Most of us have been staying safe at home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are feeling more than a little restless, but want to keep your risk of infection and that of others to the minimum, there is an outdoor getaway, with fresh air and room for social distancing just 2 hours north of Los Angeles. The wineries of Santa Barbara county have created a safe-as-possible COVID-19 reopening experience.
The Santa Barbara wine region is open and pouring wine. Santa Barbara county wineries and tasting rooms are open for wine tastings, wine by the glass and wine bottle sales, but only if they are consumed in the winery’s outdoor seating areas or purchased to be consumed off premises.
No inside seating in tasting rooms or restaurants is allowed and all visitors must wear masks at all times unless seated at their socially distanced table.
Santa Barbara County is home to 6 unique AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas), over 275 working wineries and with over 70 different grape varieties grown.
Visit your favorite Santa Barbara County tasting rooms and wineries as they have been hard at work to safeguard you and your friends and are adhering to the latest health and safety protocols for successful and enjoyable reopenings.
out Here are 11 guidelines and expectations to help you make the most of your next trip to wine country!
1. Outdoor Seating
Wineries are only allowed to seat you outside for wine tasting. Many tasting rooms that did not have patios on site in the past, have set up make-shift areas for you to sip their Syrah. Keep an open mind. Many of these sitting areas are temporary often spilling into sidewalks, streets and parking lots. If the area is not already covered, most winery tasting facilities are providing shade with umbrellas and and other erected coverings. Regardless, it is a good idea to bring along a hat and sunscreen, and as it gets cooler, a jacket, in case they are needed.
2. Make Reservations in Advance
Since all tastings have moved outdoors and tables and people must be social distanced, seating is much more limited at most tasting rooms and wineries. Make reservations in advance to avoid frustraition, disappointment and to ensure the availability of your wine tasting experiences of choice. Remember – there can be changes to reservations and cancellations, so if your outing is spontaneous or tasting rooms were previously full when you last checked, do not hesitate to call or stop by at the last minute to see if space has become available.
3. Bring and Wear Your Mask
Masks must be worn at all times while you are entering or leaving the tasting areas or even when using the restroom. You are allowed to remove your masks only while you are seated and sipping your wine. Employees are required to keep their’s own at all times, as well.
4. Sanitized and Fixed Seating Areas
Tables and chairs are required to be sanitized between customers. In addition, the tables have been strategically located within the outdoor areas with social distancing in mind. Some table layouts have even been mandated by local health departments. For both of these reasons and more, please do not move the tables or pull other chairs to your table without asking permission.
5. Wait To Be Seated
As mentioned above, wine tasting seating is now usually only by reservation and seating is limited. Therefore, wait to speak with a host or hostess and do not seat yourself. In addition, there may not be as much flexibility as there used to be to switch tables due to other reservations, the number in their parties and prior reservation requests. Try to stay even more flexible and understanding of the winery employees and other custmomers than prior to the pandemic.
6. Be on time
Now that wineries have even more limited seating capacity, it is important and even more appreciated when you arrive on time. Most wineries are typically allotting 60 – 90 minutes per seating for you to enjoy your tasting experience. It is good to ask for how long you may have your table in advance or upon arrival in order to pace your experience and expectations accordingly.
7. Hand Sanitizer
Most wineries and restaurants now have hand sanitizer for you to use. Many provide it at the hostess stand and some even provide a bottle on each table. Use it. It’s still best to bring your own any time you plan to be out in public – just in case. Also, restrooms in tasting rooms are open for customers to use and to wash their hands.
8. Taste with a Small Group
Keep your tasting to small groups. The wineries and tasting rooms are legally unable to accommodate larger groups at this time. Many wineries limit groups to as few as 6 people. Please verify the group size restrictions with each winery in advance. If you call to make a reservation, this should take care of itself.
9. Pack a Picnic or Pick Up Some Takeout to Bring Along
With many restaurants closed or experiencing limited outdoor seating due to the Covid-19 virus, it may be best to bring your own lunch or snacks on your outing. Pre-order at one of the many excellent restaurants that offer take-out. Some wineries offer food at their location. Check in advance to see if outside food is allowed or if they offer food options for purchase. At times since the pandemic began, tasting rooms have been required to offer food and even to require a food purchase. Guidelings continue to change. so call to verify the current guidelines.
10. Keep 6 Feet Apart
Restrictions require a distance of at least 6 feet apart. However, this does not apply to people in the same party.
11. Please Be Patient and Understanding
We are all learning, businesses and customers, how to restart and cope with the “new norm” during this unprecedented era of COVID -19. Guaranteed – things will not always go smoothly. Just remember we are all working through this together – although 6-feet apart!
Overall, the Santa Barbara County wineries and tasting rooms have established new safety protocols to reopen and operate as safely as possible, all while making sure you have an enjoyable wine tasting experience in wine country!