After nearly three months of being closed to the public, winery tasting rooms were allowed to begin reopening June 12, provided certain criteria were met. Those criteria were outlined in a 14-page document containing guidelines and requirements from the California Department of Public Health (https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-restaurants-bars.pdf).
Having dealt with daily uncertainty and loss of revenue during the COVID-19 shutdown, wineries were understandably champing at the bit to reopen. With help from their representative winery associations, vintners and tasting room managers reimagined their business model to ensure a safe customer experience.
I’d become a bit of a virtual tasting junkie over the last three months. I’ll admit, although I am still cautious about my outings, I was giddy at the prospect of a day of wine tasting in Amador County, among the beauty of the vineyards and in the company of other wine lovers.
Friday afternoon, I started my quest for Saturday appointments. I was successful in securing two afternoon reservations for myself and my husband at wineries in Plymouth. As soon as Saturday morning rolled around, we dressed for a public outing, had a quick brunch of pancakes and fried chicken and a Spanish frittata at Iron Horse Tavern in Folsom. With bellies full, we continued our journey to Amador County.
Our first stop was Bella Grace Vineyards. This winery has two tasting locations, and we opted to taste at the caves off of Upton Road. We were greeted by a man with cheerful eyes—and a mask. He checked our reservation, let us know that we’d be expected to wear our masks if we wanted to wander around, but we could sit at our table to taste sans mask. With that, he led us to our private table which backed up to the caves and overlooked picturesque rolling hills covered in vineyards. Soon, we had wine in our glasses and smiles on our faces.
Our second stop: Wilderotter Vineyard. When we pulled into the parking lot, it became clear that, like me, many people were anxious to visit wine country again. After a little tricky maneuvering, we traded places with someone as they exited. We strolled up to the tasting room, and checked in. We did have a small wait while the wine tasting associate sanitized our table, but we used our time to peruse the sales floor. We found sparkly t-shirts, snarky t-shirts, wine glasses, olive oils and snacks. Our attendant took us to our seat on the front patio, and explained the details of our tasting. We were provided with a lovely cheese plate that included delectable tiny bites including bread, olive oil, quince paste, salami, and four specially curated cheeses. Add that to a glass filled with Wilderotter’s Blanc de Noir, and we were in heaven.
As a person who lacks the desire to plan and routinely makes decisions on a whim, I was a little stressed out knowing that I’d now have to make reservations for wine tasting. However, now I wish I’d been more proactive in the past and scheduled more appointments, because our visits were calm and quiet, and we didn’t have to elbow our way to the bar in the hopes that we’d catch the eye of the person pouring the wine for our next taste. The service at each winery was personal and exceptionally executed and, because we didn’t spend time searching for that next taste, we could sit together and mindfully breathe in the beauty of Amador County.
Bella Grace Vineyards https://www.bellagracevineyards.com/
Wilderotter Vineyards https://wilderottervineyard.com/
Amador Vintners https://amadorwine.com/