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Socially Distant Wine Tasting 101

It is not lost on most people that the current pandemic has forever altered our once laissez-faire lifestyle now forcing us to settle for a "new normal". From hugs to seeing a smile on a friend's face the virus has forced us to do without a lot of interactions once considered essential to human survival. I think you can understand why when some close friends of mine suggested a "socially distant" wine tasting I jumped at the chance!

At the suggestion of my good wine friend Natalie Hampton (from Tarheel Taps and Corks) a socially distant wine tasting was recently orchestrated and conducted at FireClay Cellars located just outside Siler City. We were joined by my dear wine friend David Nershi (the editor of Vino Sphere). I do not use the term "wine friend" in a cavalier manner here. I met both of these "wine friends" at the NC Bloggers summit, the brain child of hosts Matt Kemberling and Joe Brock aka the NC Wine Guys! It was at this event just a couple of years ago where I first appeared in public under the auspices of "Merlot2muscadine".

As part of the bloggers summit that year we were privy to tours and tastings at multiple vineyards and wineries and fortunately we were transported by driver from site to site. I will never forget that trip. Not only for the wonderful tastings and food along the way but for the friendships that were forged that day in the back seat of that van.

FireClay Cellars is very special to me since it is the site of my very first video featuring a North Carolina winery. Since that time their winery and vineyard has grown and prospered and I was honored to "get the word out" about their emergence on the NC wine landscape. As the number of their wines continues to grow it never is anything less than a treat to venture there. Plus the release of their second new rose wine was also an allure.

We arrived early and procured a nice spot on the porch where three couples could enjoy their wine socially distanced. We all donned masks which we wore while inside interacting with the winery owners and they did the same. As patrons entered I watched each one wait at a distance until the tasting bar was free and they could be serviced. FireClay also allows food to be brought in from outside sources so we situated a table between each couple. As a safety precaution we did not share food, but crackers. olives, cheeses and sliced meets were abundant.

Shortly after we all arrived and settled in to enjoy the wines we had selected, we couldn't help but notice when David Nershi whipped out a device that initially to me resembled a switch blade and Jedi knight light saber combination. While we all stared in awe, David proceeded to slowly pass the device methodically over his wine glass like Herminie from Harry Potter attempting to levitate something. Needless to say I had to ask him what he was doing and it was then that I was reminded of the germ and virus killing capability of ultra violet light. The device that David was using with the deftness of a samurai was a hand held battery powered ultra violet light capable of using uv radiation to treat surfaces from ATMs to cell phones to wine glasses.

As a middle school science teacher for well over 15 years I was reminded that the eye goggle sanitizer cabinet that has been standard equipment in my classroom operates on ultraviolet light. I immediately went out and purchased one for my wife and my daughter. At $20 each they were a great investment as we continue to grapple with the pandemic.

Each of us enjoyed a flight of selections we each individually choose. Andre, one of the owners, graciously allowed us to taste a new Chardonel just prior to it's release to the public. It was absolutely delicious. The wine was crisp, acidic with strong notes of apple, melon and citrus. Times like this I consider to be very special as a North Carolina wine blogger and I appreciate each time a winery seeks our opinion.

We were also treated to a sneak peek "taste" of a new red blend they are yet to release and haven't even labeled yet. This wine, although young and in need of a little more time in the bottle, definitely displayed the potential to not only be something very special but we all agreed it could be worthy of the lofty designation "reserve".

The wine, food, fellowship and conversation made it a very special day I will long remember. Before Natalie suggested it, I had personally resolved that my wife and i would be the only wine tasting attendees for the next few months. Thanks to Natalie I now know that the pandemic doesn't have to rob me of one of the experiences I savor most - enjoying North Carolina wine with good friends.

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