Virginia wineries have taken a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. With government rulings that they can no longer serve customers in their wineries for the time being, they have had to get creative. So if you love Virginia wine, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy the experience—even from your own home.
I talked with Nancy Bauer, author of the Virginia Wine Travel Journal and founder of the app and website Virginia Wine in my Pocket, and she offered up a number of ways that area wineries are still engaging wine lovers and how you can get involved.
Join a Virtual Tasting
Lots of area wineries are now offering “virtual tastings.” They announce in advance what wines they will be tasting on a particular date, and bundle up the bottles in a specially-priced package for either delivery or pickup for those who sign up. Then, you simply join the wine tasting virtually via a Zoom link or Facebook Live.
For example, Breaux Vineyards is posting virtual tastings dates on their Events or Facebook pages, along with instructions on how to join in. Its tastings are led by Wine Educator/Sommelier Jim Koennicke in a fun an entertaining way to help wine lovers get to know the wines from the comfort of their own homes.
Purchase Virginia Wines
Most Virginia wineries are offering special pricing on their wines, either by the bottle or the case—some as low as 50% off the normal price, or more. Others are offering free shipping or personal home delivery for a minimum purchase.
Howard O’Brien, of Chateau O’Brien, loads up his truck with cases of wine daily to deliver to his customer’s front doors. “He goes up to the door, drops the case of wine, backs up 10 feet, and chats when his customers come to the door. Then he gets in his truck and goes to the next delivery,” Bauer said. “He is gung ho about getting his wine out.”
“The wineries had a great year in 2019, with quality that was some of the best in a decade or more, and plenty of quantity, so there is lots of wine available,” Bauer added.
Join a Wine Club
Some wineries are offering deals if you join their wine club. The Winery at Bull Run is promoting immediate discounts on its wines, and for a limited time, participants can sign up with no registration fees ($30-$100 value). With the membership, members will receive access to its exclusive Barrel House and General’s Deck, discounts on event tickets, free tastings, reserved picnic tables, and more.
Join a Facebook Winery Support Group
Nancy Bauer recently received the Atlantic Seaboard Wineries Association’s Wine Media Person of the Year Award for her support of the wine industry. She has been a staunch supporter and is now doing her bit to help during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Join her Facebook Group called Support Virginia Wineries During COVID. It’s a place to share information about what wineries are offering, learn about the latest government regulations, and commune with other wine lovers.
One lively discussion asked participants what changes they would like to see when Virginia Wine Country reopens. Their suggestions included longer hours, delivery options, tasting appointments, and satellite tasting stations either inside or outside to avoid crowds at the bar.
Order a Wine Lovers T-Shirt
One local entrepreneur is hoping to lighten the mood around the social distancing with fun, wine-related t-shirts featuring the saying “I’m social distancing. Stay 6 feet away from my bottle of wine!” Order yours through these links at ZebraMountain.com: https://bit.ly/2XKCblj or https://bit.ly/3bkoyNB.
What you cannot do at Virginia wineries at this time is gather inside, get live tastings, or even hang out on the grounds. Some wineries are allowing guests to come inside to pick up their pre-ordered wine packages, but most are requiring no-touch curbside pickup. Don’t just show up and expect to be served; check each winery for operating hours and guidelines.
When restrictions are lifted and wineries open up again, we are bound to see changes in the way they operate. They may need to space picnic tables out around the grounds, limit inside tastings, control crowd sizes, or lobby for changes in operations laws.
“Spreading out seating areas, lots of outdoor seating, and controlling crowd size will be the norm,” predicts Kenny White of Chateau MerrillAnne. “Flights may replace tastings for a while, and [we’ll require] diligent cleaning by staff or all hotspots (doorknobs, tables, counters, etc.). Hopefully, we will be allowed to continue deliveries and curbside pickup as this will keep the inside headcount down. We have to remember that this isn’t over when we reopen, we have to keep people as safe as possible.”
Even though we may see changes throughout the Commonwealth, what won’t change is the commitment our winery owners and winemakers have to creating the highest-quality wines and wine experiences. How can you do your part in helping Virginia’s wine industry? Drink more wine!
Get the Virginia Wine Travel Journal Free for a Limited Time
To help people further engage with Virginia wineries, Bauer is offering a free eBook version of her book, the Virginia Wine Travel Journal through May 15th, 2020. It is available through the link https://virginia-wine-in-my-pocket.myshopify.com/, using promo code “vawinetogether.” The app is available free through Google Play or iTunes.