Jarina Naone and Rosa Thurnher

It was music to our ears: on March 25 when Georgia opened up COVID-19 vaccines to anybody over the age of 16.  That means that within a few months, there will be a large portion of our state vaccinated and life as we currently know it will be different. 

Georgia is officially open and people are ready to party! 

While we all know that the city never fully shut down, the last year threw the wine and restaurants businesses into disarray. Operating at limited capacity with severe shopping restrictions has not been easy. However, it quickly occurred to us that very soon our industry is going to start to come alive again. Not only will restaurant patios be bursting at the seams, but the bar will have guests at almost every seat, and the tables will be teeming. 

For the past year, our wine stores, 3 Parks and VinoTeca, have cobbled together weekly virtual tastings on Zoom, winemaker interviews on IG Live and even a handful of outdoor tastings on the sidewalks of surprisingly busy streets. Our distributors, importers, and employees did their best to engage our customers with education, music, laughter and, of course, good wine – but there was always a distance and we are ready to hug a few necks. 

For many of our customers and for our staff, our businesses are more than just a place to buy wine – we have worked hard to create a sense of community. But, like most industries, the pandemic has forced the entire hospitality industry into the extremes of creative thinking. Balancing the safety of our teams and our customers has been nothing short exhausting. Now, like opening a Chateau Petrus Bordeaux, the payoff will be rewarding.  

Restaurateurs are doing the same. “We are excited to allow limited people in the dining but we’re still being very cautious since we know that everyone hasn’t been vaccinated yet, even though our staff has,” said Jarina Naone, owner of El Ponce in Poncey-Highland. “We want people to know that we are still being very safe and have put lots of thought and energy into our reopen.” 

Over the last year, El Ponce relied solely on outdoor seating and takeout as Naone and business partner Rosa Thurnher waited for the vaccines to kick-in and for patio season to arrive. They closed their main dining room last March and were able to cautiously reopen for indoor seating in April once their entire staff was vaccinated. 

With Cinco de Mayo around the corner they knew it was time to open. Jarina and Rosa removed some tables and restructured the main dining room to limit capacity in their notoriously vibrant and busy restaurant. To the dismay of many scenemakers and booty shakers, El Bar, one of Atlanta’s favorite late night dance clubs, will not be reopening. It’s been reimagined as a gorgeous fair-trade boutique called Tiendita specializing in products made by Latinx women. 

With some help from science and a lot of pent up energy, an industry that took the biggest hit during the pandemic will thrive again. Diners will revel in the sound of glasses clinking, silverware touching ceramic, and a dynamic energy that can only be found in the company of others.

Katie’s Wine Pick
Osmote FLX Cayuga White Pet Nat from Finger Lakes, NY
To welcome the warmer weather, we love introducing customers to the joys of Pet Nat.Cayuga is a hybrid grape that was created at Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station in upstate New York. Through the magic of science, a Lambrusca variety has become a New York heirloom grape that makes some seriously good juice. This Petillant Natural (wines that finish fermenting in the bottle which allows trapped CO2 to make it bubbly) is what I am crushing on right now.  On the nose, it has notes of pineapple, saline and green apple. The palate gives zippy acidity and just the right amount of creaminess. FLX fits for any summer time park hang or paired with seafood. The average retail price is $25.

Sarah Pierre is owner of 3 Parks Wine Shop in Glenwood Park and Katie Rice is the owner of VinoTeca in Inman Park.