To say it’s been an interesting year is a huge understatement. It’s been unlike any other in our lifetimes. We are beset with political and viral worries on all sides, and there is no clear picture of what the future will bring. We are largely hunkered down, unable to move or socialize freely. Yet, we have found ways to release ourselves from captivity and maintain some sense of normalcy.

Now more than ever, wine is our good companion. It dulls anxiety and calms our souls. With a glass in hand we can sit quietly, take a breath, and think of better times with family and friends.

Some wines have become old friends that I return to time after time. They give pleasure with each sip and bring back good memories.

As I drink a favorite Italian wine, I think fondly on travels taken to the Veneto, where we traveled the Prosecco Road; where every trattoria claimed its was the only way to serve prosecco; where we visited my wife, Jan’s, relatives in Bassano de Grappa and were served wonderful tortellini en brodo soup for lunch and ended the afternoon with homemade grappa.

I think of a villa in Tuscany where we cooled our sfuso (unbottled wine) in the spring-fed sluice, and where our good friend Mia screamed as she lost her shoe in the fast-moving stream. I think of Rome, where we dug with the archaeologists in the Roman Forum and every day went to Gli Angeletti where we drank its frizzante (slightly sparkling) white wine with fresh “solo” rughetta (arugula) salad and handmade pasta; where we sat in the street at L’Insalata Ricca near the Piazza Navona and drank carafes of house white while choosing from the enormous menu of salads. And I think of a February on Ortigia in Syracusa, Sicily, where many of the shops carried signs saying “come back in March,” where we drank nerello mascalese and carricante from Mount Etna at a local enoteca, and where we were practically blown off the island by the worst storm in 45 years.

Now neighbors have broken out to run and bike, and families are taking their children and pets on daily strolls. The new normal is acquaintanceship and impromptu conversation in the street, and small gatherings in neighborhood backyards. We push our masks aside when an invitation for wine is offered.

Using FaceTime and Zoom, we communicate long distance with our old friends and family. It doesn’t have the closeness of face-to-face contact, but a glass of wine maintains the spirit and zaniness, and makes the party go.

Here’s hoping the future improves soon, with as little permanent damage as possible. And I will drink to that.