THE RULES FOR tasting at a winery had been as soon as fairly easy. Don’t put on fragrance. Don’t overlook to spit. And don’t ask tasting room employees to pour you “the good things.” On this time of Covid-19, the edicts are equally simple, however there are extra to contemplate. Put on a masks. Wash your arms. Use hand sanitizer. Maintain 6 ft away from strangers. And signal the “contact tracing” sheet simply in case somebody within the tasting room contracts the virus.
These are only a few of the principles many wineries have adopted since reopening their tasting rooms previously weeks and months. However will they make wine tasters really feel secure? I made a decision to go to the North Fork of Lengthy Island, the wine area nearest my residence, to search out out.
To this point nobody has refused to put on a masks. Most individuals merely appear completely satisfied to be doing one thing regular once more.
My first cease was Lenz Vineyard in Peconic, the place I met my pal Alison, who lives close by. We had been greeted on the entrance to the vineyard’s backyard by wine educator Kristin Regina, who confirmed us to a desk—after we’d doused our arms in sanitizer that smelled like insecticide. “So long as you keep at your desk you don’t must put your masks on,” mentioned Ms. Regina. We had been there every week and a half after wineries on the North Fork had been permitted to welcome wine tasters outdoor. (A couple of days after our go to they had been allowed to let a restricted variety of tasters inside their tasting rooms.)
Ms. Regina, masked and gloved like the entire tasting room employees, informed us that reservations are usually required, however since we’d stopped by on a weekday they usually weren’t busy, she was capable of seat us.
“That lady isn’t sporting a masks,” Alison mentioned, stating a patron strolling into the backyard by way of the “Exit” signal. Ms. Regina ran over to talk with the girl, who held the masks to her face however didn’t fairly put it on. Watching others flout the principles (clearly posted) irritated each Alison and me. We watched one other unmasked taster, a middle-aged man, stroll by with a masked companion. The overall supervisor, Jerol Bailey, chased him down.
“How do they sanitize wooden?” Alison requested, wanting down at our wood desk. Then she added, “Every part is nearly acceptable danger,” as if to dismiss the thought. (The reply from Lenz: With antibacterial cleaning soap and scorching water between friends.) Ms. Regina returned with glasses for our tasting of white wines. I requested a spit bucket. That wasn’t attainable, she replied. How a couple of plastic cup? The reply was nonetheless no. It’s in opposition to the principles, she mentioned.
The no-spitting rule is a kind of prompt within the report “Finest Administration Practices for Craft Beverage Tastings Through the Covid-19 Pandemic,” produced by Cornell College’s School of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Kareem Massoud, winemaker at Paumanok Vineyards, informed me that he, too, abides by this rule. Once I stopped by his vineyard in Aquebogue, Mr. Massoud was checking his tasting room reservations for the week. Like many producers, he has switched from an open tasting room coverage to a reservations-only mannequin. Different North Fork wineries had been utilizing the Tock on-line reservation system so he determined to enroll as effectively.
Wineries that use Tock pay both $199 a month plus 2% of Tock-generated gross sales or a flat $699 month-to-month charge. It’s enabled Mr. Massoud to tempo tasting appointments, management the variety of tasters within the tasting room and archive their profiles. That final characteristic obviates the necessity for a contact-tracing sign-in sheet, he famous. Via the system he collects a nonrefundable $28-per-person deposit for every member of a tasting get together (as much as six) with $26 utilized to the price of the tasting.
Some have balked on the deposit, Mr. Massoud mentioned, however most appear to know its necessity, following months of misplaced income for wineries. At Paumanok we sat greater than 6 ft aside at a big picnic desk bolted to the deck—to forestall shoppers from transferring the tables as they did within the pre-pandemic previous. (Visitors now have their temperature taken upon arrival, as effectively.)
It was late morning and there have been no different friends scheduled till that afternoon, so I used to be capable of style some wines from the 2019 classic—an excellent yr on Lengthy Island, mentioned Mr. Massoud. Certainly, the zippy 2019 Paumanok Sauvignon Blanc ($25) and minerally 2019 Paumanok Chenin Blanc ($29) had been two of the very best vintages of these wines that I’ve had lately.
At Bedell Cellars, in Cutchogue, longtime winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich additionally famous the top quality of the 2019 classic. I used to be significantly impressed by the marginally tropical 2019 Bedell Cellars Albariño ($40) and the juicy 2019 Bedell Cellars Rosé ($15), predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In response to Bedell Cellars tasting room supervisor Elizabeth Hudson, the Bedell tasting backyard and deck are open on a “first-come, first-served foundation”—until numbers develop too giant or issues get out of hand. “I’d like to begin with an open thoughts,” she mentioned. The Bedell grounds are pretty spacious and their picnic tables will be unfold safely aside.
Guests at Bedell don’t have to undergo a temperature test, however they’re urged to signal a contact-tracing sheet. To this point nobody has refused, mentioned Ms. Hudson. Most individuals merely appear completely satisfied to be “doing one thing regular once more.” Nobody has refused to put on a masks, although Ms. Hudson lamented that hers retains friends from seeing her smile. “I’m exaggerating my physique actions,” she mentioned, waving her arms.
Though masks and sanitizer are establishment at wineries all around the nation, protocols and laws differ extensively from one wine area to the following. And the principles preserve altering. In California, some wineries had been allowed to open their tasting rooms in late Could. The foundations modified once more in early June, and as of this writing some tasting rooms in California are solely open outdoor, and a few in sure counties have been closed. Within the open tasting rooms there are spacing necessities and restrictions on variety of tasters. In Texas, an govt order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 26 ordered tasting rooms to shut to cut back that state’s rising fee of an infection.
In Washington, some wineries have simply begun to welcome guests. On the state’s largest, Chateau Ste. Michelle, in Woodinville, guests had been allowed to style within the gardens beginning the third week of June. Chief advertising officer Francis Perrin plans to “leverage” the vineyard’s 105 acres. “We wish to implement picnic baskets with C.S.M. blankets by July. Individuals will be capable to lease cabanas,” he mentioned. “We’ve been very artistic and capable of pivot.”
Little doubt the principles and laws will proceed to shift. I hope, for the sake of the wineries, their staff and my fellow tasting room friends—masked and socially distanced—we are able to all pivot as effectively.