How wineries are adapting tasting experiences to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines

Tim Bouchet, Pride Mountain Vineyards Director of Sales and Hospitality, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how the winey has fared during COVID-19 and the protocols in place to keep customers safe during wine tastings.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: We're talking to California and to the wine makers out there because California is reopening. And we wanted to get the perspective of what it's like on the ground. So to do that, we invite into the stream, Tim Boucher, Pride Mountain Vineyards director of sales and hospitality, state management, and facilities. Tim, I just think I need to remind you to press star 6 to unmute so that we can hear you. But how do things look in Sonoma in wine country as California opens up?

TIM BOUCHET: Thank you, Mr. Shapiro. Well, they're looking great right now. We're seeing a lot of people. Our weekends are booked out, oh gosh, for the next Friday, Saturday, Sunday, booked out probably for the next two months. The only issue with that is that we're not at full capacity. We're still being very careful with the maintaining the spread of COVID. So we're seeing, you know, half the guests or even less than we normally would so that we can maintain all groups separately, where we have kind of more public tours and tastings available at different times.

Other than that, when we get past that or we get to a spot where we can invite people and say to them, well, would you like to join a group, you know, that has the people in it, when we can get to that, then we'll get back up to where we want to be. But the streets are full of people. People are coming from all over the country, downtown Napa, Catalina. They're just-- there's people everywhere. So we're very optimistic that it's going to be a good season and we'll rebound well.

SEANA SMITH: Tim, that's certainly great to hear. Just curious, though, how did the crowds today compare to what you saw pre-pandemic in terms of the numbers?

TIM BOUCHET: I'd say there-- well, again, that's tough to gauge because we can't see the amount of people. But I think they're on par to be the same. We feed from the Bay Area quite a bit. So, you know, San Jose with a million people, San Francisco is close to that, the East Bay, the surrounding areas, you know, there's millions of people who just have not been anywhere.

And this is a world class destination here. So they love the amenities, the great restaurants that we have. All wineries are kind of back up and running sort of what they can do, whether it's outside tasting. The hotels are back open. We had some casualties, but not that many, business wise. So there's things to do here. There's plenty to see and wine to taste for sure.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let's talk about the wine to taste because prior to the pandemic, there were the fires and people were worried about that. Now during the pandemic, how are sales? I would imagine with all of us at home and those of us who drink wine, we were drinking more. Did you see that?

TIM BOUCHET: We did. We balanced sales through different revenue streams that we hadn't touched before. So typically, we would never have just an online store where you can straight go and buy wine off the store. But this year, we did. We sold a little bit more wine wholesale than we typically would have. So we were off by about 1%. Not our traditional revenue streams, but we balanced the year fine because people were consuming. The loyalty was immense. It was great.

SEANA SMITH: Tim, in terms of getting customers back, you have to make sure that they feel safe. You have to make sure that they feel comfortable going to your space. What are some of the protocols or some of the different things that you've instituted to make sure that people feel comfortable coming to your winery?

TIM BOUCHET: Well, all groups are private. So you're never with strangers when tasting. Social distancing, is it a match? We stagger all the end times for guests so that nobody's arriving and hopefully departing at the same time. We have hot water handwashing stations out front. We have hand sanitizer literally at every corner. You know, we sanitize everything. We have a new decanter for every wine that we pour for our guests.

So we're doing everything that we can. All of our hosts, everybody in the building, whether you're one of the gardeners or one of the vineyard teams, you're wearing a mask. So we really want people to feel safe here. We're doing our best to-- everyone become vaccinated so that we can go forward and get back to what will be our new normal soon.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Tim, very quickly, what advice would you have? Say, you're a couple in their 50s from New York, and you're using Delta points to take your first vacation in 16 months, and you're going to go to Sonoma-- oh, I don't know-- June 24. And you're going to meet friends from the Bay Area and stay in Sonoma to try some wine. What should I do first, red or white? Because I don't know wine.

TIM BOUCHET: We like to start with white, Adam, yeah. That's usually a good start. But red wine is going to get you really kind of stain your palate. Not in a bad way, but it's going to really change the dynamics of your palate. So the lighter wines usually go first, and then you finish with the stronger wines.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I am sure it will be better than the manischewitz that we had when I was a bar mitzvah boy. Thank you very much, Tim Bouchet, Pride Mountain Vineyards director of sales and hospitality, state management, and facilities. We'll be right back.