Pandemic Effects – California and Oregon

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Jose, Javier, Julio from Eyrie Vineyards

Jose, Javier, and Julio, long-term employees at Eyrie Vineyards in Willamette Valley

How West Coast wine producers are coping with coronavirus-induced shutdown. Rather admirably in some cases.

California and Oregon have both instituted statewide stay-at-home measures, though such recommendations are far less strict than what has been seen in much of Asia, Europe or New Zealand. Residents are urged to stay at home and only essential businesses are allowed to remain open.

As such closures began, bars and winery tasting rooms, then restaurants (allowing for take-out and some delivery) were among the first businesses to close. Agriculture (including wineries as well as vineyards) has been deemed essential business, meaning wines in barrel and vines getting ready for bud burst and bloom can still be tended. Restrictions on safe social distancing and cleanliness procedures have to be maintained while working.

In Oregon, businesses still operating are required to assign a Social Distance Officer who institutes safe distance procedures or face threat of closure. At The Carlton Winemakers Studio, a co-operative winery in Willamette Valley, for example, a strict schedule has been created dictating when winemakers or their team members are allowed to use the winery. This allows all members of the winery knowledge of who will be there while also restricting the number of people at any particular time.

While wineries and vineyards are still operating, without the most important portion of the US-based wine sales engine – restaurants and tasting rooms – operating, how wineries can afford to maintain operations is another question. Restaurants around the country have closed, with a huge majority of employees from those restaurants laid off. With restaurants largely closed, restaurant wine sales have plummeted, leaving wineries used to selling on-premise with much-reduced income. This has led to ….

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