Wine is a staple in almost any home — a glass of merlot with dinner or a nice white wine on a hot day — it’s all delicious.
So delicious, that local wine shops are reporting increased sales.
We have all created ways of coping during the coronavirus and it seems as though one of those ways is by supporting local Wheeling wine shops.
WINING AND DINING (TAKE-OUT STYLE)
Domenik Cerrone, co-owner of Good Mansion Wines in Wheeling, has been ahead of the curve, not only with the coronavirus, but with his wine sales as well.
“Yes, we certainly have been busy. … Our sales are up over 50 percent overall. Wine has increased more than the food,” said Cerrone.
“In our path, we had seen it primarily begin with higher-end wines in the first 10 days, and then it gravitated to everyday wines,” said Cerrone regarding his wine sales over the last few months.
While Cerrone’s business, which provides wine, food and tastings, has been booming, he doesn’t believe it is just Wheeling or even just West Virginia residents that he has to thank for the influx of business.
“Other states set their own serious laws on alcohol. People from other states are migrating here,” said Cerrone.
“For us, we always get customers from Pennsylvania and from the Pittsburgh market. We actually lost some of those regulars (out of safety), but we had these new customers coming in from there and purchasing large orders.”
Cerrone doesn’t think he is alone in his wine sales.
“I would have to think, speaking locally, that there is definitely an increase from 50 percent to 80 percent in wine sales, but keep in mind though, there is no wine being moved through restaurants right now,” said Cerrone.
While wine purchases are up, Cerrone makes a point of saying that doesn’t necessarily mean these bottles are being uncorked.
“All we can speak to is sales. I’m not sure whether or not with wine the overall consumption has gone up just because we have seen a large spike in purchases. Is it all being consumed?”
According to local distributors at Moss Farm Winery and Casa di Vino, people are buying more in bulk than usual.
As cases are flying off the shelves at Good Mansion Wines, Cerrone is a stickler for safety when it comes to the COVID-19 virus and his general customer interaction.
“With the policies that we set forth, we are ahead of the curve. I have family in Italy, and this hit them weeks before it hit us, so I could smell everything that was coming, and we very early on implemented strict guidelines on sterilization,” said Cerrone.
In addition to sanitizing stations throughout the building, Good Mansion Wines also requires the staff to wear masks while on the premises, and he also has been advising his staff consistently with proper protocol.
“The big thing is keeping distance and trying to coach our staff about keeping our distance and encouraging customers to stay in safety zones. We are still adhering to hotspot guidelines, and it makes everyone more relaxed,” said Cerrone.
While business has been doing well and only two of his staff members have opted to stay home during the pandemic, Cerrone is thankful to have the community behind him and his staff.
“We’re open for full offerings, and we are thankful that everyone has looked at a local business to get them through this, and we will be there for them during the duration.”
MANY LABELS, A ONE-MAN SHOW
After working at the quaint Casa di Vino winery for over 10 years in Centre Market, Corey Manning purchased the business just before Memorial Day last year.
Manning certainly did not anticipate a global crisis during the first year of owning his business.
“I’m a sole member and owner and the only owner here. I’ve managed the shop for over 11 years, (and) I was scared,” said Manning regarding the coronavirus outbreak.
“In my first year, this wasn’t something I would have thought to happen.”
Though Manning is no longer able to provide wine tastings, he says his sales have been quite steady and have even increased despite people staying home out of safety concerns.
“(Sales) have gone up. Probably not as dramatic as liquor sales have, but yeah, they have gone up I would say,” said Manning.
He attributes the increase in wine sales to the supportive public.
“I feel very fortunate. People have been really going out of their way to help small businesses,” said Manning.
The community’s support isn’t just out of the kindness of their heart either. According to Manning, he goes out of his way to provide over 400 different wine labels at any given time and also takes special orders.
“The labels I carry are not your mainstream labels. They aren’t anything you can pick up at your local grocery store chain or anything,” said Manning. “I’m always willing to pull labels that people want, and people call them in and I’ll order them.”
Because of the coronavirus, Manning has provided extensive curbside services, including call-ahead options.
Casa di Vino is still open to walk-ins, but Manning’s top priority is to ensure that his customers feel at ease.
“It is their decision on the face mask, and I want to make my customers feel comfortable, and I’m making sure I’m keeping everything sanitized,” he said.
When asked if he believes people are buying wine out of fear, Manning said there is more than one factor, but that fear is not one of them.
