How does a sommelier, wine educator, and wine expert survive the Covid19 Pandemic? Like so many of us living through the Coronavirus Pandemic, we have all been preparing for the worst, but attempting to remain cautiously optimistic in expecting and hoping for the best. Some of us have simply remained in isolation and self-quarantine during this viral epidemic. All of us have been purchasing groceries, hoarding toilet paper (i.e. Charmingeddon), and looking in on friends and family over the last few months, while at all times observing “Social Distancing”, wearing masks, and gloves in some cases. The common denominator and creature comfort for most of us is, of course, good food and drink. Drink enough wine and you will become a wine expert, or at feel like one.
As a former peace officer, volunteer firefighter (First Responder) turned sommelier, wine educator, and wine appraiser, and a long-time resident of Washington State greater Seattle area, I could see the writing on the wall back in January of this year regarding the Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Washington State announced the first Covid19 case on January 21. 2020. A man from Snohomish County who was treated at Providence Hospital in Everett, WA. I knew back then that the Coronavirus epidemic was going to explode with the news media rewriting the “Coronavirus Play Book” each day, and certain new reports overtly contradicting each other. It was later revealed that Covid19 could have first been active in Washington in the Fall of 2019.
It was at this point, as a trained sommelier and wine expert with only a can of chili in my cupboard and some lettuce in my fridge, that I began preparing for the worst-case scenario. I began purchasing groceries, emergency supplies, essential equipment, and of course spirits and wines. This wine expert is greatly minimizing his colossal preparation efforts that he has been involved in over the past 45 days. While I am not a “Prepper”, some might now ask “how in the heck does a wine education expert become a Prepper as result of this pandemic”? Let’s just say this wine educator enjoys teaching people about wine and cheese as much as he likes eating it.
I began first experience what I believe to be Covid19 symptoms back in mid-February. First, I experienced the sudden extreme muscle and joint aches and pains. Next were the inexplicable headaches that I affected me for at least three days. Then came the sudden complete loss of my sense of smell and taste (previously impacted by auto accident). This truly frightened me given my wine expert career. The whole time I felt fatigue. I thought to myself, did I have the virus?
Regarding both my auction, wine educator and wine appraisals businesses, I have only received a couple of phone calls during the past month and half, but no work since last Fall of 2019. I am now becoming very aware of the fact that while the Federal and Washington State governments have not acknowledged that “We are in a Recession” and far worse than the Great Recession of 2008. I fear that we are now heading for a possible Depression. Despite the personal impacts my wine appraiser and wine expert business has suffered, I began applying for temporary jobs with FEMA. No job too small for a former First responder, now turned wine educator (The Wine Zealot). This pandemic has affected every one of us.
My family and friends will tell you I very rarely become sick, and all who know me will vouch for the fact that I push myself, non-stop, until I complete my work for the day. Whether this is a good, or bad trait, it’s just who I am. So, by mid-March I was staying up until between 1:30 am and sometimes as late as 5:30 am in preparing and buying supplies on Amazon. Just a normal 22-hour workday for me. I was also distance caring for my 80-year old godfather and a few friends in providing them with groceries and emotional support during these uncertain times that the epidemic has placed before us. I was also feeling new, inexplicable, symptoms such as pain in lungs, but no congestion, which normally I never experience, but now was. I still didn’t let this stop me from taking my three mile walk each day. I am either a fool, or someone who truly believes that when you stop, you die. “In wine there is truth” (In Vino Veritas), or I’d like to believe my wine consumption is curing me of this new Trump Plague – the Coronavirus.
At this point, more than a few friends and associates were diagnosed as positive for Covid19, but these were all diagnoses being provided by their doctors over the telephone. I was now cautiously wearing my N95 masks and latex gloves everywhere I traveled in order to shield myself from our new plague. I even have a P100 mask and respirator in reserve. I had also reached my peak of physical exhaustion. The epidemic even has me pondering questions regarding my mortality, and the more philosophical issues of the capacity of human spirit. However, I continue to do what I always do best, and I continued to push myself forward, nonstop, until the day’s work was done (20 to 24 hours each day).
I was lucky enough if I could manage one meal each day due to my frantic work schedule, and so I was losing weight through unintended starvation. I did have a new symptom of “Pink eye” quite briefly, which came and went fairly quickly. This wine expert owes his survival to a daily glass, or three, of Cabernet and an occasional brownie.
