Text by Robert Whitely


If you have shelter-in-place restrictions in your state, you are stuck at home and no doubt bored silly. But if you enjoy wine. You’re in luck. You have many options for both entertainment and education during this dark period dictated by the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

I am bombarded every day with invitations to join virtual wine tastings via Zoom or Instagram. These sessions are not only an opportunity to expand your knowledge, they provide much-needed social interaction, often with winery principals and winemakers. It may not be the winery visit or tasting room experience that so many are missing during the COVID-19 lockdown, but it could keep alive those important connections and lift the spirits, so to speak.

Virtual tastings are popping up just about everywhere you turn. A good way to find one that appeals to you is to search the websites of wineries that you know and love. Even better, if you belong to a winery wine club, you’re likely already on the email list for other virtual tasting opportunities.



Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the recommended wine.

Cascinetta Vietti 2018 Moscato d’Asti, Italy

One of the most endearing qualities of the Italian wine culture is the fact that the Italians have a wine for just about every occasion. Sparkling moscato d’asti is famously served at weddings, and there’s a reason for that. For one thing, its floral nose and gentle sweetness pair nicely with a wedding cake or many styles of Italian cookies. Second, weddings tend to be held in the warmer months, and the refreshing aspect of Moscato plays right into that. The Vietti is a delicious sipper to boot because its sweetness level is very low. Rating: 93.

Mancan Red Wine, California

Wines in cans have improved dramatically over the past five years, and awareness is surging. The can is a great option for picnics or beach trips, and this blend of merlot and zinfandel should be on everyone’s short list of canned wines to try. It shows bright red fruit notes, a touch of jammy ripeness and mellow tannins. The price is for a 375-milliliter can. Rating: 85.



Black Kite 2017 Chardonnay, Gap’s Crown, Sonoma Coast

The Gap’s Crown is one of winemaker Jeff Gafner’s most elegant chardonnays, combining richness with finesse to produce a remarkable California chardonnay. Notes of lemon oil, crisp apple and baking spice leap out of the glass. On the palate, the wine exhibits remarkable depth, with layered complexity and a scintillating thread of minerality. Rating: 95.

Cortonesi 2015 Poggiarelli, Brunello di Montalcino, Italy

This is a classic brunello from a very good vintage, showing exceptional depth and length on the palate as well as notes of earth, dried cherries and beautifully integrated wood spice. Although mellow enough to drink now with great pleasure, this vintage is impressively structured and built for the long haul. Cellar without worry for up to 20 years. Rating: 95.

Decoy 2017 Red Wine, Sonoma County

The Decoy team continues to dazzle with modestly priced wines. The 2017 red wine is a unique blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, petite sirah and syrah. It’s a surefire crowd-pleaser with a sensational price. This vintage exhibits bright aromas of blackberry, blueberry and red currant. It is intentionally fruit forward and easy to drink, and it has soft tannins. Rating: 91.

Lucas & Lewellen 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Barbara County is something of a sleeper when it comes to cabernet sauvignon. The warm Santa Ynez Valley is generally successful with the late-ripening cabernet grape in good vintages. The 2016 from Lucas & Lewellen expresses rich notes of blackberry and currant,  impressive weight and length, and an attractive touch of wood spice on the finish. Rating: 90.