“It shows how the restaurant and bar scene were thriving before. I also think just being stuck at home,” said Manning. “If you’re not allowed to go anywhere to pass the time, it makes sense people would stay home and drink instead.”
Manning is expecting to see wine sales take a slight nosedive once everything is reopened, but is also adamant that things will level off.
“People are going to try and support bars and restaurants after they all open up,” said Manning.
“It’s going to pick back up though. Especially once wine tastings start up again here. That’ll make up (for) the lack of sales.”
SALES ARE UP, BUT THERE ARE DRAWBACKS
Susan Murphy, owner and founder of Moss Farms Winery and Country Roads Distillery, has kept her doors open during the pandemic and says her wine sales for the store have been going smoothly. But because of the cancellation of countless festivals, she is losing out on profits in that sector.
“We’re not doing as well because it’s for pick-up only, and we depend a lot on fairs and festivals, and those are going belly up,” said Murphy.
“If you’re at a festival, you want a souvenir and something that makes you happy, so we make a nice amount of money off of festivals. Other than that, we’re doing OK.”
Though Murphy is missing out on her festival-related sales, she is thankful for her loyal customers who have kept her business more than afloat with private orders.
“My walk-in sales are great. In fact, people sometimes are getting a case rather than the usual few bottles,” said Murphy.
Though her wine sales are generally good, she is risking her own safety to serve the public as she is in the at-risk age bracket.
As her sales for the store are up, Murphy is not in a rush to put herself at risk to fully reopen, but she still welcomes guests to stop by and purchase a bottle.
MISSING THE CAMARADERIE
While businesses are seeing steady wine sales, some residents are not quite as amenable to the changes of having to drink at home.
Lisa Nuzum Haworth, a consultant and mother living in Woodsdale, is not keen on drinking at home too often.
“I’m more of a social drinker, so my wine consumption has slowed a bit,” said Haworth.
She normally enjoys going out with friends and getting to know new people while out and about.
“It’s not as much fun when you’re stuck at home,” Haworth says.
One of Haworth’s favorite things to do when sipping on some wine is enjoying the scenery around her.
“I’m really looking forward to sitting with a group of friends and drinking and laughing. A glass of wine gives you the chance to sit back and relax,” said Haworth.
“You drink it slowly so you can sip and talk. It facilitates a chance for friends to get together and unwind.”
While she knows going out with friends for a glass of wine isn’t possible right now, she is still anticipating the next time she will get to throw on a fun outfit and hit the town.
“I really miss going to Black Sheep Winery. The landscape is beautiful. Always a good band playing and a chance to celebrate and have fun with old friends and the new wine friends you meet while you are there,” said Haworth.
WINE IS MEANT TO BE ENJOYED … ANYWHERE
Unlike Haworth, Wheeling resident Amanda Huntsman can enjoy a full-bodied wine just about anywhere.
When she isn’t studying for graduate school or on the job as a disabilities coordinator, she is sipping on a glass of red wine while snuggled up on the couch.
“My absolute favorite flavor of wine is cabernet sauvignon. I enjoy the aroma and flavor that sets in,” said Huntsman. “Francis Coppola’s wine never disappoints.”
In addition to working and going to school, Huntsman is also newly engaged and planning a wedding for August, so she definitely has sighed the phrase, “I need a glass of wine.”
How many of us have uttered the same thing?
“Wine is literally my go-to. Although I’m at home more, I’m still busy doing graduate school online,” said Huntsman. “I have to have a glass when doing assignments. It’s definitely a calming factor.”
Huntsman says when she began enjoying wine, she started drinking moscato, but has matured into drinking dry reds and has grown to love them.
“I view myself through these years as if I were aging like fine wine,” Huntsman said with a wink.
Though Huntsman hasn’t let the pandemic slow her down when it comes to her personal goals, she is ready to enjoy a crisp glass of wine in more adventurous locations once it is safe.
“I am hoping to go to a vineyard or winery during my bachelorette party weekend. Also, it’s almost summertime,” said Huntsman.
“Hopefully, once all this lifts, we are able to attend festivals and concerts, sipping our glorious glasses of wine,” she said.
• With a background in journalism and being a true Wheeling native, Jessica Broverman was destined to work with Weelunk. She holds a degree in journalism with a minor in criminal justice and works with Williams Lea Tag as a legal proofreader. When she isn’t typing away for Weelunk or WLT, she is enjoying a coffee at one of her many favorite spots in Wheeling, spending time with friends, or having fun with her husband Zachary and their two cats, Proctor and Max.