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How US wineries are staying connected with customers

Dry wines, sweet charity

“Social media has received its share of criticism,” says Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines in Sonoma County, “but I believe it provides our greatest opportunity to combat the feelings of isolation in these times.” One of many wineries offering its fans virtual events, Inman Family is scheduling online “Meet the Maker” happy hour tastings via Facebook Video Chat for fans who purchase one of the winery’s three-packs online. As a means to support at-risk elderly Americans, Inman is donating 5% of proceeds to Meals on Wheels home deliveries.

Bring out the rock stars!

Blackbird Vineyards winemaker Aaron Pott

Napa Valley’s Blackbird Vineyards is making an offer that sounds hard to refuse. Like many California wineries, it’s foregoing shipping costs during the tasting room shutdown, and is also opening up its cellar of hard-to-find library wines and having rock star winemaker Aaron Pott curate its tastings. “A global pandemic is a pretty big event, and big events call for special wines,” Blackbird said, and wants its customers “to see the glass half full.”

Virtual tasting, virtual theatre

Kendall-Jackson winemaker, Randy Ullom

 Kendall-Jackson fans who have been stocking up on packaged foods and toilet paper for the duration might want to order popcorn as well when the winery rolls out its “At Home with Kendall-Jackson” series of short-format virtual wine tasting videos the week of 23 March. Under the tutelage of winemaker Randy Ullom, KJ is thinking large and long-term with plans to expand its portfolio to include virtual cooking classes, how to re-stock wine cellars after depletion, virtual yoga, virtual concerts and virtual wine and painting,

Social distanced bespoke tasting

Tasting rooms have their upper-crust events, and so do online tastings. Parallel Wines is offering by reservation only bespoke tastings of its Napa Valley and Sonoma wines. The events will be led by general manager Adrienne Capps, who, Parallel boasts, “adds her indefatigable style and passion for food and wine to this experience. She brings the beautiful Napa Valley tasting room into your home, where a group of 8 guests or less can enjoy a guided tasting.” Black tie is optional. 

Cellar door take out

Some of American’s East Coast wineries are offering an alternative to shipping, what Pennsylvania cult winery Va La Vineyards calls “barn door takeout.” Owner winemaker Anthony Vietri has this tongue-in-check explanation, “As per the governor’s emergency directive, the little vineyard will temporarily be closed to the general public. But do not fear, you still have time to avoid being shut-in with your crazy family without your Va La wines!” Orders will be processed by text and phone and then be ready for curbside pickup.

Prepping for return to normal

Lodi’s Oak Farm Vineyards figures that “this too will pass.” While offering online service to customers, it’s also getting ready for when the pandemic is over and fans flock back to its tasting room. In the interim, Oak Farm is making improvements to its estate while keeping staff gainfully employed “helping co-owner Heather Panella replant the landscaping around the tasting room for spring, making small repairs to various parts of the estate and doing general tasks like disassembling old furniture that will be donated to charity.”

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