goes to. That one should be a fun one. All of these sessions, by the way, are 45 minutes to an hour. What’s really great is that you get to watch the session and also ask questions and take part. It’s not like listening to Zach, Erica, and I do the podcast. It’s in real time where you can ask and get questions answered in the sessions. The next session is “Rum Reimagined” with Ten to One Rum. Ten to One was started by Marc Farrell. He has been on the podcast before. It was about a year ago we had him on.
Z: Yes, almost exactly a year ago, in June of 2019.
A: Marc’s is surprisingly the only rum brand in America that’s run by someone who is black, which is crazy. Marc’s born and raised in Trinidad. He moved to the United States 10 years ago or so. He’s had an amazing career in several places. He was the youngest vice president ever at Starbucks. This has always been his passion, to start this brand, and the rum is really delicious. The white rum is one of the best white rums available in America. He’s going to come and talk a lot about rum in general. It’s going to be a lot like our podcast conversation. We’re going to talk a lot about the history of rum, why there have been barriers to entry for people who actually are from the islands themselves, why rum has been dominated by a lot of large corporations for so long, and we’re going to make some delicious cocktails. He’s going to show me how to make an Old Fashioned and a Daiquiri. He’s also going to talk about some stories from growing up in Trinidad. I never knew: The drink in Trinidad, it’s not a Daiquiri or Piña Colada. Most people drink their rum with either coconut water or tonic. We’re going to talk about some of those drinks as well and how rum can be this amazing thing that you use in place of a lot of other different spirits. Do you guys make a lot of rum cocktails?
E: I do. I love rum in Old Fashioneds.
A: You do? You do love love a rum Old Fashioned. I remember. You’ve talked about this. What kind of rum do you use?
E: Any type of aged rum will do. I tend to find ones with a really deep age base. Last week we had the Dark ‘n Stormy, so I’ve been making a ton of rum cocktails. They’re just so delicious. They make me feel vacation-like. It’s like an escape, any time you’re having rum. This Ten to One I’ve had before, and it’s really good.
A: It’s really good, and the way they make it is interesting. I don’t want to give too much away to listeners on the podcast who are going to join the sessions, but he actually sources the rum from five different distilleries all over the Caribbean and then blends it. It’s his way of also creating a rum that encompasses the entire Caribbean as opposed to just going to one distillery. A lot of people don’t do that.
Z: It’s a lot like what we talked about on the last podcast with Goslings. It’s a similar concept in terms of blending from multiple islands. It gives you a more broad palate.
A: Exactly. The last session on Wednesday, June 24, at 9PM, is a live VinePair Podcast recording. If you ever want to see what we look like, when we’re recording, tune in. We’re going to have special guest Kyle MacLachlan who is the award-winning actor in “Twin Peaks,” “Sex and the City,” and “Desperate Housewives,” among many other things. I plan to ask him if he loves Cosmopolitans. He’s also the owner of the winery Pursued by Bear Wine in Washington State. Zach, you’re going to have a lot to ask him.
Z: Yeah. I’ve had the opportunity to taste wine with Kyle a couple of times.
A: Oh, look at you! “I already know Kyle. I’ve met him a couple of times. It’s cool.”
Z: You do 85 percent of the name dropping on this podcast.
E: OK, that’s true.
Z: What’s cool is, sometimes you meet people that are famous from other walks of life who are associated with a spirits, wine, or beer brand. They’re branding. They’re selling their name. Kyle’s always been interested in wine. He’s pretty involved with the winemaking process. That’s always really cool. I love wine, too, so I’m always interested in talking to someone who loves wine. The wines are really good, and I’m excited to get a chance to share with not just Adam, but all of you, my love for wine in Washington State. It doesn’t come up on the podcast that often.
A: You try to bring it up pretty often.
Z: Just a little bit!
A: He’s also going to be joined by his winemaker, right? Dan.
Z: Yeah. Dan, who’s the winemaker for Pursued by Bear and also Abeja in Washington. We’ll be tasting some wine. It’ll be a good late-night session. Things might get a little loose, you never know. Adam will have already had a bunch of rum.
A: Don’t think I didn’t think about that. It’s going to be kind of difficult. I’m supposed to make rum cocktails, and obviously I’m going to have one. Then I’m going to roll right into the podcast. So, if you guys think I have energy now, tune into the live podcast recording at 9PM on June 24. 6PM for you West Coast folks. We are going to get nice, talking about Pursued by Bear and Abeja. Are they next to each other, Zach? Are the wineries in the same region?
