WineInk: Curbside at Jimbo’s Wines & Crafts in Basalt
5:15 p.m. Quitting time, on a recent weekday outside Jimbo’s Wines & Crafts in downtown Basalt. Cars normally would pack the parking lot as people poured in for their end-of-day beer, tequila and, of course, bottles of wine. But rather than a steady stream of customers, just one man, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts — and a white medical mask — sat in a chair outside the front door for waiting customers.
“Do you have a Duckhorn cab or maybe a Caymus?” the man in the mask asked Gonzo Mirich, owner of Jimbo’s Wines & Crafts, which has been a Basalt stalwart since 1972. “No, but I have some other selections that might work. Let me get them,” he said. Wearing his own mask, Gonzo returned to the shop, collected some high-end Napa cabernet sauvignon, including Jordan and Stags Leap, and brought them out into the spring sunshine. Maintaining a 6-foot separation, the helpful shop owner and the customer engaged in a standard wine conversation about Napa cabs, through their respective masks.
This is the new reality.
“We are a neighborhood shop,” said Gonzo in a telephone interview, “and we wanted to do everything to serve the community without being a vector for the virus.” Hence, Jimbo’s has chosen to serve customers curbside.
Constantly disinfecting bottles, filling boxes with wines that have been ordered online or on the Jimbo’s app, and greeting customers who either knock on the front door or even just honk their horns in the parking lot has become the daily routine, not just at Jimbo’s but at other wine shops up and down the valley that also are doing curbside sales.
“I get a lot more steps in every day,” laughed Eddy Campbell, Jimbo’s general manager, about the way the store operates in these days of the pandemic.
The hardest part for most stores that are open (wine and liquor shops have been deemed essential by the state), as it is for all of us, is the uncertainty.
“When this first began (in mid-March) we were crazy busy with people stocking up. The joke was ‘this is the third time I’ve come in to buy two weeks’ worth of wine,’” Gonzo chuckled. But once April hit things became much slower. “I think the economic reality set in and people began to wait for the debt-relief checks and unemployment benefits.”
Still, Gonzo sees not just light at the end of the tunnel, but real opportunity. “We are so fortunate to have such regular customers,” he said, “and while many of them are staying with their staples and regular wines, we are having people give us a price point and asking us to pick out a case they might like. It is such a great opportunity to help people and introduce them to new wines. I’m sure when this is over people will be buying wines they tried during this time.”
Gonzo, who hails from Argentina, came to Aspen to work as a ski instructor in the early 2000s. He purchased the shop in March of 2016, after he had called on it as a wine and liquor representative for Breakthru Beverage Group.
“The previous owner told me, ‘Take care of the people of Basalt, they will always take care of Jimbo’s.’ And he was right, both during the fire two years ago, and now.”
And just what wine did that masked man in front of the store buy?
“I sold him a wine we really love but was little less expensive, a 2012 Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon from Calistoga.” It is a wine produced by the Smith family of growers who tout themselves as “farmers who make wine.”
It is the kind of sentiment you would expect from a local wine shop like Jimbo’s.
2017 Colomé Estate Malbec
As he is from Argentina, I asked Gonzo to recommend a wine from his homeland. “I have never been to Salta (a northern wine region in the Andes), but I have always loved these high-altitude wines. A blend of malbec from three different vineyards, all over a mile high, this wine is lush, rich, tannic and bold. We sell it for just $19.99, which is a great price for a wine worth closer to $30 a bottle.”
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Raising spuds was a big business in the Roaring Fork Valley back in 1945 according to this old news article declaring the spuds ready for harvest on Sept. 20, 1945.