How Zoom Wine Classes Are Helping Foodbanks During COVID-19

Tom Marquardt

Trapped in my home with nothing but a computer, my options for entertainment were limited by the coronavirus threat hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. It could be worse, my wife and I rationalized. We could be in the frozen Midwest or trapped in a Manhattan flat.

Several days into quarantine I noticed many people doing education programs and YouTube videos on everything from cutting hair to cooking with Spam. What could I do? I have been writing a weekly wine column for more than 30 years; I have conducted more than 20 wine tastings in gated communities around Collier County. If I couldn’t meet with groups of eager wine enthusiasts any more, could I bring the experience into their homes?

So, I did.

I pulled together a few pliable friends who would serve as my first class. It was dreadful. I struggled with splitting the screen in Zoom and finding the right light in my den. My friends were kind when they said I needed graphics. And a shave. A week later I had put together my first PowerPoint – seriously, I rejoiced having ended a career without ever having to do one.

I offered one free course at the end of my weekly column that appeared on and in Maryland newspapers. Within two days I had my optimum 20 participants. About two weeks ago, I did an hour-long class about how wine is made. Students said they appreciated the simplified approach – and the graphics, although I went too fast. They asked a ton of questions and begged for more classes.

I drew up a second class on how to taste wine, and this time I asked for a donation to the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Naples. In exchange for a $25 donation, they would get three more classes and a copy of the PowerPoint. This week I wrote a check to the food bank for $500. Some gave to food banks in their hometowns.

Next, I turned to my community, Naples Reserve. I posted the offer to do the programs on our Facebook page. By the end of the day I had more than 40 participants. I split them into two classes. The offer was the same: please donate to the Food Bank. They did.

I’ve got future classes on how to find wine bargains and maybe one on visiting Napa Valley when we can. I have made offers to several winemakers to join the show and let people witness a live, unedited interview. Winemakers, too, are dying to get their message out, particularly when people are sharing their boredom with a glass of wine – or two.

I’m not a master sommelier, a chemist or a teacher. But my decades-long time in the business of writing a column has given me great insights into wine, the people who make it, and the regions where grapes are grown. Why not share it? The opportunity not only broke up the tedium for my students, but it also broke up my tedium. I put hours into the task and along the way have learned more about wine. Did you know there are 10,000 taste buds in your mouth and that they are replaced every two weeks?

I raised money for a good charity and made people see that wine is more than an alcoholic beverage.

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