As the pandemic drags on, a worst-case scenario for hospitality businesses is starting to unfold in Sonoma County. With the onset of fall, temperatures are cooling, leaves are showing off their glorious colors and rain is coming. The change in weather signals the welcomed end to fire season, but it also brings the unwelcome closure of many small businesses that can only serve customers outdoors due to state and county mandates set to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
As of early November, Sonoma County was one of only nine Bay Area counties remaining in the “purple” tier for reopening–the state’s strictest guidelines. (The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an in-depth article explaining why agricultural-centric counties have the higher COVID-19 case numbers.) This means that the restaurants, wineries and food-serving bars, which draw tourists and day-trippers to Sonoma County wine country, have only been able to host guests for outdoor dining and/or sipping since the reopening of our economy in June. Most of us want to be outdoors in summer and fall, thanks to crisp air and sunny days, so pivoting to all outdoor wine tastings was a natural and easy shift. But wine tasting alfresco when it’s cold and rainy just doesn’t sound enjoyable, especially since it will require space heaters, plastic tents or other makeshift shelters. That isn’t the kind of wine country hospitality experience we want to provide at Jordan.
That is why we’ve made the difficult decision to close all of our Tours & Tastings and Jordan Estate Rewards member private experiences as of Monday, November 9. Sure, there might be some good weather before Thanksgiving and maybe even Christmas, but if we’ve learned anything from trying to run a hospitality business during the pandemic it is this: don’t plan too far ahead. We’ve spent so much time pivoting and canceling and rescheduling due to weather already this year that we have decided to focus our energy for the remaining weeks of the year on hosting complimentary Virtual Tastings for members and helping customers with Holiday Gift Guide orders.
Even though our private guest suites fully accommodate social distancing guidelines, they are unfortunately closed as well to our loyal customers. We are using this time of decreased visitation as an opportunity to undertake a six-month renovation of all three guest suites. We expect to begin accepting new reservations for overnight stays after April 1, 2021.
While we don’t have a crystal ball, we are staying optimistic and believing that COVID-19 restrictions will be loosened in a few months, and indoor dining and wine tasting will be allowed again in Sonoma County. When that happens, we will reopen and be ready to share our newly remodeled Library and Cellar Room to guests, following safety and social distancing guidelines. We will begin accepting reservations for winter tasting experiences once the county health officer announces changes in business operating restrictions. You can also email us to inquire about private group tastings, which will be available after January 4.
In the meantime, for those who want to go wine tasting in Sonoma County, there are wineries open for tastings outdoors, and several are working on their next pivot by having custom tents built, such as Lambert Bridge. Comstock also has several covered patios for shelter once the rains begin. Indoor wine tasting is currently allowed in Napa County as well.
Let’s hope that Sonoma County catches a break and can safely reopen indoor hospitality businesses soon. Our community needs it after three years of fires and a flood that significantly disrupted business throughout the region. We’re looking forward to bluer skies ahead.