Do good by drinking wine

Now is the time to drink some wine. With apologies to those who don’t imbibe, spring is springing and coronavirus lockdown has us all bored out of our ever-loving minds and — yes! — there’s a way to do it that’s extra-easy and zero contact and puts money in our Seattle-area neighbors’ pockets when they need it most. (Same with — yay! — cheese. More on that below.) Have a bottle of well-chilled, palest pink rosé — it’s for a good cause! Drink it on the stoop while talking to your socially distanced neighbors, or passersby, or just the blue, blue sky.

Due to Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, restaurant dining rooms and bars are closed, but your local wine shop — or your favorite microbrewery or distillery, if that’s more your speed — is open, waiting to serve you. It’s going to be a social distancing delivery and/or pickup situation; check their social media to see how they’re operating, or just call them up. And hell, if you can afford to do so, you might as well get a case — we’re stuck at home until at least May 4. A case of wine is a dozen bottles. If you’re a semipenurious journalist, for instance, a shop can put together a case of absolutely drinkable bottles at $15 or less each (which would cost two to three times as much at a restaurant if we were able to go to such a thing, enormous sigh, but hey, savings!). Most shops offer a case discount of 10% or more. And there is a great deal of satisfaction to be taken in pulling up to your local wine shop, popping the trunk and having a big box of wine installed into your life — or, alternately, getting a phone call that you may find one posthaste on your very own doorstep. You do the math!

They know what I like at my local wine shop, which is European Vine Selections, or EVS for short, on Capitol Hill’s small-towny 15th Avenue East. I also just call it “Doug’s,” because while it’s been run by a hippie collective of eight equal owners since at least 1972 (they’re not exactly sure, because: hippies), somehow when I go in (I mean, when I used to go in, sigh, but also when I go in again someday), it’s almost always co-owner Doug Nufer behind the counter, with his Portuguese water dog roaming the premises in a friendly and un-irritating fashion. Doug himself is the definition of affable (it’s his job to drink a lot of wine), and he’s also an un-irritating experimental poet who does things like recite his work while semisubmerged in the Stillaguamish River or write an entire novel called “Never Again” in which no word is used more than one time (!?).

It’s a very Mister Rogers’ experience, EVS, what with chatting with Doug and petting the dog and maybe running into a friend. If you’re intimidated by wine or wine shops or wine people, you might be surprised to find your neighborhood spot much the same way. Give it, and give wine, a chance — Doug says that just with the recounting of a couple of kinds of wine you’ve liked in the past, or a little information about what other kinds of beverages you enjoy, a good wine shop should be able assemble a selection to please you.

Ask for some Washington wines, too, to double down on your support of the local economy. Despite its name, EVS stocks non-European vine selections, too. Doug knows I love barely blushing rosés, so he stuck a 2019 Milbrandt in my last case — nice and dry and a little grapefruity, the bottle cost $15 minus the case discount, and comes from a multigenerational family-run winery in our own Columbia Valley. Doug knows I’m not overly fond of chardonnay, but he chose a 2018 Kiona, also $15 and from another Eastern Washington family winemaking concern, to expand my world in coronavirus times — while the first sip overpowered me, a lemony complexity and balance became apparent as a more philosophical mood emerged. The wine also paired beautifully with a supper of grilled cheese and tomato soup (food writers are corona-comfort-eating, too).

In these “most abnormal of times,” Doug says he’s delighted to still have wine. “Our lives may be in peril,” he observed over email, “our health care may be in tatters, and our economy may be in ruins, but we still have this little piece of civilization to cling to.” Well, cheers to him, and to that, and to your local wine shop (or, of course, brewery or distillery, too), and to you. Springtime and rosé will help us through.


And to go with that wine, do good by eating cheese, too

If it’s within your means, now more than ever is the time to eat local cheese. The Washington state coronavirus restaurant shutdown in tandem with the suspension of Seattle farmers markets has wiped out about 75% of revenue for most of our region’s small independent cheesemakers, says Meghan McKenna of the nascent Woolley Cheese Co. and the Washington State Cheesemakers Association. Via email, she calls it a “scary spot” for the indies of the industry.

“It’s a terrible irony that now, when all the cheesemakers have delicate, fresh cheese and gooey, sexy soft-ripened beauties ready to go” — spring is a gorgeous time for cheese — “there are fewer ways to get them to cheese fans,” McKenna laments.

How do we get our paws on the local good stuff in the time of coronavirus? Fancier grocery stores should have a selection, while DeLaurenti in Pike Place Market is also doing delivery. The Pacific Coast Harvest CSA — an excellent way to support nearby farmers as well — offers options to add local cheeses to your weekly delivery. Tieton Farm & Creamery, Samish Bay Cheese and Glendale Shepherd are making Seattle-area weekend deliveries, while many other cheesemaking farms are shipping directly to customers or offering no-contact pickup options.

As McKenna puts it, “I’m worried that if our local food economy doesn’t find a way to support its artisans, we will all be eating Kraft Singles at Starbucks at the end of this thing.” Help prevent this dystopian future! All we have to do is eat amazing cheese, which will go so well with all the wine.