The distance between my apartment and New York City’s Holland Tunnel is one mile. On a typical Friday night with rush-hour traffic, it can easily take 45 minutes to get to the tunnel’s entrance from my apartment. On Friday, March 13, though, this trek was very different for several reasons: Only a few cars were on the road, the sidewalks were near empty and my husband, Frank, and I had three extra passengers with us, our cats. It only took us five minutes to drive to the tunnel and one hour to get to my parents’ lake house in New Jersey, 40 miles away. I wouldn’t say we were fleeing the city, but we had no idea when we would be returning.
Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has caused all of our lives to change in one way or another. During uncertain times like these, we search for comfort. Our source of comfort is being closer to family, who are, luckily, only a car ride away. Since my parents got the lake house four years ago, it has become a sanctuary for us on the weekends. Other family members live permanently nearby and make frequent day trips to it. Naturally, I maintain a nice allotment of wine in the basement.
Because we do a lot of entertaining, especially in the summer, there is a sizeable amount of rosé, especially from Provence. Other staples include Sancerre, one of my mom’s favorites, and also Port, which Frank has taken a strong liking to and enjoys almost every night after dinner. We also do a lot of grilling, so Syrahs (from Australia to France to South Africa) are abundant, as are bold Pinot Noirs from California, reds from Portugal’s Douro Valley and hearty red blends from the south of France.
After a quiet weekend, reality started to weigh in on Sunday night, the time when we would typically head back to the city. Not this time. There were so many questions we were asking ourselves: When were we going to get back to the city? Was it safe to go back? Should we go back? We didn’t know. Ultimately, we decided that staying put was all we could do.
That night, my dad and our neighbor, Nick, were joining us for dinner. My mom couldn’t join us because she was busy cooking three weeks’ worth of meals for an elderly family friend who lives in the city. As I walked down to the basement to pull a wine, I felt the uncertainty, fear and frustration rushing through me. I knew that a lot of the conversation at dinner would be about COVID-19.
Frank was making some roast pork for dinner, so I looked at the red wines we had. Maybe a Pinot Noir? My dad loves Italian wine, so maybe a Brunello? But then my eye wandered to a black box next to the wine fridge. Inside was a bottle of Champagne, a Dom Pérignon 2008. My dad gets sent a lot of wine around the holidays from businesses he works with; this was one of those bottles.
This wasn’t a time for celebration, I thought to myself. Plus, my mom would be so annoyed with me if I opened a nice bottle of Champagne without her. But then I remembered a famous quote from Sir Winston Churchill regarding Champagne: “In success you deserve it, and in defeat, you need it.” Well … I was feeling defeated. That was a good enough reason for me!
The Dom Pérignon was delicious, with a creamy mousse and powerful flavors of pastry cream, poached pear and ginger. It put a smile on all of our faces as though the bubbles were actually lifting our spirits, if only for a short period of time. It was a good reminder that the cherished bottles are not just there for the celebrations, but also for the times when comfort is needed. I knew I had chosen the right bottle that evening.
Sorry you weren’t there for a glass, Mom! Next time, I’ve got a bottle of Krug with your name on it.
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