By Rick VanSickle
The coronavirus pandemic has created mass confusion, fear and, in some cases, hysteria (been to Costco lately?), leaving families hunkered down in their homes with buckets of hand sanitizer, cases of toilet paper and enough staples to feed an army for months.
It’s understandable. This is a serious situation with real danger lurking around every corner. Everyone must make their own decisions for themselves, their families and society as a whole based on the information they have. Premier Doug Ford has just declared a state of emergency and ordered the immediate closure of all bars and restaurants as well as churches, private schools and daycares.
In Niagara wine country, most, but not all, major wine events have been cancelled or postponed (see here for a partial list) for the foreseeable future; drastic measures that had to be taken to protect society from the possible spread of COVID-19. This will have an unknown impact on the lives of everyone who works in the industry, both financially and emotionally, but it is being done for the wellbeing of the community. These are necessary steps and there will be more announcements to come.
For now, only a very few wineries have taken different approaches to remain open and operating as safely as possible for consumers, while most have closed tasting rooms and retail stores and moved to an online only system for selling wine. No single approach is the same as another. Consumers who are venturing out into wine country are urged to check websites and social media feeds to get up-to-date information on hours, restrictions and measures taken in light of COVID-19. Every approach is different.
We keeping a current list of tasting/retail facilities that have closed below as we receive information. Many wineries are offering free shipping (some with minimum orders, some only locally) if you buy online and some are offering discounts. Be sure to check websites and social media sites. We suspect this will become redundant as the pandemic progresses and the remaining few wineries still open will close in light of the state of emergency. Stay save out there, and support local wineries by ordering online.
List of closings in Niagara
• Two Sisters, online sales only
• Hidden Bench, closed for two weeks and will re-evaluate, online only
• Rosewood, closed until the end of March, online only
• 13th Street, tasting bar and winery closed, online sales only
• Hinterbrook, tasting room, retail closed, online only, until April 5
• De Simone Vineyards, closed
• Fielding Estate Winery, closed to tastings, open for retail sales and online
• Organized Crime winery, closed until April 6, online sales available
• Angels Gate Winery, no tastings, only retail sales
• Queylus Estate Winery, retail sales only and online
• Honsberger Estate Winery, restaurant, wine store, music venue all closed until April 1
• Cloudsley Cellars, tastings cancelled, online available
• Niagara College Teaching Winery, tasting room closed, tours cancelled
• Tawse Winery, tastings cancelled, retail still open as are online sales
• Leaning Post, tastings cancelled, retail store open for sales and online available (free shipping)
• King’s Court Estate winery, tasting and retail facility close for minimum of two weeks, online sales welcome
• Foreign Affair Winery, tasting, retail and winery closed, online only
• Malivoire Wine company, retail/tasting room close, online available
• Ravine Vineyard, tasting bar, tours and restaurant closed, online wines orders only
• Great Estates Niagara, including Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, have cancelled all tastings, tours and events. Retail sales are still going ahead at the two wineries, no cash accepted
• Vineland Estates Winery, Tasting bar and restaurant closed, retail open and online ordering offered (free with six bottles or more)
• Icellars, tastings cancelled, retail sale only, no cash sales, online sales available
• Back 10 Cellars, tasting room and retail shop closed, free local delivery to home Friday and Saturday 12-3 (minimum two bottle order)
• The Hare Wine Co., winery, tasting bar, retail closed
• Redstone Winery, tasting bar closed, retail and online sales only
• Thirty Bench Wine Makers, tasting bar/tours cancelled, retail sales only (limiting number of people at one time) in person or online
• Stratus Vineyards, tasting room/retail closed, all wine sales online
• Pillitteri Estates Winery, all tastings and tours cancelled, retail open for sales only, online available, free shipping
• Trius Wines, tasting bar closed, restaurant closed, retail still open and online sales
• Peller Estates Winery, tasting bar closed, restaurant closed, retail still open and online sale
• Gretzky Estate Winery and Distillery, tasting bar closed, restaurant closed, retail still open and online sales
• Lakeview Wine Co., tastings, tours and food service cancelled, retail store open, online sales available
• Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, tastings cancelled but retail store open for purchases of wine and cheese. Cash not accepted. Online sales (free shipping for orders 6 bottles or over)
• Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, open for bottle sales only (and drive-up sales), plus online sales
• Henry of Pelham, all tastings and tours cancelled until the end of March, retail store open for bottle sales, online orders are shipped free in Ontario
Almost every winery in Niagara and beyond has posted their own policy on how they are handling the coronavirus pandemic to protect both staff and consumers. At the very least, those that remain open (and that list is getting shorter by the day) they are implementing stringent disinfecting regimes in the tasting room, social-distancing policies and many have cancelled tours of the winery and large group visits.
And to satisfy the thirst of consumers who do not want to venture out to wine country, most wineries are offering free delivery of purchased wine (some with conditions, such as minimum orders).
Again, consumers are urged to check winery websites and Facebook pages for updates on conditions and check frequently as things are changing rapidly.