On Friday, May 15, Northern California saw its first winery reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, all wineries were directed to close on March 17. During this shutdown, wineries were only permitted to ship and deliver wine or offer curbside and pick-up ordering.
While many counties in California still remained in Phase I of the shutdown, Placer County petitioned the governor’s office and was one of 23 counties granted permission to move into Phase II. Phase II guidelines state that “ . . . wineries should remain closed until those establishments are allowed to resume modified or full operation unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.”
Eager to take advantage of their position as a Placer County winery with a Tuscan-inspired bistro, Wise Villa Winery, in Lincoln, made an announcement on social media on May 14 that they would be taking reservations the next day.
After sheltering in place for nearly two months, customers jumped at the opportunity to re-introduce a bit of normalcy and familiarity into their lives and began calling immediately for reservations. I was one of those customers. What I quickly discovered is that my experience at Wise Villa would look a little different than it had in the past. The person answering the phone set clear expectations so I would not be disappointed. First of all, I was advised that reservations are required to limit the number of patrons and to preserve the ability of staff and guests to maintain safe social distances. To further adhere to the guidelines set forth by Cal OSHA and the governor’s office, Wise Villa also made these adjustments:
- Menus are disposable and can be taken home at the end of the experience.
- Wine tasting is offered only when accompanied by the purchase of an entree.
- All winery employees are wearing gloves and face masks.
- Seating capacity inside the tasting room and on the patio has been reduced. However, more seating has been added out on the terraced areas that overlook the vineyards.
- Complete flights of wine are served all at once, rather than one wine at a time. The wines are described on a placemat, which customers can keep, rather than by staff.
While the structure and restrictions were clearly noticeable, my experience was still quite lovely—and a welcomed escape from staying at home. I savored my seasonal tomato and asparagus risotto while sipping on a flight of five wines. The seating was far enough apart so that I felt like we had our own private little corner of the winery to enjoy. The pace was slow and relaxed, and I felt calm, peaceful and cared for. As before, the staff was welcoming and friendly, and everyone seemed more than willing to serve. They just did so at a safe distance.
To visit Wise Villa Winery in Lincoln, you can make a reservation here https://www.wisevillawinery.com/bistro/reservation/ or call (916) 543-0323.