April arrived. The whether was changing and Spring was in the air. I still can’t sleep at night as a result of stress and my ceaseless, running, thoughts. Some turn to food for comfort during dark time, but for me it a great glass of wine and the occasional gourmet prepared meal. My personal fears have continued to grow, but again I remain cautiously optimistic. I haven’t had near the business that had come in from the year before, but there have been some wine educator and spirits & wine appraisal assignments.
So, what do I do? I place posts on LinkedIn late into the evening and early morning hours. I actually coined the term “Charmingeddon” (now widely used in the United States) on a Linked post I created to explain the “toilet paper hoarding” phenomenon during this pandemic. I remain stressed, still not eating, and still worrying about others I care about. No surprises, as I broke out in Shingles, a stress related condition. The pronounced pains in my chest, especially the pleural cavity area surrounding my lungs, were just so confusing to me.
As Easter weekend approached that’s when I believed the Coronavirus hit me like a freight train. I woke up, feeling like I was on my deathbed. I could barely get out bed, but I did what I do best, and I pushed myself forward despite being able to keep my eyes open. Thank God for coffee, and a lot of it that particular day. I actually, and with great stupidity, went for one of my daily walks. I would be a liar, if I left out the fact that all really wanted to do was sleep.
Remarkably, the next day I felt quite a bit better. However, it’s been a physical and emotional teeter totter each day. One day I feel just ok, and the next day I simply feel exhausted. I also experienced another unique Coronavirus symptom, as I completely lost a previously, greatly, impacted sense of smell for approximately 36 hours. As a trained wine educator, sommelier, wine expert and wine appraiser this new symptom had me extremely concerned in not knowing if this newly defined epidemic symptom was to be permanent. Thank God it ultimately returned, but somewhat still impacted!
On Thursday, April 16, 2020 family members were now relaying to me articles that they had read that the Coronavirus is currently being studied by neurologists and medical researchers to determine the now suspected impacts and effects that Covid19 may have upon our brain’s functioning. Strangely enough, I also had appointment with my ophthalmologist on this day, as the vision in only my right eye had become inexplicably blurry just during the past 30 days. My Eye Doc diagnosed me with what he called a “Young Person’s Cataract (Posterior Post-Capsular Cataract), and very rare for someone your age. It will become progressively worse over the next number of months”.
Today is April 19, 2020. I am alive, but I still remain very fatigued. For the last two days I have taken it very easy. I am still greatly puzzled by the most recent, unique, Coronavirus pandemic symptoms I experienced just a few nights back. I experienced tremendous stabbing pains in the lymph nodes located under my armpits. The pain was so intense, it felt as if I was being speared. Apparently, these symptoms have been confirmed by those infected with Covid19.
Some family and friends have suggested that “I go the doctor” for a formal Coronavirus diagnosis, but I assure them that I am NOT experiencing “Panic Syndrome Covid19 Symptoms” as my symptoms are legitimate. The vast majority of physicians in Washington State are not seeing patients currently, and while some friends of mine have received the highly suspect Covid19 test, other friends have been trying to get the Covid19 test for weeks without any success. Worse, the Coronavirus test has up to a 30% “False Negative” failure rate. In other words, unless you are having trouble breathing then your doctor will order a chest X-ray. The medical advice physicians dole out pertaining to the pandemic remains the same, “stay home in self-quarantine, rest, and take your over the counter flu medications”.
I have now lost at least 25 pounds as the photos reveal. These photos are very real and not Photoshopped! I still drink my wine and enjoy my booze. I am bound and determined to survive the Coronavirus and this new world plague, and I attempt to remain as positive as I can for those who depend upon me currently through the epidemic.
October 2020 Update: I have now had the both the Anti-Body Tests and also the Covid19 nasal swab tests which have all “come back negative results”. While this is great news, the doctors still advise that both of these tests remain inconclusive and the many tests that are available to people still remain in a state development. I wish all you well. Stay safe and remain sane during the pandemic. Drink in moderation often! Cheers.
Tom DiNardo is one of the nation’s preeminent wine appraisers and counterfeit wine fraud investigators. He is best known for his online wine personality – The Wine Zealot. Copyright 2020.