Traditionally this is a wonderful time of year to make a visit to your favorite winery, or explore a wine trail, and this year is no exception. Grapes are ripening, the air is getting crisper, leaves are starting to change color…oh, and there’s wine! However, COVID-19 has changed the usual procedures so it’s best to prepare and know what to expect. Here are some helpful hints.
- Most wineries have adjusted their hours, so check in advance to make sure you know that your timing lines up before planning a visit. Websites are sometimes more challenging for small businesses to update so consult Facebook pages as an alternative or make a call.
- Due to the reduced 50% capacity allowed under COVID-19 restrictions, many are requesting, if not requiring, reservations in advance of a visit. Check first before assuming a drop-in will be an option, or just make a reservation to ensure your space. It helps the winemakers plan, and it confirms that you will get to have the tasting experience you desire.
- Masks are required by law when inside, and within 6-ft of others outside, when not consuming wine. Bring your mask, wear it, and be kind when reminded to do so. Not only is it required by law, but these businesses desperately need to stay open, so our cooperation in keeping their staff and fellow guests safe is not too much to ask.
- Maintain a distance of 6-ft from guests who are not in your party. Look for and abide by helpful markings on the floor in most places, to accurately determine a safe distance.
- Bring or buy hand sanitizer. These days it’s always good to keep some on-hand in a purse, pocket or car, but if you forget, the wineries are well-prepared. In many cases they have even begun producing the valuable commodity on-site so it makes for a nice place to restock, while supporting a local business.
- Don’t be surprised if asked to scan a QR code with your phone to view an online menu. You may want to make sure you know how to do this before heading out to eat or drink in this era. If your phone (or you) don’t have that ability, simply let your server know and in most cases they will point you to a chalkboard or provide a paper alternative.
- To maintain less contact between staff and guests, note that some locations are only taking credit cards during this time.
- Dress appropriately as most seating and consumption takes place outside.
- If you want to do a tour, plan in advance. Many of the tour companies have had to take small vehicles out of their fleet, or reduce capacity on larger ones. In most cases, tours are currently only for one group at a time to keep guests safer. Some wineries have restricted from which companies they will accept tours so make sure you know what route your tour will take if you have specific stops you’re hoping to make.
- Check your politics at the door. The closer we get to November, the less pleasant conversations regarding politics tend to be. Relax and enjoy this escape from the worries of the day and seemingly never-ending advertisements.
This remains a lovely time of year to get out and taste some of Michigan’s finest, and of course, bring some home with you. Think ahead about potential gifts, perhaps. If you can’t make it out to a winery to lend your support, the vast majority are taking orders online and shipping. Cheers!