Napa wineries and wine bars have been allowed to reopen for visitors after several weeks of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, said that wineries, bars and hotels were among a range of businesses that could reopen across the state, if local county officials were happy for them to do so.
While strict safety guidelines will mean a new-look tasting experience, the move was quickly embraced by the wine sector, which has suffered from the loss of tasting room revenue and restaurant sales.
‘Our wineries are excited to reopen and welcome guests,’ said Bobby Koch, president of the California Wine Institute.
Stony Hill Vineyard, near to in St-Helena in Napa Valley, said on Twitter, ‘We’re thrilled to open our doors again beginning Tuesday, June 9. Book an appointment online or give us a call.
‘We’ll be offering the same warm hospitality as before, with some new health and safety precautions. We can’t wait to have you back.’
Nearby Corison Winery also said its tasting room was back open. ‘Today (9 June) is our first day open for visitors and it feels great,’ co-owner and winemaker Cathy Corison told Decanter.com. ‘Wine is for sharing.’
She added, ‘We had months to get used to the idea of masks and distancing and to work out protocols to keep everyone safe. Luckily, we have lots of outdoor space, which is making it fairly easy to adapt. We are offering the same three experiences.’
Tom Gamble, owner of Gamble Family Vineyards, said that meeting wine lovers and customers is what it’s all about. ‘These human interactions are our nourishment and what drew us to farming grapes and producing wine in the first place,’ he said.
‘We have always functioned “by appointment only” for our members, and are thrilled to welcome them back to our winery. Our staff has been trained on all of the necessary precautions to ensure experiences that are both safe and memorable.’
Some wineries opened a few days earlier. Castello di Amorosa winery said it reopened on 6 June, but that advance appointments were required and guest groups were limited to six people.
Detailed health and safety guidelines issued by California’s health department include face masks for tasting room staff, prioritising outdoor seating, maintaining a six-foot distance between groups, disposable menus, health screenings on arrival and frequent disinfection of surfaces.
The Wine Institute said it had released new health and safety protocols for tasting rooms a month ago, to allow wineries to plan ahead.
It added, ‘Guests are advised to call wineries in advance to plan and make reservations for visits.’
A spokesperson for Napa Valley Vintners previously told Decanter.com that Napa County officials have allowed wineries to temporarily expand outdoor tasting space.
Some wineries in neighbouring Sonoma County had already reopened, following guidance that they could do so if serving sit-down meals outdoors.
As of 7 June, California had reported 131,319 cases of Covid-19, and 4,653 deaths.
Updated at 9:30am UK time on 10 June 2020, to include extra comments from Cathy Corison and Tom Gamble.