Covid Update – June 12 – re-opening

Beth Costa on Jun 12, 2020

Hello everyone –
Now that you were given the go-ahead to re-open, many of you have questions about “how to re-open”.
Just like the last 3 months, nothing is clear, but I will do my best to pass along ideas and advice.

First off, you should go into this re-opening with the idea of embracing “Plan B”.
Whatever you do, to begin with, may not work once you actually begin to have visitors.
You will need to re-group and make changes as needed to your plan.

This is the actual order that came down on Wednesday afternoon. Amendment No. 1 to Health Order No. C19-14
Click on the link – you will see answers to some of your FAQs at the bottom of the page.

Please Please Please use the signs we have sent out.
The more visitors see the SAME signs and messaging at each winery they visit, the more likely they are to comply.
I have now mailed signs to 100 wineries. More signs are on order, some of you have asked for additional copies – I will have them next week.

There is no requirement that says tastings must be seated.
But if you have people milling around the bar, it will be difficult to maintain the 6’ distance which IS required.
You can tape off areas at the bar and explain when guests arrive that “THIS AREA” is where they will be tasting and explain that you are required to keep the 6’ space…ask for their help right out of the gate, so you’re all on the same page.

Now you are able to provide your tastings both indoors AND outdoors – but you are highly encouraged to focus on your outdoor space. The more you can do outside the better. Wine Road will be sharing almost all tasting will now be done outside, so bring a jacket if needed.
We are telling visitors to be prepared to be outside.

If you do not have outdoor space – Karissa from the Winegrowers has been working diligently with Permit Sonoma to allow wineries to offer tasting and sales offsite – possibly on the property of a grower they work with. More details and guidelines will follow as this is approved, hopefully within the next week or two. Karissa along with Michael from the Vintners are working with both Permit Sonoma and the ABC to make sure this will be allowed.

For now, people DO need to wear a face mask when they come to your winery.
They should keep it on until they are in their tasting area, and you have set up their wines, talked about the wine and walked away, then they should remove their mask. Just explain the game plan as you bring them to their tasting area. Help them understand how it’s going to work.

Everyone everywhere is up in arms about the face mask – it is what it is – for you to open your tasting room, it’s a requirement.
Have some disposable ones at the entrance – along with the sign (we sent you) saying Face Masks Required.
Let guests know, it’s not just your winery, they will be expected to have one at the next winery they visit as well.

Reservations are required – so you do not end up with people crowded onto your property, or big groups you can’t manage. Of course if you have space and someone shows up without a reservation, it’s your call if you want to go ahead and welcome them in. You will have to manage that case by case. Wine Road will be saying Reservations Required on all Wine Road posts, our website, and on all advertising.

Every area where you had tasters must be cleaned before you can host other people.
Chairs, tables, tasting bar, pens they used to sign credit card, tasting menus if they are to be reused. Everything.
As you take reservations, be sure to allow for this “cleaning time” between reservations.

If you’re a small 1-2 person operation, you will figure things out as you go.
If there are more than 2 of you, you should talk about some scenarios before they happen.
– What are you going to say to the person who arrives with no face mask and will not use the one you provide?
– What about the group of 6 with reservations, that arrives with 8-9 people?
– What do you say to the person who wanders, uninvited over to talk with other visitors at your winery, not social distancing?

I suggest you talk about all sorts of different situations before they happen – they WILL all happen.

Judging by the email I am getting from visitors, there are two groups –
1. Those that are annoyed it took so long for wineries to open, they expect to visit as they have in the past, without any of the regulations.
2. Those that are grateful to get out and enjoy some wine, but they are seriously concerned about safety. They likely called the Wine Road first to confirm wineries would be following safety guidelines.

The problem will be yours to solve when you have some of each group at the same time.
Those without masks, wanting to mingle and have fun and those that want everyone to Keep Their Distance.
Talk about this situation ahead of time, and have a plan in place to manage it.

Do provide hand sanitizer in several areas; entrance, check-out area…look around find the best spots.
Do wear gloves to set up tastings, pouring wine, and as you do your cleaning between guests.
Disposable tasting menus are recommended one-time use.
Keeping all doors open to provide fresh air if hosting in-door tastings.
If you offer some type of tour – do NOT mix groups of people into one tour, unless each group can easily maintain the 6’ distance.

The additional information you can cross-reference: Wine Industry. Guidance for Wineries – from Osha, Public Health

Make sure you add a page or link to NEW VISITATION GUIDELINES on your website.
Make sure people know ahead of time they need a mask, no pets allowed, the tasting will be outdoors and reservations are required.
The more you clarify ahead of time the better. Ridge has a great example on their website, as do many others. Keep it simple, but clear.

Our new page will be live next week – maybe Monday or Tuesday.
It will feature the signs you have up and explain all of the new regulations and what wineries are doing to keep their employees and guests safe.

As you work out systems that work, we should share them. Let me know what’s working for you.
I am happy to send out a list of “best practices” every week.
We want everyone to put their best foot forward, as we all begin this new adventure in wine tasting.

Some information I have seen on Facebook –
This blog post is from Tablas Creek, down in Paso, it really covers all of the bases of what they are doing at their winery. Really well written.

I really love this little sample server that Jim Rickards made for his winery.
I think I need one for home, it may slow down my consumption, or at least make me feel “special”.

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Remember – send me your “best practices” so I can share it with other members.

On another note –
Restock your cupboard
Many folks have been out of work, possibly getting unemployment, waiting to come back to work. In the meantime, they may need help stocking their cupboards. The Redwood Empire Food Bank is a resource for everyone. Encourage your staff to get help, it’s there for them. REFB offers food pick-up in every community. TODAY they are offering food distribution at the Sonoma County Vintners off of Airport Blvd from 9:00-12:00.

Be kind to your mind
During this crisis, our mental health is suffering. Headspace is here to give you the tools and resources to look after your mind. And now, more than ever, it’s time to support those who really need it. If you’re unemployed, you can get a free year of Headspace Plus to help you get back on your feet.

Sonoma County “Warm Line” for support: Call (707) 565-2652 for free and private support if you or someone you know is experiencing emotional stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Available 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m..

Good luck – may the force be with you.


Posted by Beth Costa