Swafford On Wine: A call to arms, holding glasses


Once upon a time, not in a galaxy far away but right here in Newport, my wife, Christina, and I had a restaurant and wine shop we would open for business every day for nearly 30 years. Customers would come and discover a lunch special or dessert or the Swedish bread that Christina made and they would return on a regular basis. I, too, was pleased when someone would come back after I had helped them find a particular bottle or explained a foreign wine label to them — regular customers became good friends. This was a routine that had many pleasures and only a few setbacks.

Now, in our dreams at night, I am searching frantically to find that bottle on my shelves for a customer and Christina struggles to get the lunch orders out on time. Then we wake up and laugh because we remember that we are now retired, the pressures are gone, now we can relax. On our morning beach walks we give thanks for finding this place to live; we look out over the ever-changing vista of stretches of sand, the mosaic of rocks and driftwood, the rhythms of the ocean surf and the lighthouse on the headlands. This is our cathedral.

But we cannot turn away from those who provide good food and wine as we once did and were once our colleagues, our peers, our competitors, our neighbors who are now crippled by the pandemic that, through no fault of their own, has turned their world upside down. I’m talking about very small businesses — mom and pop shops — where husband and wife, other family members or a handful of employees do it all. And right now, there is not much to do.

Rents and mortgages come due; supplies and inventory are needed; utilities must be paid. How can we help? They need our business. We can call, go online or drive by the ‘moms and pops’ and see what the hand-lettered signs on the door say about take-out. Find out how they plan to reopen with safe spacing and then make our reservations as soon as possible. We recently called ARR Place to pick up dinner and Aymee, Robert and Rebeka — the A, R and R — met us at the door with beef stroganoff, chicken soup and cheesecake packaged and frozen to take home and pop into our oven.

Our small, but quality, Oregon wineries have had to close their tasting rooms, and their restaurant accounts aren’t selling wine, so people aren’t buying wine. I have steered people to the websites of J. Scott Cellars, Capitello Wines, Noble Estates Winery — three of our Eugene neighbors — and encouraged them to find out about deals being offered for direct shipment. Check the shelves at JC Market and the other grocery stores for these labels and those of other small wineries. Stick your head in the door of Zach’s Nye Beach Wine Cellar, like I did the other day looking for J. Scott pinot noir. One good reason we owe them our support, our business, is because they have supported us in the past with donated bottles when our local organizations came asking for help with fundraising events.

They need us to come back, and we need to get out. Will you drink to that?

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