Updated: Jun 23
With California's full economic reopening on June 15, winery tasting rooms are welcoming back guests with world-class wines, gracious hospitality, and idyllic vistas of lush vines planted in tidy rows.
Whether you visit the grape-rich valleys of Santa Ynez, Paso Robles, Napa and Sonoma , or the golden vineyards in the Central Coast, or one of other state’s many other acclaimed wine regions, you'll find a warm reception and some new features to elevate your wine-tasting experience.
Since June 15, California wineries are no longer required to limit the number of people in their tasting rooms, and vaccinated people don't need to wear masks indoors.
"With the state's reopening and the lifting of restrictions, California wineries can be open as normal, and social distancing is not required," says Jenny Dudikoff, spokesperson for the Wine Institute, a California wine industry advocacy group.
Dudikoff says the state's official reopening allows wineries to shift their tastings to indoor spaces and reopen their shoulder-to-shoulder tasting bars—but some wineries will continue with outdoor tastings, at least during the warm summer and fall months. "Given the adaptive spirit of California’s wineries the past year, many have adjusted to expand tastings to their outdoor spaces," she says. "We expect many California wineries to continue outdoor wine tastings."
A number of our 100+ Wine Tasting Club Card participating wineries got rid of their tasting bars and put in a lot more space for seated tastings. They also built really cool structures and spaces, whether they're under the oak trees, on the crush pad, or out in the vineyard. They added more tables, shade structures, and umbrellas. Wineries will be still going to be using their outdoor spaces, but they found out that visitors have really enjoyed being outside. So, outdoor wine tasting has also become more of the norm. Club members have really enjoyed tasting wines in the vineyards where the grapes are grown.
Another lesson the pandemic taught the wine industry was that requiring tasting reservations created a better experience for everyone.
For so long, the state's guidelines were that people had to have reservations. Instead of standing at the bar, guests would sit at a table, and servers would bring out the wines and talk about them, wineries learned that people really liked having a one-on-one experience with their server. They got more attention, they learned more about the wines, and they had a more memorable experience. It’s time to go wine tasting.
By requiring reservations, wineries were able to predict how many guests would walk through their doors each day, and they were able to create customized experiences, such as setting up seating arrangements according to guest requests. You will feel so much more catered to when you're sitting at a table with your friends or family and someone is pouring wines for you. Many of our participating wineries our offering this feature.
Wineries don't want to turn anybody away, so the new phrase is 'walk-in-friendly.'
Some wineries have created an overflow area for those who don't have reservations. If you just drop by, as a Wine Tasting Club Card member you can get 50% off your tasting flight, buy a bottle of wine and enjoy the scenery. There seems to be an overall excitement and a sense of relief. Once again, wine lovers were out finding new wineries, tasting wines and having a great time." Cheers to California re-opening, Cheers to you!
For information on specific California wine regions, check out the Regional Winery & Grower Associations.