Despite our hardships these days, there are ways to make the journey a little more pleasurable.
Just remember. Things could always be worse.
You could be like these two, stranded in Europe and unable to go to any restaurants. Or anywhere else.
For those of us coping at home, if we're lucky, we get to work remotely while we take care of our house-bound kids. It'll give you a chance to re-bond with them. Like re-learning their names.
On a more somber note, we need to remember those among us who have lost their livelihoods. No amount of government promises can fully eliminate the stress of paying bills and rent when you aren't working. Putting caring into action does more good than we realize. I've personally witnessed small kindnesses as neighbors share with neighbors (from 6 feet away) and make calls of concern to one other.
And let's not forget our medical professionals who are on the front lines, at their own peril, and enduring equipment hardships to care for those of us who are not so lucky. One long time customer, an OR nurse at Memorial Hospital, told us she was told to wear the same mask all day long. I'd say they all need hugs right about now, but we'll have to wait 14 days to give 'em some. A couple bottles of wine helped her that day.
The Wine Country is allowed to stay open to the public as long as we follow distancing protocols, because we check the boxes as an "Essential Business." Thank goodness for our employees, and the hundreds of customers who depend on us for a little sunshine in their lives. After nearly 25 years providing quality beverages, cheeses, potato chips, ice cream, cured meats and caring service, this little community within our community can still depend on us to go the extra mile at a time when personal comfort is really needed.
I finally ventured into my local supermarket to pick up some vegetables, eggs and milk, and it was the first time I saw the infamous empty shelves that were the result of panic buying. Almost all of the bread was gone, along with paper goods and of course, hand sanitizers. I read that our friends at Portuguese Bend Distillery in downtown Long Beach are fashioning their own hand sanitizers, and I think I'll drive down there to pick some up for the store.
There hasn't been panic buying at The Wine Country, but I would be lying if I didn't say there was a whole lot of "provisioning" going on. Many of our food suppliers are temporarily out of the goods we've come to depend on--like patés and pizzas, crackers and even butter. So far, all our Jeni's ice cream orders have been fulfilled. That's comforting for so many of us.
With very few exceptions, our customers are in a sunny mood when they drop by, thankful that we're open and happy to see our crew healthy and working hard for them. It's a place where we can share our collective passion for living a better life, no matter the stresses that loom around us.
Although California wineries were ordered to close their tasting rooms (as we have had to do), fortunately for us they have products to sell to us. In fact, we've had offers for more than a few wines that were previously held back for restaurants; because of the closures, they have suddenly become available to us.
Several of our suppliers have generously bought take-out food from shuttered restaurants, and provided us with lunch while helping keep at least a few restaurant workers employed. If at all possible, it would be nice for all of us to seek out a few that provide take-out service to help lessen the force of their predicaments.
For those of you who are really worried about life right now, you are not alone. We're all experiencing unusual levels of unease right now. Dale stretched out her yoga mat to try to do some stress-removing stretches. I watched some comforting old movies and participated in way too many Netflix binges.
Dale cooked up a crock of chicken thighs with olives, cauliflower, small potatoes, wine, butter and shallots and we drank some of our April Wine of the Month Bourgogne Blanc with it. For $16, besides tasting like it should cost double that, it was just about a perfect selection that night. In the big scheme of things they were small pleasures, but they felt big because they were the right meal and the right wine at the right time.
I've been spending a lot of time trying to add our expanded and ever-changing beer selection to our website. Diana Rosas is doing such a great job bringing craft beers of every imaginable style to our store, it is a revelation when you realize how far and wide these bottles and cans have traveled to get here. Go to our website if you don't believe me. You can get lost in your search. Happily lost.
Jessica Martinez has worked hard to stay ahead of the demands in her North American and Southern Hemisphere departments, continuing to bring in well-curated wines worthy of attention, including two wineries using some of the finest grapes in the Central Coast--Stolpman and Penville.
It seems as though the wine tariff issue is long behind us, but it's not. For the most part, our suppliers and their wineries have absorbed most of the 25% tariffs already in place, but importers have experienced a lot of strain from the uncertainty of further duties looming ahead. As a result, they've been putting off shipments, so that shortages are inevitable.
Samantha Dugan's French wines department, especially her precious Loire Valley values, have been depleted with few replacements available from our group of small importers. Supplies were already low due to frost, hail, and flooding, and now she is fighting hard to resupply the best she can.
Kevin Lepisto also has his hands full trying to pull in new wines from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and the eastern Mediterranean as well as re-supply our more familiar favorites. It makes me thirsty for a bottle of Barolo right about now.
Remember that we also take online orders for curbside pickup, and quite a few of our customers are taking advantage of this option.
Working together, we'll get through this, hopefully without too many permanent scars. In the meantime, live as well as you can, whether at your home workstation, or visiting The Wine Country from time to time. We'll be waiting.