New Wine Habits: Bring a computer, a plan and a palate
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
2016 Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore
My heart aches for the trauma that northern Italy is experiencing and I feel an affinity for the people when drinking wines made in the region. Zenato is a famed producer of the time- and labor-intensive Amarone wines that are amongst the most interesting and contemplative wines on the planet. This wine is made from the same Corvina and Rondinella grapes that go into Amarone, but they are made to be consumed at a younger age. Still, there is a dark richness to these wines, a hint of chocolate and a lush feel on the tongue. Most of all, it made me feel better when I drank it.
AND ONE OTHER THING…
Wine comes in glass and cardboard, two surfaces that we have been told by experts can host viruses. Though there is no evidence as of yet that people have contracted COVID-19 from delivered boxes of any kind, it would behoove you to open your boxes, take your bottles out and give each a good wipe-down with a mild bleach/water solution, white distilled vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Let them sit for 10 minutes or so and discard the box. Then, don’t worry.
Drink the good stuff first.
That was an old wine-drinking saying from back in the days when people laughed about not wanting to leave their best wines in the cellar after their demise. But as I look through my modest stash of wines and consider what I might be drinking in the upcoming few weeks, I find myself, perhaps optimistically, putting the top drops aside for a bit, thinking I’ll open them in better days to come. There is no rush.
Conversely, I also find that as I open a bottle of some of my more affordable and pedestrian wines, usually one with dinner each night, that I am savoring them a bit more. That I am perhaps a touch more appreciative of that Lodi Zinfandel, or the bargain white Bordeaux. I sip slower and the bottles last a little longer.
It’s a small thing. But it’s just one way we are all re-examining those home and house habits of ours that, until the beginning of this month, we took for granted. Like the idea that we could simply grab a bottle of wine on the way home to have with the pork tenderloin and fresh green salad that we had just picked up at the grocer. Now, we are thinking about how to save that salad and maybe the rest of that bottle for another night.
Getting wine in a locked-down society can be a challenge, but there are still options. As of this writing — and remember, things are changing by the hour — liquor and wine shops remain open as essential businesses. And many of those that are open can offer either delivery or outdoor pick-up so that social distancing measures can be adhered to.
Four Dogs Wine & Spirits in Basalt, for example, will take your order by phone or online, accept your payment and make sure your box and receipt are ready when you arrive. You won’t even have to go into the store.
While it may not be ideal and it certainly lacks the serendipity of going into a shop and perusing the shelves for that special bottle, this may be the time to get a case (and the case discount). Not exactly sure what you want? Call your local shop, give them a budget, a credit card and a few parameters of what types of wines you like. Many shops would be happy to put a case together for you and give you a pick-up time. It is a great way to support the local shops as we move forward.
Next, while West Coast wineries are working with skeleton crews after orders from the states governors to close down tasting rooms, the demand for direct shipments has grown. If there are wines that you have an affinity for, you might consider going online and joining the wine clubs at those wineries. There, you can select different wines and have them shipped, as long as shipping remains an option, by FedEx or UPS.
For example, Duckhorn (www.duckhorn.com/wine-club) has a variety of wine club options on their website that allow users to create selected purchases from their seven wineries, and receive free shipping and other perks like group tastings at the wineries once they reopen. This is one way to form a relationship with a winery that will extend beyond the current crises while getting specific wines sent to your home in short order.
Then there are, of course, the online retailers. Wine.com is the big daddy of this game, accounting for about one in every five bottles that is sold on the web. Different wines are sold in different states, so the drop-down box first asks you to enter the state you live in, then provides a list of wines that are available. They also have a chat box where you can ask their staff to recommend wines by style, region and price that are available for sale in your state. I recently requested red wines from the Veneto region under $30 that were available now and received a link to 16 different wines from producers like Masi and Allegrini and Bertani.
Other sites, like St. Helena, California-based Acme Fine Wines, find bespoke, high-end, small production wines for club members. I have long been a fan of the Wine Access site that is focused on the sale of wines with stories attached. They will find premium wines and on a daily basis send out discounted offerings via email to those who sign up at wineaccess.com.
While it will be a bit harder to satisfy your daily wine cravings, if you support your local shops and have a computer, a plan and a palate, you can still make this a time for great wine.