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Wine will still draw people together after COVID-19 (opinion)

By ThisIsReno
toasting wine glasses

Submitted by Bev Stenejhem

The current COVID-19 stay-at-home order hasn’t stopped me from socializing and enjoying my friends and family. The order and social distancing rules have only changed the way I socialize.

For instance, instead of a typical weekend potluck or cocktail party, my friends and I have resorted to “get-togethers” using Face Time, Zoom and other similar apps. We hold virtual happy hours where we can see and talk to each other in real time. With cocktails or wine in hand, we have a toast to each other before taking turns telling about our new inside life. These virtual meetings aren’t ideal, for nothing really takes the place of seeing each other in person; but for now, they are the best we can do.

Just a few short months ago, who could have ever thought our lives would be so dramatically altered by an invisible virus?  COVID-19 has certainly taken a toll on all our lives –  physically, mentally and economically.

Like most other businesses, Reno’s fledgling wine industry has been severely impacted by forced shut-downs and social distancing requirements. The COVID-19 virus is just the latest in a long list of setbacks that have challenged the American wine industry over the last century; starting with Phylloxera (aphid infestation) in the early 1900s, which nearly wiped out all of our vineyards.

Then in 1906, fires from the San Francisco earthquake destroyed millions of gallons of wine and several major wine cellars. With little time to recuperate from phylloxera and the earthquake, Prohibition started in 1920, criminalizing the manufacture and sale of wine. And to cap it all off, the Great Depression began in 1929. People could hardly afford bread, let alone wine.

Vino 100 selling wine by the case.
Vino 100 selling wine by the case, curbside. Image: Nora Heston Tarte

But a grape vine’s ability to survive is stronger than all its many and varied adversaries. The common grapevine (vitis vinifera)  has been growing wild for centuries and actually thrives in  poor soil and in times of drought. Grapes are the only fruit on earth that have everything they need – yeast, water, sugar – to turn themselves into wine.

That being said, it takes a skillful wine maker to turn a grape into great wine. After the end of Prohibition in 1933, our wineries, slowly made a comeback. By the 1970s,  West Coast wine makers made wine so good that they overtook French wines in quality and status– producing wines that became the darlings of the wine world.

COVID-19 is just another setback that can and will be overcome. Wineries and wine shops are still open for business – most all are offering curbside pick-up or deliveries. It is imperative that wine consumers continue to place orders and patronize these local gems.

Reno residents are hopeful that stay-at-home orders will soon ease and shops and businesses will be open again. When all the social-distancing mandates have ended, and people feel safe to gather again, our cravings for human contact will depend on gathering spots like our wineries and wine shops.  Sure, there is apt to be changes with increased sanitation and social-distancing of patrons. But, there is no doubt in my mind that, like the hearty grape, Reno’s wine industry is here to stay.

Bev Stenejhem

Bev recently moved to Reno from the Bay Area where she finished out a career in Human Resources and, as a side gig, wrote about the local wineries there in a weekly wine column. She also published a historical photo book, The Wineries of Santa Clara Valley. A self-described wine enthusiast, Bev enjoys discovering the people behind the wine, becoming friends and celebrating good times. Bev is a member of Nevada Vines and Wines and is excited to explore and share Reno’s budding wine industry with our readers.

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of ThisisReno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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