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Stuck at Home with Wine … What to Do?
By Rich Cook
Apr 14, 2020
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The times we’re currently living in have required some altering of our day to day lives. Thankfully, wine continues to be enjoyed around the world, yet even that is looking and feeling different than usual.  You may find yourself consuming more of it than what’s normal for you, or perhaps you’re going through your stock slower than you might – I’m sure there are as many variables as there are wine drinkers.  As we stare down the possibility that we might be somewhat isolated for some time to come, I offer a few suggestions here that might lessen the disruption while keeping you sane and drinking well in the process.

While you spend the day tele-commuting and being your child’s classroom monitor, you may wish that you had a glass at hand at, um, unusual times of the day.  However, there are other things that you can do to stay calm and be productive on all fronts. 

Suggestion One:  Give organizing your wine a try as a mind brightening diversion.  Whether it’s a single day’s worth of thought or a multi week project divvied up, it’s a great way to unclutter your mind as well as your cellar.  I realize that a few of you out there don’t need to do this (as you scan each bottle before you open it so that the spreadsheet of your collection reflects the move and tracks that now empty slot for a future bottle), but I suspect that most of us are somewhat less curation inclined.  Some of us probably even have whites and reds in the same rack (gasp!).  At any rate, whether you have twelve or two thousand bottles, a little organizing will ease frustration when you do go looking for a bottle – I’ll leave the specificity leveling up to the individual.

Okay – you’re organized.  Suggestion Two:  Don’t be Gollum - drink the precious!  We all have the bottles that we are saving for particular occasions, some in the near future, some far off or even unlikely events, and everything in between.  One of the great lessons I’ve learned over time is that there’s always another “precious” coming down the line, and you’ll need room for it, so drink the ones you have while you’re here.  Some years ago, Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars said something to the effect that, “You don’t have to worry about aging these wines – I’m going to make more for you.”  Last I checked, he’s still in business.  Certainly, I like to mark the time at the time, meaning thinking about the vintage, etc. and squeezing all that can be squeezed from the experience, but delaying too long with a bottle is always a gamble – appreciate the stage of life that you caught the precious in, and move on.  This especially applies if your spouse or roommate is a fellow aficionado – make savory moments out of your best holdings.

Suggestion Three:  Get social!  We are so fortunate to live in a time where physical isolation doesn’t have to mean social isolation.  That we can sit and have a face to face conversation with someone thousands of miles away is a godsend at times like these, and wine can play a part in keeping us connected with others even when we’re separated by distance.  Part of being civilized is using times of sustenance as social times.  Eating and drinking with others is the multi-layered experience that wine mirrors, and while it’s possible to appreciate and enjoy food and wine as a solo act, it’s certainly a more enriching event when done in company.  It’s who we are as a species, and as physical separation lengthens it becomes more important that we find ways to remain connected at our core.  Set up a Zoom (face to face teleconference software) dinner with distanced family or friends – maybe cook the same dish, or select the same or similar wine to taste and talk about while you catch up on other aspects of your lives – I’ve done this a couple of times in the last few weeks and it’s more satisfying than you might guess.  As I write this, one of my regular tasting groups is meeting this evening via such a connection just to share a glass and chat about how we might do a more typical focused tasting while we can’t meet in person.  The possibilities seem unlimited!

More?  Why not!  Suggestion Four:  Branch out.  Some friends and I have been sharing a “cocktail of the day” recipe by texting videos of our preparations back and forth – this can be fun and as competitive as you’d like it to be.  I’ve gotten the spin-off benefit of learning about camera angles, presentation and the like that I might not otherwise think as carefully about when just mixing up drinks for my wife.  We’ve ranged from exotic drinks with offbeat ingredients to simple wine cocktails that are a pleasure to drink and share back and forth.  It’s even led to some cool home-mixed ingredients being dropped on my doorstep.  Here’s a challenge:  see if you can come up with a variation on a mimosa or a sangria that you think your friends would appreciate, set up a video-worthy preparation and share it out.  Be an instigator and see what happens.

Sound more hands-on than you care for at the moment?  You can take an easier route by participating in some tastings that are being presented “virtually” by your favorite producers.  This idea has taken off like wildfire among producers whose business model is based heavily on tasting room visits and personal contact – the producers that WRO readers tend to favor.  Do a quick search on virtual tastings and you’ll find myriad opportunities – some presentation oriented, some two-way interactive, some involving vineyard tours, winemaking specifics, etc.  Some even involving live music that you might have heard had you visit the tasting room in person.  I’d engage with a favorite producer first, and branch out from there, and do some business along the way.  These producers are still counting on you even though they can’t see you in person.

Maybe you’ve suffered an unfortunate cancellation of a wine-oriented trip as a byproduct of travel restrictions, closures, and the like.  That doesn’t mean you can’t pour a glass and start planning a glorious “back to normal” tasting trip.  This can be done with a map of a region that you can find by searching “wine tasting in location X” online, or by doing a deep dive in a particular style or school of thought.  I’ve just been reading a guide book called, "Slow Wine 2020: A Year in the Life of Slow Wine" that features brief looks at people, vineyards, practice and select wines of 366 Italian, 176 California and 69 Oregon wineries that consider themselves part of the Slow Food movement, and it’s got my mouth watering for a few future road trips.  It includes producer discounts for guide-holders, which is a bonus.

Finally, I hope you can make use of these suggestions in a way that is meaningful, and my toast to you is one of connection – that you stay connected to those who love wine like you do, in enjoyment and in commerce, whether it be in real time via technology, or in a look to the future when you can again meet face to face and clink together with joy.  Cheers!  

More wine columns:     Rich Cook 
Connect with Rich on Twitter:    @RichCookOnWine