West Coast Wine Country Reopens This Weekend—With Conditions
Across California and the Pacific Northwest, tasting rooms are set up for happy (and safe) summer sipping.
A glass of Cabernet Franc—“liquid cashmere,” as it’s been called—at Viader, on the rocky slopes of Howell Mountain overlooking a great swath of Napa Valley. . . Another of Ditch Digger in Paso Robles, on the light-filled terrace at Denner Vineyards. . . Magical on-site sipping might seem like a distant memory to avid wine travelers curtailed by the pandemic. But as of Friday, June 12, it’s all possible again. California wineries have permission to open to visitors once again.
A few caveats. First, reopening is contingent on individual counties meeting certain metrics on containing the virus. But as of this writing, Napa and Sonoma counties are sweeping out their tasting rooms (or, more likely, sanitizing all surfaces) and getting ready to open their doors—many over the weekend (in some cases for members only at first), others in following days. On the Central Coast as well; in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara wine country, the lights are coming on. Winemaking, as an essential operation, has been in full swing all along, but now the hospitality vital to one of the state’s most vibrant businesses is going from lots of hand-wringing to lots of hand-washing.
Visits to almost all wineries are on an appointment-only basis. Many are expanding their service outside, to minimize tasting inside (go ahead, twist our arms to take the table under the spreading oak), and tables will be widely spaced or otherwise separated, to maintain safe distances (good riddance to crowded tasting bars). The staff will be wearing masks, and visitors will be asked to too, except when seated at their own tables. Wines might even be pre-poured, to limit close contact between guests and hosts. In short, the industry is taking very seriously the risks wine service poses, at a time when Covid-19 is far from neutralized.
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