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Wine Scene: How to support local wineries

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VanArnam Vineyards owner Allison VanArnam is ready to offer curbside delivery from the winery.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, spurring leaders to impose new restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

This week, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation mandating the temporary closing of restaurants, bars, entertainment and recreational facilities. The proclamation hit the wine industry hard, forcing this group of entrepreneurial artists to suspend in-person tastings and events.

An entrepreneur’s life is never a joyride; there are hurdles all the way. Adaptation is a must, particularly when a business owner is told he needs to shut down his business for an undetermined amount of time. How are local wineries adapting to this new hurdle?

Kitzke Cellars, on the far eastern edge of the Yakima Valley AVA near Richland, is taking the opportunity to lean in and support local restaurants with a Crush Corona promotion.

Customers who order takeout from a local restaurant can snap a photo of the receipt, text it to the winery, let them know what wines they want to pair with the food, and pick it up curbside. Free shipping is available as well.

In downtown Yakima, Laura Rankin Schlect, director of marketing and a partner at Gilbert Cellars, says, “We have transformed our tasting room into the Gilbert Bodega.” You can also call in or order wine online for curbside pickup. Free ground shipping on orders of three or more bottles is available for out-of-town customers.

According to Schlect, tasting room sales are down, but online sales have made up the difference. Gilbert Cellars has a great presence on social media and is nimble in sharing and updating messages quickly, which may be helping with sales.

Katherine Goodson, general manager of Kana Winery in downtown Yakima, has received a bump in sales this past week.

“Customers are picking up and stocking up,” she says. “They figure if they need to be home, they want to enjoy themselves.”

Customers also need to adapt when times are rough. Local wine fans Spencer and Leslie Hatton have created their own version of combating the business effects of social distancing. They have embarked on their own project, the Hatton Tour de Takeout. The couple is committed to purchasing takeout meals at least twice each week.

“Our hope is to help share the word on how easy it is to support our local business community,” says Leslie.

They snap a picture of the restaurant, the meal, a brief description of their Tour de Takeout experience and post it to social media.

“We were watching the news and realized how impactful these bans were going to be on our community,” she says. “We knew we needed to support these mom-and-pop businesses. We like to do takeout and decided this would be one way to help. Our next stop will include running by Stems to gather wine to pair with our takeout meals.”

Most local wineries are offering online sales, curbside pickup and free shipping. Reach out directly for details on what any specific winery is offering. If you can’t make it to the winery, purchase your wine at a local wine shop or retailer. It all helps. Restrictions will stay in effect until March 31, possibly longer.

During this time of social distancing, think about those small business owners who are forced to close down their primary form of business. Look for ways to support your local wineries. After all, we all need a little quarantine relief.

• Barbara Glover is executive director of Wine Yakima Valley, an industry group representing member wineries.

Barbara Glover is executive director of Wine Yakima Valley.

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