Wineries Unsure Where They Stand As Restaurants Prepare To Reopen

CA winemakers unsure where they stand as restaurants prepare to reopen
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By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to announce guidelines Tuesday for restaurants to reopen for dine-in service.

But it is not just chefs and servers who are looking for guidance. 

“It’s still a bit of a gray area,” says Steve Ziganti, co-owner of the 3 Steves Winery in the Livermore Valley. “We’re similar to restaurants in that people are going to be likely sitting at a table, tasting their wines and have a server that takes care of them so there’s a lot of similarities there.”

California winemakers say they are unsure of where they fall, with both retail and table service. The Napa Valley Vintners, a trade group which represents about 500 wineries, is recommending appointment-only tastings, face coverings and sanitation procedures for guests and workers and tables spaced 10 feet apart.

“We’re going to disinfect tables in between groups…. we’re going to spread everybody out when we can open and keep people as safe as we can,” says Ziganti. “But we don’t want to take anything for granted… we’re going to wait for guidance not only from the wine industry but the CDC and Dr. Fauci.”

Wine production is categorized as agriculture so that side of the wine industry has continued, but many wineries have pared down sales to just delivery and pick-up orders. 

The 3 Steves Winery is open for drive-by pick-up to club members, but Ziganti’s partner Steve Burman worries about expanding beyond that without a reliable vaccine. 

“Our ethics would tell us, ‘let’s not do it’. But our wallets would tell us, ‘well if all of the neighbors have opened, we can’t not open.’ Not just that we might lose market share but then the entire valley might suffer.” 

As a small Livermore winery, he and his neighbors do not experience the same rush of visitors as Napa and Sonoma, so Burman says it is more important for the region to work together. “It just creates a little bit of a conflict that I’m personally concerned about.”