How Napa Valley Wineries are Adapting to Coronavirus: An Insider's Look

How Napa Valley Wineries are Adapting to Coronavirus: An Insider's Look

 On March 16th, San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a “shelter in place” order to the citizens of her city – a move which is calculated to have saved over 40,000 lives. This same day, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all tasting rooms in California to close.  

Having already endured 2 bouts of wildfires since 2017, Napa Valley has once again ground to a halt. 

In Napa Valley alone, the wine industry brings in a staggering $9.4 billion dollars annually, with additional billions generated by the hospitality industry catering to visitors from all over the world. But with these visitors suddenly gone – how does one stay in business? Here are three ways wineries are adapting to the circumstances and bringing in some much needed revenue.

Online Sales 

The first thing you may have noticed is an uptick in emails directly from the wineries themselves. Many of these are offering enticements such as free or significantly-reduced shipping, or some VERY substantial discounts. I really encourage everybody to buy directly from wineries if you are in a position to do so - for a couple of reasons:

First, purchases made from the winery are known in the business as Direct to Consumer (or DTC).  DTC sales allow the winery to capture the largest share of revenue from that sale.  When you purchase wines from a second party (like a wine store, Costco, or grocery store), the winery only receives about half as much money, as they sell their wines at wholesale prices to distributors who in turn sell to the retailer.  While the price you pay may be very similar, wineries ‘ bottom lines do better when you purchase from them directly
    Second, I hate standing in lines and I’m guessing you do too. Purchasing wine online allows the wine to literally be dropped off at your front door, without having to leave your home and risk exposure to disease (also you don’t have to change out of your sweatpants).

      Virtual Wine Tastings

      A second thing you may noticed is a dramatic increase in “Virtual Tasting” offerings. 

      "What is a virtual wine tasting?" 

      So glad you asked. In an effort to replicate the personal experience so many have come to expect out of a wine tasting, many wineries are offering a range of options wherein they send you wines (often at a discounted rate) ahead of time, then you have a designated guided video appointment to drink them from the comfort and safety of your own home. Options range from one-on-one sessions lasting up to 2 hours, to large group Zoom sessions tasting through library selections, and everything in between.

      If you're interesting in giving the virtual wine tasting a go, Jason Moore of Modus Operandi and Nathaniel Werner at Ridge Vineyards are a couple of our favorites. 

      Keep an eye out for a virtual tasting invitation from Claudine Wines, as we look to release a few very exciting new projects in the coming weeks!

      Curbside Pickup

      The third way many wineries have adapted to the new reality imposed by COVID-19 is by allowing for contactless curbside pickup at the winery. While only an option for those living close enough to actually drive to wineries, it’s still a great way to offer support, get out of the house (sweatpants are okay), and take in some of the beauty of wine country. I just picked up a club shipment from Ridge Vineyards – Lytton Springs today and the whole experience couldn’t have been easier: I called and made an appointment for a pick-up time, took a leisurely drive through beautiful Alexander Valley en route to Healdsburg, and was met  when I arrived by a staff member who loaded the wine into my trunk for me – seamless!

      Winery employee offers curbside pickup in Napa Valley

      In summary:

      Napa, like the rest of the world, is dealing with unprecedented circumstances - but doing so with the determination and resiliency we have come to expect. Your support of the wine industry will be critical to ensuring your favorite wineries continue to operate once this crisis has passed.

      On a personal note, many have been asking how we are faring lately. I work as an anesthesiologist for heart surgery at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, where we have continued to do urgent and emergent heart surgeries throughout the emergence of coronavirus. Per the direction of Gov. Newsom, we will soon begin to slowly expand cardiac surgical services to our patients in need of these essential procedures as it now appears we will not see the tragic surge experienced by my friends and colleagues on the East Coast (thanks to the sage leadership of Mayor Breed and Gov. Newsom). I cannot overstate how impressed I am with the degree of organization, leadership, and preparedness I have seen within the Kaiser organization – I am truly humbled and proud to be working with this incredible group of healthcare providers who constantly have the best-interests of our patients at the heart of each and every decision.  

      With warmest regards, and a toast to your health,



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