by Michael Shapiro | October 29, 2010
Twitter is proving to be a valuable tool for events -- as a way to market, keep in touch, organize meet-ups, convey info and draw in off-site attendees. I love that Four Seasons is now using it to taste wine.

On Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. Central time, Four Seasons will hold a virtual wine tasting. Actually, it's more of a hybrid wine tasting -- there will be live events at Four Seasons properties in Austin and Dallas, hosted by sommeliers Mark Sayre and James Tidwell, respectively, that will be covered via Twitter by the PR directors at each hotel. Dana Farner, wine director for CUT at Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons property in Beverly Hills, Calif., will participate as well via Twitter. Simultaneous tweet-ups are planned for the bars or restaurants at Four Seasons hotels in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston and New York.

Or, tweet-ups may occur just about anywhere in the world if people are motivated to buy the wine (and, optionally, invite some friends over). I think that's one of the best aspects of the idea: The sommeliers already have selected and published the wines that will be tasted, so anyone can participate. "What’s fun about it is that it integrates social media, which is very inclusive, with wine and sommeliers, which can be thought of as kind of snooty -- for lack of a better term," noted Kerri Holden, director of public relations at the Austin property. Not to mention the exclusive nature of the luxury hotel company itself. If the conversation on Twitter goes well, plenty of people who can't afford to dine in a Four Seasons can still listen to the wisdom, and potentially gain the ears of, some well-respected sommeliers.

The PR directors intend to share the information conveyed by the sommeliers, as well as interesting questions asked by attendees at the live events, via Twitter. Likewise, screens will be set up at the live events that will reveal the conversation simultaneously happening on Twitter. Questions posed by virtual attendees may be directed to the sommeliers, either during the tasting or in a designated Q&A session to follow. The Twitter hashtag for the event is #FSWine, and the featured selections are Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling, Paraiso Syrah and Chappellet Mountain Cuvee. For those interested in virtual engagement of the gastronomic variety, the names and descriptions of the food pairings also will be made available, and the PR directors in Austin and Dallas will tweet those out the week before the event.

I don't think that wine tastings are events for which a lot of people have previously sought to extend the reach, so it will be interesting to see how it goes and to what extent it catches on. As with most social media efforts, the oenophilian tweet-up is something of an experiment. After Nov. 17, the Four Seasons F&B team might have a lot more virtual events on the menu.