Z: Abeja sources mostly from the Walla Walla Valley. That’s where the winery itself is. I believe that’s also where the winemaking for Pursued by Bear happens. But I think they source a little more broadly and not just in Walla Walla, but also from other parts of the state. We’ll have to ask!
A: I thought I saw Yakima.
Z: They definitely get some Syrah. The Syrah that we’ll be tasting is almost all from the Yakima Valley. We’ll have to ask the experts.
A: Fine, fine. Let’s move to Thursday, June 25. The first thing is a trade tasting at 3PM. If you are in the trade, and you are attending any of these trade tastings, shoot me an email at [email protected]. If it’s sold out, we’ll see if we can get you in. This is the one that Erica is leading, which is about using Truly Hard Seltzer in cocktails.
E: Yes! And I’m really excited about this one. You know that we have a love for hard seltzer. Maybe not everyone’s thing, but there’s no denying that this is the fastest-growing category of our alcohol in the country for sure and in the past couple of decades. This is such an exciting, really meteoric growth to see. It has really just happened since last summer. I saw some sales figures recently that before the summer had begun, had done $990 million in sales. Just insane numbers! People think about hard seltzer as something you can just throw in your bag and take to the beach. People might not be thinking about how you can make cocktails with it. For the trade, and I’ve seen the RSVP list, a ton of bartenders are interested in figuring out how to use hard seltzer most effectively in cocktails. We’re going to have Casey O’Neill, who’s the founder of Truly Hard Seltzer. She’s going to be walking us through with a friend of hers, Augusto Lino, who’s a bartender and consultant in Boston, through a bunch of hard seltzer cocktails. You can go up in ABV by adding a hard seltzer to a Paloma with tequila, or you could go lower in ABV by mixing the hard seltzer with lemonade or cherry juice and limeade. There’s a lot of use cases that haven’t been considered quite yet. I’m excited to learn more.
A: That’s going to be awesome. I definitely am excited for sitting in on it. You can think about hard seltzer for drinking on the beach, but the thought of moving it into the cocktail realm is really, really interesting, taking advantage of the alcohol and the flavors and the alcohol that exists in them as well. It should be crazy.
A: The other trade tasting that day is at 4:30 on June 25. That’s: “How It’s Possible to Make Great Organic and Natural Wines in Argentina” with the Zuccardi family who are involved with Santa Julia. It’s going to be a really cool tasting with lots of organic and natural wines, some of their geekier stuff. It is sold out, but if you are interested, shoot me an email at [email protected]. Just say, “Adam, you said we could email you.” We’ll talk. Then, at 6:30 is one of the sessions I’m most excited about, just because I’m a huge fan. I’m going to be interviewing Dwyane Wade. If you don’t know who Dwyane Wade is, you definitely don’t like basketball.
Z: Just enter his name on Youtube. Watch some highlights.
A: Watch him break ankles. It’s going to be all about his project, Wade Cellars, which he started recently. Also, it’ll be a conversation about how he fell in love with wine in the first place. We’ve talked to Baxter Holmes before, who’s covered Wade, LeBron, and a bunch of other guys in the league who are huge winos. It’ll be great to get the story from him directly and really hear about how he fell in love with wine, and how he decided to start a winery. He’s got his hands in a lot of really cool projects since he’s retired from the league. This is one of his biggest passions. He makes the wine with the Pahlmeyer family, and he’s very involved. It’ll be interesting to hear from them. One of the members of the Pahlmeyer family, Jamie, will also be joining us in the conversation, to talk about how they operate the business together and what the goals are for the wine. There are some lofty ones, which is very exciting. They’ll also talk about the kind of wines he wanted to develop and make. You all get to watch the conversation with Dwyane Wade and ask questions. If you ever wanted to ask Dwyane Wade if you think he’s a better wine taster than LeBron James…
Z: Man, you can imagine those guys are super competitive.
A: That’s one of the things in Baxter’s article, or he told us about that when we were on the podcast.
Z: They’re competitive about who brings the best wine, but I wonder if they’ve got into blind tasting. That’s a slippery slope.
A: I’m pretty positive he told an anecdote that LeBron claims to be the best blind taster.
Z: We’ll have to go back and listen in the archives.
