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What You Need to Know About Visiting California Wineries

Golden State vintners welcome guests with new tasting-room protocols in place

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With shelter-in-place restrictions easing up nationwide, California wineries in many counties across the state are now welcoming visitors back to their tasting rooms consistent with state and county safety protocols. While California vintners have adjusted their tasting-room configurations and practices to meet these guidelines, winery visitors can still fully enjoy the Golden State’s incredible wines, warm hospitality, and idyllic vineyard views.

“Wineries have been preparing for weeks for reopening based on protocols that we developed to ensure the highest standards of health and safety for guests and employees,” says Nancy Light, vice president of communications at the Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based trade association for the California wine industry.

In accordance with the Wine Institute’s guidelines and the California Department of Public Health’s industry guidance for wineries, vintners have beefed up their health and sanitation practices to include frequent hand-washing by winery staff, regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces, and daily employee wellness screenings.

Along with being asked to wear masks when arriving and departing, or coming into contact with staff and other guests, Light says, visitors may be asked to limit their movements to particular areas of the winery grounds. “Fortunately,” she notes, “most California wineries have plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy.”

Tables in seating areas are now spaced six feet apart, and tasting presentations have been reconfigured to maintain appropriate social distancing. Tour groups are limited to individuals from the same household, and winery tour guides are required to maintain at least six feet of distance from participants.

Vintners are also asking people to call ahead before visiting. “Wineries are very excited to welcome their guests back,” says Light, “but they will likely be hosting fewer people at any one time.” By making an appointment, she says, visitors can help wineries ensure a smooth and safe reopening process.

Get Updates Before You Visit

Because California’s reopening benchmarks are based on public health data, virus testing ability, and fluid other factors, regulations are subject to change. Individual counties may also implement their own rules or make modifications to state guidelines, so it’s wise to check for local updates before you travel. Here’s where to find the latest information:

California Reopening Roadmap: As California’s official COVID-19 information source, this website specifies where California stands under Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-stage reopening plan, and lists the types of businesses that are allowed to operate—from wineries to restaurants to bars.

County Updates: Currently, tasting room reopenings are only permitted in counties with a variance to advance further into Phase 2 of California’s reopening plan and are subject to county-specific rules. Check this page for county-by-county updates and sign up for regional alerts.

Regional Winery & Grower Associations: Looking for winery-specific information by region? Here’s where to find website links for vintners associations throughout California.

Tips for a Safe and Fun Visit

With a little advance planning, your California wine country visit can be safe, relaxing, and—of course—fun.

Make reservations: Meandering spontaneously from one vineyard to the next can be a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, but reservations are required during the tasting-room reopening phase to ensure proper physical distancing. It’s easy to make appointments through individual winery websites or on collective sites such as Cellar Pass.

Dress for the weather: Due to distancing requirements, many wineries are moving their tasting-room operations outdoors. To make sure you’re comfortable tasting al fresco, dress in layers or bring along weather-appropriate attire, such as a sun hat or light wrap.

Don’t forget your mask: Wineries may ask you to wear face coverings during the check-in process or when you are not seated for tasting, so be sure to bring one along.

Stick to small groups: Winery protocols recommend limiting parties to six or fewer people, so keep that in mind when planning a visit.

If you’re sick, stay home: If you have a fever or are experiencing other COVID-19 symptoms, save your visit for another time. California’s wineries will be there to welcome you when you’re feeling better!

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