Wine may be more important for us now than ever, not just for its physical pleasures, but for being able to celebrate something that has always transformed our humdrum ordinary lives, whether it’s making a humble weekday dinner so much better, or connecting with good friends and family in a special way.
All members of the 3-tier alcohol production, distribution and sales system are working to find ways around the self-isolation and social distancing we’re all being asked to practice to keep ourselves, and indeed the world around us, from this new contagion.
I’m writing this blog to encourage industry members and consumers to continue to connect, buy wine and celebrate any of the wineries or retailers that you have chosen to make repeat purchases with, not only for their benefit, but to keep your spirits up in this dispiriting time.
Also, there are examples of sacrifice, community spirit, opportunities for you to contribute to the greater good, and some laughs to boot.
Distillers Convert to Making Hand Sanitizer
First, I’d like to commend Rappahannock Cellars in that county. They have a (legally mandated separate) distillery called Dida’s. “Our Dida’s Distillery has been overwhelmed by requests from hospitals, public services, and first responders to provide hand sanitizer.” Last week they stopped producing “drinking spirits” and converted 100% of their distillation activities towards making hand sanitizer for donation to the front lines.
They also need to purchase the other ingredients and mix together to have something ready to use. “The cost of this is overwhelming. But when a hospital calls asking for help…and we are capable of helping…it’s not difficult to answer the call.”
Dida’s invites you to join them in this effort by donating online, to help them afford to make more sanitizer. They have a link https://sendemail.rappahannockcellars.com/t/d-l-mjiidtt-juahdulo-j/ which takes you to a GoFundMe page just for this effort, where you can securely donate. I’m happy to say that in the last 24 hours since I donated, they’ve raised an additional $5,000 and are only $6,000 away from their goal. Thanks for this inspiring way to turn lemons into lemonade, Dida’s and Rappahannock Cellars.
Dida’s is not alone. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has also launched an online portal to assist hundreds of distillers who are producing hand sanitizer to help solve the national shortage created by the COVID-19 pandemic. DISCUS has worked closely with regulators to overcome regulatory hurdles, and distillers now have clear direction to follow TTB, FDA and WHO guidelines.
No longer can it be said that distillers contribute nothing of any social utility!
Even wineries can help out in making sanitizing products; Husch Vineyards in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino adapted a tank cleaning agent to use as a germ-killing general sanitizer, and started making their own hand sanitizer with isopropyl alcohol and xanthan gum, according to the Wine Enthusiast.
Retailers Make Safe Wine Buying Possible
Retailers of anything besides health care products and groceries are hard-hit with the social distancing recommended by health experts. Market Street Wineshop in Downtown Charlottesville has adapted as follows: “We have shifted to pick-up and delivery only.” While the Governor’s order would allow them to stay open for business if they limited their customers to 10 at a time, they felt it was a more responsible choice to “let you shelter in place (or in your car!) and let us bring the wine/beer/food/coffee/
Wineries Get Creative and Tastings Get Virtual
Many wineries across the country are reaching out to their email lists to offer free shipping for a limited time, as an incentive to keep sales going.
According to a story in the Wine Enthusiast online by Virginie Boone, Jim Gordon And Matt Kettmann, wineries in the upscale North Coast counties in California are working hard to adapt to a new reality while cancelling public events and trying to keep staff employed, since Governor Newsom closed bars, restaurants and winery tasting rooms due to the covid virus.
Napa and Sonoma wineries are adapting through the ability for restaurants to sell bottled wine with to-go orders, “virtual tastings” and no-contact local delivery (Note: the next post will be on virtual tastings).
The Wine Enthusiast story continues with the Central Coast, where wineries sent emails to wine club members announcing special pricing on pick-ups (many of them curbside), new means of delivery (both through services like Postmates and, often, directly by the winemaker) and creative virtual experiences, from live tastings to vineyard tours. In Temecula, wineries with restaurants could keep them open for take-out orders.
One of my favorite wineries in Ankida Ridge, in Amherst Co., VA, producing small lots of world-class Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and blanc de blancs methode champenoise. The have adapted by offering curb-side winery pick-up, free shipping (over $75 orders) and home delivery, but I had a heartwarming feeling reading owner/vineyard manager Christine Vrooman’s latest newsletter. She is also a talented photographer, and included touching, lovely photos of spring on their mountain with the buds starting to swell and their farm animals with such touching expressions.
I appreciate that she shares her emotions about this sad and strange time; “WE ARE SO SADDENED that we had to close our tasting room. Our staff family is missing being together, and we are missing enjoying afternoons with many of you. It is hard. We are all hoping it will end soon, for us and for all of you, and for the world.”
She also tries to bring us virtually to their world with the wonderful photos and even videos of life as spring emerges on their mountain. She even shares some poetry, and the affirmation “Together, we will get through this strange fog in which we now are living.”
I love how this heartfelt newsletter ends, with humor that, with fine wine, we need so much at this difficult time. Christine found this hilarious meme of what a human mousetrap would look like in the time of the coronovirus:
In closing, I’d like to quote wine writer Andy Neather, whose recent blog was featured on the website/blog of Tim Atkin, MW (timatkin.com);
“Wine is life. It’s a daily celebration of the sensual and of our social being: a pleasure that exists to be shared. It’s one of the threads that hold our humanity together. So yes, even at this moment we continue to celebrate it. Because it is one of the things that, shared, will surely help us through these dark times.”
Andy Neather blogs at hernehillandy.tumbler.com, where this post first appeared on 19 March 2020. Twitter: @hernehillandy