A: I’m going to ask for sure, or you should, anyone here who tunes in. I’m curious. Someone is also considering opening a winery to compete. You’re not just going to let Dwyane Wade be the only one out of the group of friends that are all into wine. “You can do the wine thing.” You’ve got to think, LeBron’s got to be putting some offers on property in Napa. He’s probably looking at all the options. He’s probably talked to a few winemakers.
Z: He’s got some other things on his plate at the moment.
A: How much longer do you think he has in the league?
Z: This is getting far off keel. If you’ve seen him play this year, you wouldn’t necessarily think he’s on his way out. He looks pretty damn good this year.
A: My hypothesis is that he’s going to wait until he can play at least a season in the league with his son.
Z: That’s appealing.
A: Then he bounces. His son’s really good, too. His son comes into the league. They play one or two seasons either together on the same team or against each other. He would love that. Then he’ll retire and do other amazing things. That’s at 6:30. Then at 8PM is a really cool session that’s going to be moderated by VinePair contributor and whiskey expert, Aaron Goldfarb. That session is called “Beyond the Pickle Back – Exploring Irish Single Malt.” This is a really cool session because a lot of people associate single malts with Scotland and Scotch. But some of the best single malts are actually coming from Ireland. Ireland actually claims they can prove they invented whiskey. In my casual conversation with Aaron preparing for this session, he says it’s actually believable. It’s quite possible that Ireland did invent whiskey. Somehow it went across the channel or ocean. What’s it called?
Z: The people who are not pulling their hair out from me not knowing when the solstice is are definitely getting pissed off about your geographic knowledge of the British Isles.
A: Yes. So, when it went over to Scotland, and then they took some of the practices but also started using peat in order to dry the grains as opposed to in Ireland, where they were using a lot more wood. A lot of people also say the Irish whiskey is cleaner. It doesn’t have as much of that smokey flavor. It has more of the grains of which it’s made from. That should be a cool session. If you’re a whiskey nerd and you listen to the podcast, or you know a whiskey nerd, the other thing that’s great about Irish whiskey is that single malts are still very much under the radar of whiskey consumers. You can buy bottles with significant age: 12-year, 15-year, 18-year for still well under $50 a bottle. That’s unheard of at this point, especially when it comes to Scotch and bourbon. That should be a really fun session. The final session for Thursday, June 25, at 9:30PM, so 6:30PM on the West Coast, is “Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails” with author and bartender, Shannon Mustipher. We have profiled this amazing book in last year’s print edition. Erica, you’re leading that session. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about it?
E: Yeah! Shannon’s book published last year by Rizzoli. It was the first cocktail book to be written by a working black bartender, published by a major publishing house in more than a hundred years. A, that’s nuts. B, it’s a really landmark book. It has been really celebrated. Shannon, in her work both as a rum expert and as the beverage director for Glady’s Caribbean, in every aspect of what she does, she talks about rum and sugar cane’s problematic history. The concept of the book is really reclaiming Tiki. She is going to take us through the journey of writing the book, along with showing consumers and our guests how to make three amazing Tiki cocktails from the book. It’s going to be a huge treat. In addition to being a really skilled bartender and really wonderful presenter, I was excited to see in her bio that I didn’t know before, is that she was a visual artist before she became a bar and spirits expert. She studied visual arts and then was a photo stylist. I didn’t realize he had actually art directed her book, which is gorgeous. She’s a multi- talented expert in all things visual and spirits. It’s going to be a really compelling conversation. I’m excited. That’s Thursday at 9:30. There are still spots available, but they are going to fill up quickly.
A: I’m pumped for that one. Tiki intimidates the crap out of me, so I’m excited to learn from her and see that it’s not as intimidating as I think it is.
Z: I have one note about it. I interviewed Shannon for an article I wrote years ago. It’s one of the few times when I’ve been interviewing someone where I got so caught up in what they were saying that I forgot to take notes, which was not ideal for my writing the article. She’s a really captivating speaker in addition to being an excellent bartender.
