Michelle Silberstein’s Uncorked Wine Festivals go virtual
By Shanee Edwards
Like many young people who make the sojourn to Los Angeles, Michelle Silberstein left Florida to try her hand in Hollywood.
She enjoyed her endeavors in the entertainment industry, but soon transitioned to fitness and created her own clothing line. But, always the dreamer, she didn’t quite have the excitement and passion she wanted in her life and work.
However, when she met her husband Dan a few years ago, everything changed. Not only did he bring romance into her life, he served as the inspiration for a new career.
As the creator of Drink:Eat:Play, a company that organizes beer festivals around the country, her husband provoked Silberstein to wonder if anyone was doing something similar with her favorite libation: wine.
“There was nothing in mass-market, mass-appeal events that’s strictly for wine and touring,” Silberstein said. “I’ve always loved wine, it’s been a passion of mine.”
Soon, her business, Uncorked Wine Festivals, was holding 12 to 15 large events a year across the country.
“The whole idea is that I wanted to create an event that I would want to go to,” she says. “I could bring any of my friends with me and it wouldn’t feel stuffy or schmancy, or if a friend didn’t have any knowledge of wine, they wouldn’t feel intimidated to be there. They wouldn’t have to go up to anyone and discuss what terroir a grape was grown in.”
More than just experiencing new wines, she wanted the festivals to be fun. So even if you’re not a wine fanatic, there would be other fun and interesting things to do. “Typically, we have a lot of local food trucks. We have live music and/or a DJ. Depending on the venue and what’s appropriate — if it’s a day event, outdoors on the water like we have in San Diego — we’ll have lawn games, cornhole and other fun things for people to do, oversized games like human-sized chess. We might have trivia.
“So, it’s really more of an experience. You have between 40 and 70 wineries, depending on the size of the event, from across the globe. People can try a wide variety of styles and varietals that they may not be exposed to as well as the big names and well-known wines and wineries that they have probably heard of before.”
In LA, she likes to hold her festival Downtown at Union Station. “People like the simplicity of hopping on a train and skipping the Uber. It’s a really beautiful venue and a lot of people go, ‘Huh! I’ve actually never been there,’” she says.
Now that the country is experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, Silberstein decided to move her in-person festivals to the virtual space.
Now when you purchase a ticket, a wine kit with three different, full-sized bottles of wine gets shipped straight to your home so you can taste the wine IRL while watching the event on a virtual platform. The winemakers also participate virtually and there is often a live band or possibly a chef doing a cooking demo, trivia, even a chat with a sommelier.
“We try to bring that same element of fun yet with some knowledge and information about the wine into people’s living rooms, dining rooms, garages, wherever they’re watching,” Silverstein says.
Silberstein admits she was worried about pivoting from a live event to a virtual one, but says, “I was really, super nervous and after the first one, I thought, ‘I have to do more of these. These are really fun.’”
Uncorked Wine Festivals