Embracing Virtual Tastings

“When are we going to return to a normal life, so we can travel again?” This is a question we hear from many clients and friends, a rhetorical question for which naturally we do not have an answer. They are among many people (we are included too) who want our world to be different than what it is now – obviously for health and economic reasons – but also so they can travel again, exploring and experiencing new places and people. Going to vineyards in Europe are at the top of their “can’t wait to travel again list.” The European Union, among other countries, has forbidden us as Americans from arriving on their soil, and this has caused land locked stress for many, on top of the already existing economic and social stress.

Travel, whether close or to another country, can provide us with mental and physical downtime, new experiences and an escape from the monotony of our weekly routine. All of this naturally is good for our health and brain function. I know it gives me some bit of mental escape when I go to new places, whether on my own personal time or for work. Though the pandemic has not just upended vacation travel; business travel has taken a nosedive with no possible lift in sight. Everything in our lives has been grounded. (Pun intended!)

My pre-COVID work included regular travel to Italy, leading wine trips for clients, who wanted to experience that sense of connection to something new, meaningful and rich. While enduring sleepless hours at times, I was jazzed about the in-person connections to vineyard owners, winemakers and artisans with whom we worked. It also gave me an opportunity to have my own mental escape. While on the plane, I always felt a sense of calmness even while working feverishly on my laptop. I am not alone in this sense of “ahhh” on the plane. Other clients and friends who traveled abroad concur with this sense of in-flight stillness, a precursor to the frenetic activity that would ensue once on the ground.

A Changing Mindset

While the advent of the pandemic forced an indefinite moratorium on our ability to travel and in-person experiences, we as a business can’t remain idle; we have a duty to our teams, clients and companies to survive and thrive. We have to pivot and make changes strategically yet swiftly on many business facets, which has included an attempt to maintain and create new in-person connections and experiences with clients and colleagues, virtually.

For me, there is no better experience than seeing clients enjoy their own mental escape with vineyard owners, sipping wine, gazing out over the horizon’s beauty and learning about the passion and craft of families who have continued winemaking traditions for generations. We cannot do that, now. But we adjusted quickly to bring a similar connection to them from afar, virtually, and it has opened up a whole new world for us and them, one I never thought would have emerged pre-COVID. It has been fabulous and fun!

We and clients are now not limited by overbooked airline schedules, budgets or travel locations. The in-person connections and experiences that I cherish so much and upon which most business is built has shifted. I never could have imagined, nine months ago, that I would be embracing, as well as creating, a plethora of virtual tasting experiences and vineyard visits. What a great opportunity for all of us – clients, companies and friends can have this enjoyment and connection from anywhere!

As a business, we always must be agile and open to a shift in mindset. While I cannot wait for the time when it is safe to pack my bags and travel abroad again, I think that our travel will look different in the future. Our new manner of virtual connection is here to stay.

With Gratitude,

Jessica Granatiero