A: Awesome. That’s going to be one of our top sessions. They’re all top, guys. Moving on to Friday. At 6PM, we have an amazing tutorial on the wines of Argentina. That should be great for anyone who’s curious about getting to know what the region’s all about, and why the country produces some of the best wine in the world. It’s also going to be with the Zuccardi family, so that should be a lot of fun to come in and learn about rosé and Malbec and Bordeaux-style blends, and all of the really great stuff that they make, as well as understanding the regions of the county. They’ll talk about the potential moving forward. That’s a session that I’m super pumped for. It’s going to be led by Tim McKirdy, our staff writer who lived in Argentina for six years and was an executive chef down there, before he transitioned into being a wine and spirits writer. He’ll have a lot to add to the conversation, which will make it really fun. Finally, at 7:30 on Friday, June 26, will be a Q&A Happy Hour with founder Casey, of Truly Hard Seltzer, where you’re going to get to ask any questions you’ve ever wanted to know about hard seltzer. It should be fun, because as Erica said, it’s an explosive category, something that we all need to be more aware of than we have been in the past. I’m curious as to how she came up with, how she came up with Truly in the first place, how she develops the flavors, what her favorite flavor is, to be perfectly honest, because everyone’s got one, and what she thinks the next big trends are going to be. I actually just got send to my apartment a rival company’s hard seltzer. They’re now departing from the fruit flavors of black cherry and grapefruit, and their flavors are all cocktail-influenced. The three that they sent me are a Sidecar, and Old Fashioned, and a Gimlet. Are these just as interesting? Do they taste as refreshing? Would I want them? They’re also higher in alcohol, which I’m curious to try. Most of the hard seltzers are 4.5 percent. These are all seven or eight. I like to talk to her about that as well and see if she thinks there’s going to become a trend where we move to higher-alcohol seltzers.
E: That’s interesting. I’m curious to know about calories. One of the things about Truly that appeals to a lot of people is it’s one of the lowest in the calories counts. It has 100 calories in each can. I’m curious to know for the other ones what the calories counts would be. As you’re moving into the higher ABV and possibly sweeter leaning flavors, that could definitely impact that.
A: For sure. Anyone who listens to the podcast who wants to, June 26 is my birthday. If you want to wish me a happy birthday, again, [email protected]. Just say “Hey Adam, happy birthday.” I’d appreciate it. At 9PM on that day, I’m hosting the final session, which is a conversation with the author of “Camp Cocktails.” That should be fun. Erica, we featured “Camp Cocktails“ on the site recently, right?
E: Definitely. Emily Vikre is the speaker who’s going to be with us. She’s the founder of Vikre Distillery. I believe it’s in Michigan. She wrote this really fun book, which is about camping cocktails. What are the cocktails that you can and should make when you’re camping? Some of them involve roasted fruits over the fire, so you get some of that smokiness in the cocktails. There’s a lot of really fun ideas in there. We profiled a couple of them on the site. I know she’ll be bringing some new, cool ideas. As we are doing a social distance socializing summer, camping is a really great thing to do with your friends. If you’re doing it in a safe way, and out in the great outdoors, these are the cocktails you can take with you to help heighten your fun quotient as you’re out in that forest.
A: Not to give too much away, but I know one of the cocktails that we’re going to make. She’s going to show me how to make it, and she’s going to show me how to turn a marshmallow into a shot glass.
E: That sounds like fun. That sounds like danger, frankly.
A: It’s not super dangerous. It also sounds like I’m going to make a mess and get in big trouble. I’m still going to try.
Z: It’s your birthday! You’ve got a Get Out of Jail Free card.
E: Big time.
A: And with that, that’s going to be the VinePair Great Drinks Experience 2020. Our goal is to continue this into years to come, hopefully in the physical world and not just digital. This first year should be a lot of fun. We’re excited for everyone who comes and attends. Please attend as many sessions as you are able to. For those that attend three or more sessions, we’ll be giving away an awesome VinePair Great Drinks Experience tote bag that we’ll send you. We’ll keep track of the sessions that everyone attends. If you attend three or more, we’ll reach out and send you a tote. Keep that in mind as well. You get rewarded by learning more. With that, that calls our show to a wrap for this week. I’ll see you guys after the Great Drinks Experience Next Week.
E: See you then.
Z: Sounds great.
A: Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair podcast. If you enjoy listening to us every week please leave us a review or rating on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever it is that you get your podcasts. It really helps everyone else discover the show. Now for the credits: VinePair is produced and hosted by Zach Geballe, Erica Duecy and me: Adam Teeter. Our engineer is Nick Patri and Keith Beavers. I’d also like to give a special shout-out to my VinePair co-founder Josh Malin and the rest of the VinePair team for their support. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you again right here next week.
Ed. note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.