Updated: Apr 24
Wineries, cideries, and breweries, like other nonessential businesses, have had to temporarily close their tasting rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them have responded to COVID-19 by offering free delivery, discounts, and “virtual” programming.
Here are four innovative ways that wineries -- and one cidery -- responded to COVID-19 that I particularly liked and wanted to highlight.
Abingdon Vineyards: Quarantine Kits
Abingdon Vineyards, in Southwest Virginia, responded to COVID-19 by offering a variety of “quarantine kits” to help people hunker down during the pandemic.
“We had heard winery tasting rooms in California were being closed, so we knew we had to transition into shipping. We were astounded that stores were running out of toilet paper and we happened to have a huge box of pre-wrapped rolls. We thought it would be funny if we included a roll of toilet paper with our wine orders! And of course, people need snacks if they are going to stay at home,” said Elizabeth Gardner, the winery’s owner.
While the quarantine kits have been particularly popular, Abington Vineyards also offers other gift boxes, and is working with local businesses to create new ones. All of the kits are new; the winery rarely shipped wine before.
“Support your favorite wineries! Everyone is struggling and depending on mail order,” she said.
La Crema: “Pupdates”
Many wineries responded to COVID-19 by offering virtual wine tastings, exercise sessions, and cooking shows. La Crema, in California’s Sonoma County, has taken these steps.
What sets this winery apart is its whimsical decision to engage in personal outreach with “pupdate” emails. Employees sent out emails with photos of their “paw-sonal” assistants helping them while they work at home and asking customers to share photos of their pets, recipes, and interesting shelter-in-place wine pairings they’ve discovered.
“We thought, as a team, if we could share a bit of happiness with our La Crema members during all this, why not share pictures of our animals? They sure do put a smile on our faces and are getting us through this one day at a time,” explained wine specialist Hannah Flood, whose email featured her dogs Josie and Brewer.
She reports that the reactions have been wonderful. “I [also] catch myself smiling at my screen more than normal these days because of it,” she said.
Desert Rose Ranch and Winery: “Stay Home” Blind Tasting Kits
Some wineries responded to COVID-19 by providing options for customers to create their own wine tasting experiences from the comfort of their couch.
Desert Rose Ranch and Winery, in Virginia’s Fauquier County, created blind tasting kits, complete with wrapped and numbered bottles, information on how to evaluate wine, helpful hints, and other information.
“We’ve done blind tastings at the winery, so we already had the worksheets. The tasting is not overwhelming for a newbie and still fun for an aficionado,” said manager Allison Crandell.
The kits have proven popular; the winery is now shipping the packages around the country.
“Every winery is trying to come up with something different and connect with their wine lovers. [This] gives people something to do. It’s a fun way to spend time. People are making special dinners to accompany the blind tasting and sending us photos of them,” she said.
Crandell also points out that wine can help customers build a positive atmosphere and environment in their homes.
“Wine is all about the experience. Now that we’re in crisis, remember that wine can create an experience in the house,” she said.
Blue Bee Cider: Cider Cocktails
Blue Bee Cider, an urban cidery in Richmond, Virginia is offering virtual tastings during its “firecider chats.”
In a fun twist, the cidery has responded to COVID-19 by also explaining how to use its cider to make cocktails.
“We’re just trying to get other ways to get cider to people,” said Brian Ahnmark, Blue Bee’s “cider evangelist,” who reports that the response has been great.
The cidery is also offering sampler packs, new merchandise, and library items -- ciders that were cellared for a while. Some of Blue Bee's cider can age for several years, according to Ahnmark.
“That’s what being a small business is all about. You need to pivot and keep the business alive,” he said.
We hope you find these creative ways wineries responded to COVID-19 helpful. Please feel free to share other innovative strategies that wineries and other beverage retailers are using to keep afloat during this crisis.
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