The past year has been devastating for restaurants, hotels and other hospitality venues, and many continue to struggle. However, some dining establishments have managed to band together in marketing groups such as Sarasota-Manatee Originals, which recently hosted the Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival, and with programs such as Visit Sarasota County’s Sarasota Savor. To attract as many potential attendees as possible and minimize expenses, the two organizations and many other restaurants and wine bars sent their messages via LocalWineEvents.com.
The single website hosts the largest publication of wine events in the world, with between 5,000 and 6,000 registrations each week. Events are displayed by the host and organized by city or region. The website is packed with information on events, travel, and educational opportunities, as well as blog posts and wine-related articles. It even has a section dedicated to trade events.
Each experience listed has a link to a standardized page, which gives all the relevant details, and sometimes an event will require the purchase of a ticket, which can be arranged through the link. There is no cost to publish an event, but each new event is examined to determine its applicability. Fees are charged for embellished announcements and ticket processing.
Eric Orange of Pennsylvania is the affable and engaging founder and CEO of the site. With serious wine credentials, Orange has organized in-person wine events, but found turnout to be low. When the internet was in its infancy, 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 plummeted, but wineries and influencers quickly started listing virtual tastings and then the Courtyard of the Master Sommeliers and Wine & Spirit Education Trust offered online courses. These have helped provide a base for other upcoming wine events. While the calendar of events is not at pre-pandemic levels, it is rapidly increasing.
In addition to the website, there is an attractive weekly e-newsletter called “The Juice” which lists all wine events by region. In addition to listing the events, Orange spices up the newsletter with extremely esoteric wine questions. This week 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 this push even wine lovers to research their reference books.
The website and newsletter are an indication of the health of the hospitality industry. This week, “Juice” includes events organized by Mixed, 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 getting involved in all facets of the winemaking process, including wine management. vineyard, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton, and Smith & Wollensky, and consults local restaurants. You can read more about McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.