From virtual tastings to free delivery, California wineries get creative

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Municipal Winemakers in Santa Barbara is offering free shipping, free local delivery, and 20% off all wine as their tasting room sits empty. Photo courtesy of Muni Wine.

For an industry built around imbibement, celebrations and tourism, California’s winemakers have had a rough few years. 

First, devastating wildfires ripped through grape-growing regions like Napa and Sonoma. Now coronavirus has shut down many of the restaurants, tasting rooms, and hotels that winemakers rely on for tourism and revenue.

“I deal with a lot of the smaller producers, and their business is pretty much direct-to-consumer, and that means going through your tasting room,” says Matt Kettmann, editor at Wine Enthusiast and the Santa Barbara Independent. “So a lot of those people have taken quite a big hit.”

The good news is that loyal customers are stepping up, and producers are coming up with new models of showcasing and selling their wine, from free delivery and curbside pickup to virtual vineyard tours and tastings.

“Another trend I see emerging is wineries reaching out to their wine clubs and offering special-priced wines to be part of the next virtual tasting,” says Kettmann. “So when you sit down and watch this tasting online, you're not just watching someone describe a wine that you wish you could have. You're actually drinking the wine as they're describing it, which is going to be a much more educational and interactive experience.”

Want to help your local vintner? Kettmann’s advice is simple: Buy wine straight from the source.

“Go to these wineries’ web sites,” he says. “Support the people you've always supported. It's [also] a great time to expand your palate, to buy wine from wineries you've always heard about, but never been able to get your hands on or had the attention span for. Now is the time to do that. You know, a lot of people are sitting at home with not a lot to do. And what better way to spend that than drinking some interesting wine and learning more about these wineries?”

A tough task, but someone’s gotta do it.




Kathryn Barnes