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Oct. 27, 2020 | Tuesday
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Rotary adapts to the times with virtual tasting tour
At home wine tasting. (Supplied by Sandra Ozkur)

When the world seemed at a standstill this summer, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Rotary Club proved its “People of Action” creed true by dreaming up innovative fundraisers during the coronavirus pandemic – and thus, the Rotary Virtual Tasting Tour was born.

The inventive at-home wine tasting fundraiser will happen every Tuesday in October, featuring a different NOTL winery, with proceeds going to a different charitable organization for each of the four events.

“We thought we would go virtual because, you know what's happened to us in the spring. Suddenly, we went, 'Oh my gosh we can’t have any of our events,' ” said Jolanta Janny, NOTL Rotary marketing co-chair. “So suddenly everything was shut and we had nowhere to go.”

‘We decided to do the wine tasting because it was very unique and never done before. It's a new concept for us and for many other people,” she said.

For $65 per evening, or $240 for an early-bird, all-access pass for all four nights, participants will receive two bottles of wine delivered to their home per event, winery tasting notes and food pairing suggestions, and the opportunity to interact with the winemakers via Zoom chat.

The deadline to purchase tickets for the first event, and the all-access pass, is Monday, Sept. 28. Tickets can be purchased at niagaraonthelakerotary.ca/page/rotary-virtual-tasting-tour.

Steve Dainard, the NOTL Rotary member who dreamed up the virtual tour idea, said instead of simply allowing participants to watch each winery speak about its selections, the event will be viewed as a conversational personal wine tour between the winemaker and the sponsor for that event.

Viewers will be able to ask questions through the chat function, which will be monitored by Rotary volunteers.

“We're asking the sponsor to be on-site at the actual events, so they're having a conversation with the winemaker and the people are listening in. It will be more conversational in nature, with us eavesdropping in and a chance to be able to ask questions,” Dainard said.

The NOTL club stepped into new technology with some hiccups along the way, he said. But it’s been relatively smooth, he added, with members picking up on the new way of connecting through virtual meetings.

“You can teach an old dog new tricks. And it's interesting how resilient people are on gravitating towards it (virtual meetings). It's something new, you're a little bit afraid, but once you do it … And they're getting on and it's working out really, really well,” he said.

Before the event goes live on Oct. 6, organizers will run through the video and sound to ensure everything will go smoothly.

“We’ll have a pre-event site visit, making sure that all that technological stuff is hopefully going to be dealt with before we actually go live, maximizing positive experiences," he said.

Club members knew the pandemic affected the community in many ways, he said, which is why the specific beneficiaries of the fundraisers were selected.

“It was really important for us this time around to say, with COVID, there's a lot of potential mental health issues, there's a lot of people who are dealing with their world being different because they've had to go on CERB,” Dainard said.

“So, we wanted to be able to get a cross-section of current trends that are happening,” he added.

The first event on Oct. 6 will be hosted by Caroline Cellars Family Estate Winery and sponsored by the Niagara-on-the-Lake Bed and Breakfast Association. Proceeds will go to the MS Society of Canada’s Niagara Peninsula Chapter of Hope.

The Oct. 13 tasting is hosted by Strewn Winery, sponsored by Bosley Real Estate Ltd., with proceeds to Niagara Falls Community Outreach.

On Oct. 20, the event will be hosted by the Hare Wine Co., sponsored by Desjardins Insurance, Travis Cairns Insurance and Financial Services, with proceeds going to the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara.

The final one, on Oct. 27, will be hosted by Between the Lines Family Estate Winery, sponsored by Revel Realty, Andrew Perrie Real Estate, with proceeds going to No One Goes Hungry.

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