Willamette Valley wineries prove to be successful during pandemic

In the wake of the pandemic, many local businesses have had their taste of struggles. Since the beginning of March last year, the Willamette Valley wineries did not know what their prospects were for the 2020 or even 2021 season. Willamette Valley Vineyards and Brooks Winery, two popular wineries in the Willamette Valley, continue to strive to keep business going per usual, but they have had their ways of accommodating for the COVID-19 pandemic.

While at first it seemed that both wineries were going to face an extreme deficit, the results proved otherwise and deemed 2020 profitable for both.

Willamette Valley Vineyards faced a 94-day shut down at all venues of operation. This included the McMinnville tasting room, the Turner estate, and the Tualatin estate in Forest Grove. Due to the days of business gone, Willamette Valley Vineyards staff lost 40% of all revenue opportunities making it a big financial hit. Luckily estate manager, Spence Fogarty, and his team, had ideas and ways to ensure the winery’s success while keeping everyone who visits safe and healthy.

 “We had to kind of pivot to a new operational plan to keep our staff and our customers safe,” said Fogarty. He had introduced the idea of virtual wine tastings where their winery ambassadors would be set up with a member or guest virtually to walk them through the tasting. The ambassadors promote the wine and ship it to houses just in time for the one on one with their customer.

According to Fogarty, in the wintertime they lose about 50% of their seating so the team developed a plan to retain the seating while being COVID safe; creating ‘Wine Pods.’ When visiting the Turner Estate, guests and members can reserve a clear plastic bubble for their group, all furnished with heaters, rugs, and cushions to ensure their customers’ comfort.

Brooks Winery alike also had to take necessary precautions while maintaining business as usual. Loyal customers were given new options to get their wine tasting fix including virtual wine times as well as reservations on their property. Overall, the winery did not face any deficits, of course there were some setbacks, but it ultimately succeeded immensely. Janie Brooks, the managing director of Brooks Winery, had mentioned that despite being closed for three months and the strict COVID restrictions, business has been great, though the staff has missed their loyal customers. “The most difficult part of being closed for the three months though was not being able to see our wonderful guests,” said Brooks.

They have expanded their seating to include the lower grounds of the property with large picnic tables, restrooms, umbrellas, and full service making it a huge hit with all their guests, both members and non. “We saw more guests and had a record year in 2020,” said Brooks.

Both Brooks and Willamette Valley Vineyards alike were required to put in COVID restrictions and accommodate for the pandemic but have been proven successful.

Be sure to look out for upcoming events at Willamette Valley Vineyards and Brooks Winery.

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