* Note: Due to continually changing safety rules and regulations regarding COVID-19, some information might be fluid. Please click through to provided links to get the latest information from these spots we’ve profiled here—and start wine-ing.
California wines are flowing. Vintners and oenophiles throughout the state are beginning to celebrate the harvest season during September’s annual California Wine Month. It’s time for us all to start wine-ing.
Maneuvering COVID protocols
The grapes are plump and juicy, ready for picking. Wineries from Temecula to Sonoma gear up for their busiest season, clearly with new rules and protocols. There was a mad dash during the summer months to reopen, as per Governor Newsom’s staged plan. This put California’s wine industry, which relies tremendously on in-person experiences, back in business following the early Covid shutdowns. Although new challenges abound, it seems nothing can keep Californians away from their acclaimed wines.
Boasting an ocean-adjacent view, Malibu’s Rosenthal Wine Bar & Patio, is an inviting outdoor space. Unfortunately due to the revised L.A. County mandate, Rosenthal’s outdoor tasting area is currently closed. Please check the website Rosenthalestatewines.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about when we can enjoy their delicious selection of vino and food again—hopefully soon.
Other L.A. favorites are open and doing well. Some notable names include The Stonehaus wine bar and tasting room in Westlake Village, Cornell Winery & Tasting Room on Mulholland Highway and Esters Wine Shop & Bar in Santa Monica. All have the luxury of outdoor space. And, according to a supervisor at The Stonehaus, people are anxious to get outside and weekends have been super busy. Tim Skogstrom, owner of Cornell Winery, has transitioned to bottle sales only. He also calls the reorganized outdoor space a “wine picnic.” He has gone a step beyond moving tables around. He has “built nooks and spaces all over the place” to accommodate his weekend customers.
Margerum Wine Company Tasting Room at the Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is also alive with visitors. Thanks to its expanded outdoor patio space, curbside delivery and free local shipping. Following strict safety protocols, winemaker Marni Margerum says the tasting room has been popular all summer with locals and day-trippers. Visitors enjoy the company’s signature Margerum brand as well as its “couture” Barden label. She also notes the outdoor patio, which is now expanded onto the sidewalk, has proven to be a business lifesaver. An increase in online orders, as well as both Margerum Riviera Rosé and Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc packaged in cans for easy outdoor enjoyment, have been big winners from the start of the shelter in place. “September is the most beautiful month in Santa Barbara and a very busy time for our wineries,” adds Margerum, who will continue to grab people’s attention through an increased marketing and social media presence.
As summer transitions to fall harvest season, wine destinations expect customers to hold fast to their plans for visiting. They do warn that the new norm will look a little different. Christopher Taranto is Communications Director for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. He believes that protocols–social distancing, reservations, masks, smaller groups–will be in place a while longer. Wine club memberships have been on the rise. And virtual tastings hosted by winemakers became a popular alternative while face-to-face visits were on hold. Still wine enthusiasts and oenophiles are more than ready to get back on the California wine trail. “On the plus side,” adds Taranto regarding expanded precautions and visitors back in town, “Customers will get a more attentive, one-on-one experience.”
Phil Gurin is a Calabasas resident and hobbyist winemaker. He says if it’s safe to do so, he will definitely be up in Napa this fall making decisions about his 2020 vintage. Gurin has been making his own wine under the Left Coast Wines label for eight years. The label is ready to launch commercially next year. Following the mantra “A bottle a day keeps the bad mood away” has kept his spirits up during lockdown. Gurin also plans to attend fall harvest activities that are still scheduled.
Coming this fall?
We will see about the lineup of these popular events which draw thousands to California’s wine cities during September and October. But the hope is that the festivals will go on. Regarding the October Harvest Wine Weekend in Paso Robles, Taranto says that he is fairly confident of events taking place. He’s just not sure exactly what they will look like yet.
Californians love their wine. Hopefully requirements for a mask and a reservation won’t cause them to keep their distance from tasting their favorite vintage this fall.