Summer is calling and it wants you to enjoy yourself to the fullest!

No matter what’s going on in my life, once June hits I want to take day trips, get outside, and enjoy the sunshine. And what’s better than spending an afternoon at your favorite winery, sipping on the latest releases and nibbling on cheese? This year it’s a little nerve racking, given the ongoing pandemic. It’s tough to decide what’s safe and what’s not, and that evaluation is different for everyone. The best we can do is make decisions based on our individual situations and mitigate risks as much as possible. So if you want to go wine tasting but are a little nervous about how to do it safely, here are a few tips to help you out.

Please keep in mind these are general suggestions. You should always follow state and local regulations, winery policies, your doctor’s advice, and your own common sense.

  1. Get outside- Health officials generally agree that being outside is safer than being inside because you’re not dealing with recycled air and hopefully have a nice breeze to disperse germs. It’s also easier to stay a healthy distance away from others when you’re in a wide open space. The great thing about this is that many wineries have beautiful grounds and great views, so it’s not really a hardship to be outside. You can even bring your own blanket or camp chairs if you don’t want to use furniture someone else may have touched. Just make sure to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
  2. Pack your own picnic- Especially if you’re enjoying the outdoors, this is a good option if you’re nervous about eating food you didn’t prepare yourself. While health protocols even during normal times call for not breathing on food and washing hands constantly, if you feel better about bringing your own charcuterie, do it (assuming the winery is okay with it; see tip 7). Need a picnic tote? Check out this one that has everything you need for a fun, intimate picnic.
  3. Maintain your distance at the bar- When you are inside, spread out from other groups as much as possible. Leave a few barstools or tables between you, and don’t intentionally walk right next to someone if you don’t have to. If we’re all respectful of each other’s space we’ll all have a better time.
  4. Wear a face mask if you’re not drinking- If you’re going to the restroom, browsing the gift shop, or waiting to order a few bottles to take home, go ahead and put your face mask on. Obviously you can’t wear it while you’re eating and drinking, but there’s nothing wrong with putting it on when you’re finished or taking a break.
  5. Keep it intimate- I know it’s fun to go wine tasting with a big group, but if you’re concerned about keeping exposure low, go with just your special someone or a couple close friends. It’ll be a more intimate experience with lots of great conversation- still fun but with fewer potential germs.
  6. Make a reservation- Quite a few wineries are offering tastings by appointment only. This allows them to keep a handle on the number of people coming in and out, and helps ensure that you won’t get there only to be turned away because of occupancy requirements.
  7. Call ahead- Wineries want you to have a great experience, so if you call to find out their less busy times or learn what precautions they’re taking, they’ll be more than willing to help you out. This way, you’ll know what to expect and be able to make an informed decision on whether or not to go and you won’t be frustrated if you get there and it’s not set up the way you expected.
  8. Go online- Lots of wineries are continuing something they started during the height of the shutdown- online wine tastings! If you’re still not comfortable going to the winery, let it come to you on Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, or whatever platform the winery is using. No, it’s not the same as sitting in a tasting room, but you can still make it an enjoyable experience. Grab a glass of wine, make up a charcuterie plate, and settle in for a fun evening!

Just because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t mean wine tasting has to stop completely. There are plenty of ways to still enjoy wine and friendship while mitigating your risk as much as possible. Have fun and stay safe!