As Wine Country begins to reopen and Covid-19 shelter-in-place ordinances have loosened, you may be wondering if it’s safe to visit along the Wine Road. While the decision to venture out is entirely up to you — everyone is responsible for his/her own safety — we can assure you that businesses throughout Sonoma County are adhering to the latest health and safety protocols.
The Winery and Lodging members of Wine Road Northern Sonoma County have completed this self-certification from Sonoma County in order to receive their WinerySafe signage.This is the Industry Guidance created by Sonoma County Economic Development – review details here; https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-restaurants-bars.pdf
Wine Road Safe incorporates directives and best practices from the California Department of Health, Sonoma County Economic Development Board as well as industry-specific organizations to operational changes that include physical layout, cleaning protocols, employee training, necessary supplies and other programs. This includes communications of Business Mitigation Checklists; Best Management Practices specifically for wineries and lodgings; and a Business Self-Certification Assessment.
If and when you do choose to spend a day or weekend along the Wine Road, you will find wineries ready to help you enjoy your wine tasting experiences, although your visit will look a bit different. To help you navigate the new wine country experience, here are a few key guidelines and things to expect as wineries start to reopen.
Employees and guests will need to work together to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for all. While we can’t wait to welcome you, we have a few suggestions on how to make your trip along the Wine Road fun and safe for all involved:
THE SHORT LIST
- Wineries are now requiring reservations, so call or go online and plan your day.
- When you arrive, face makes are required as you check-in and before your tasting begins.
- Most wineries are focusing on seated tastings outdoors.
- Most wineries are limiting groups to 6 people or less.
- Wineries will sanitize customer-contact surfaces at tables before and after each tasting, including seats, tables, menus, and all other touch points.
- Wineries will use menus that are single-use, cleanable between customers (laminated), online, or posted on a whiteboard or something similar to avoid multiple contact points.
THE LONG LIST WITH DETAILS
No Symptoms Allowed
It goes without saying, but if you expect businesses to follow the necessary health and safety protocols, you are required to exercise the same precaution. If you’re showing any signs of coronavirus whatsoever, you will be turned away. Some wineries may even perform temperature checks (on employees and, in some cases, on guests) to further foster a safe environment.
Expect Reduced Interactions
Less contact with servers and tasting room hosts will become the norm moving forward. Don’t be surprised if hand-held menus are replaced with those posted on a chalkboard, waters and wine are pre-poured before your arrival, and other measures like contactless ordering from your phone are put in place to limit interactions between customers and servers. Many wineries will also have contactless payment systems available for tastings, food purchases, and bottles to-go.
Be Patient & Stay Flexible
The Covid-19 environment is new to all of us, so it’s best to be patient and flexible when it comes to venturing out and about. Businesses are operating under new processes and guidelines, some of which change daily, and many of these wineries are reopening after having been closed for several weeks.
Tastings by Appointment
While many wineries have used an appointment-only model for years, you will now have to make a reservation in advance before visiting. This will help the wineries monitor customer flow to ensure they’re operating at a reduced capacity for safety reasons.
Small Groups Only
Time to book that long-awaited party bus with your friends? Not so fast. Your group size for a tasting will now be restricted to four to six people.
Wine Tasting While Staying Distant
Crowded tasting rooms with standing-room only bars are a thing of the past. A visit to a winery will now be all about social distancing. Tastings will take place in personal tasting areas at least six feet from other groups and more tastings will take place outdoors to keep customers at a safe distance from each other. Some wineries have already started establishing private tastings cabanas for guests. You might also see someone greeting you when you arrive at a tasting room, to help manage customer flow and monitor social distancing.
Masks Required, Unless Sipping
While it’s expected for tasting room employees to wear masks, just know that visitors will also be required to wear face coverings. Masks will be mandatory in wineries, but you will be allowed to remove a mask once seated and wine service begins. That’s good news for any of you wondering how to taste wine with a face mask on! Just note that if you need to use the restroom or walk around the property, you’ll likely be required to put your mask back on..