Live Virtual Wine Tasting : Now Pouring at SouthGate @ Jumeirah Essex House
Recently, we found ourselves in a room filled with such celebratory oenophiles that it felt as if we’d discovered a boutique vineyard amidst midtown Manhattan. Wine flowed freely, punctuated with toothsome tapas - and the svelte and stylish crowd was buzzing like honeybees at the discovery of a new flower.
The setting was SouthGate, the acclaimed Kerry Heffernan-helmed restaurant at Manhattan’s Art Deco masterpiece, the Jumeirah Essex House - and the event was Progressive Pulse’s Live Virtual Wine Tasting. For those who have yet to dine at SouthGate, this is a restaurant with a wine collection of more than 650 varieties - and the added feature of selecting your wine via iPad (along with the help of the phenomenal sommelier, Olivier Dufeu).
While there’s a near-oxymoron in the evening’s title, there was absolutely no question that Live Virtual Wine Tasting (LVWT) brings together an entertaining group of dedicated gourmands who appreciate the celebratory aspects of drinking wine and drinking well.
For starters, there’s the knowledgeable and telegenic, Devin Parr, who helms the live telecast, alongside SouthGate sommelier, Dufeu - and then, just for good measure, there’s often a celebrity, such as this month’s LVWT guest, hairstylist David Evangelista. The ensuing combination of wine-fueled spontaneity mixed with live filming results in a scene that harks back to the golden age of television - when the unscripted produces magic.
And after a night like that, you want to get to know who’s behind the scene (and the camera). Meet Steve and Vivian Rodriguez, the brother- and sister-duo behind Progressive Pulse - and Live Virtual Wine Tasting.
Bridging Social Media with Wine
EDGE: First of all, can you explain to us the meaning behind the name "Live Virtual Wine Tasting."
Vivian: Sure! In an age of social media and wine bars popping up all over the city, we wanted to bridge the two realities.
EDGE: That’s an interesting insight: the complementary quality of wine bars and social media.
Steve: Since interactive live video is relatively new, we wanted the name of our series to be obvious - so that our audience could understand the concept of the show upon reading or hearing the title.
EDGE: Tell us a little about the origins of Live Virtual Wine Tasting.
Steve: I was a guest blogger on CBS Interactive and immediately shared with Vivian how cool and accessible live video could be. We both love wine and brainstormed the concept of bringing a traditional wine tasting similar to Napa and Tuscany to the general public.
EDGE: Tuscany - in your own home. Very cool.
Wine Is Fun!
Vivian: Viewers can order the wine in advance and taste along with us in real time.
Steve: Next, we found Devin, our host who has an extensive background in Italian wine and currently is General Manager at Manhattan Wine Xchange on the Upper East Side of NY. She possessed the perfect balance of what we were looking for in a host.
Vivian: Gary Schweikert, General Manager of Jumeirah Essex House, liked the concept and thought it would be great to host the series at the hotel’s restaurant, SouthGate, featuring their expert sommelier, Olivier Dufeu.
EDGE: Did the two of you come from a family of dedicated oenophiles?
Vivian: We didn’t actually, but we have developed our palates over the years, thanks to living in the Bay Area close to Napa and Sonoma.
Steve: Plus our travels to Italy’s wine regions. We both are admitted foodies - and with great food comes great wine!
EDGE: What are you hoping that people take away from Live Virtual Wine Tasting?
Vivian: Ideally, we hope that our audience is exposed to great wine, while learning a little more about how to discuss and consume wine.
Steve: Plus wine can be fun! We want to share wine with our friends. So we work to insure that our show is never dry, but both educational and entertaining.
EDGE: How does Live Virtual Wine Tasting help foster the relationship between wine and its aficionados?
Steve: I think the series exposes great wines to all audiences and allows an interactive platform to discuss, comment, and ask questions from our panel.
Vivian: There are so many wines out there and hopefully we can help develop wine recognition with particular wines that are accessible to the general public.
Sipping Wine with A Broadway Legend
EDGE: How do you choose the wines to feature at LVWT?
Steve: SouthGate’s sommelier, Olivier Dufeu who is our co-host, explores the 650 wines at the restaurant and also finds a wine that is accessible to our audience regarding location and price.
Vivian: He also takes into account the specific time of year. For our last episode he picked McKenzie Mueller’s Estate 2006 Pinot Noir, which is a perfect wine for Thanksgiving.
EDGE: And what about your celebrity guests?
Steve: The concept is to pick a third panelist that has a built-in following, whether they are actors, sports or political figures, or celebrity experts. We really want the series to be fun and relate to various lifestyles.
Vivian: We both love shows on TV like "Chelsea Lately" that feature a panel of experts but also aren’t afraid to make jokes and keep the energy high.
EDGE: Can you tell us anything about your next Live Virtual Wine Tasting?
Steve: We’re working with a few potential sponsors to launch a regular series scheduled for early 2011, plus we’re developing some fun additional components like an iPhone application.
Vivian: We have some fun celebrity guests who have expressed interest in participating in upcoming episodes, including a very well known Broadway legend.
EDGE: Oh, that’s exciting. We’ll have to make sure we keep LVWT on our radar.
Steve: You can follow us on our fan page for all updates: Live Virtual Wine Tasting
EDGE: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. We’re already salivating for the next Live Virtual Wine Tasting.
DETAILS: Live Virtual Wine Tasting