The On-Premise Shifts Shade Mountain is Making to Stay in the Black

Although not exactly making gains in production and sales, Pennsylvania’s Shade Mountain Winery has noticed a significant change to how business was done early in the pandemic and those adjustments have helped shift what the winery is planning on doing this fall and into winter.

Gone is bar service or wine tastings, instead, a wine flight for a fee has been added and consumers are directed to the winery’s extensive outdoor seating area and deck that overlooks the winery.

“Our deck has seen lots of traffic over the past couple months,” said General Manager Jenny Nicola of the central Pennsylvania Susquehanna River Valley​ winery​. “It’s quite a gorgeous view. 

“I think that people coming into the winery, enjoying wine by the glass, wine by the bottle, and these flights out in our deck, really renewed an appreciation for the outdoors, the serenity of the vineyard, just getting away from the craziness of what COVID has.”

Typically, Shade Mountain participates in off-site festivals during the spring and summer. But with all of those canceled, Nicola said all the revenue that the winery has generated through the main tasting room and its satellite locations, have been actually pretty fortunate. 

With state alcohol stores shut down in March and some of April, consumers could only go to the winery to get product, which has built a new and local consumer base.

“So we sustained a significant uptick in sales through March and April,” said Nicola, who spoke to a group of journalists during the annual Camp Pennawine which was put on by the Pennsylvania Winery Association in late September. She added that those sales early on came via curbside sale. When the stores opened again and Shade Mountain was able to open its retail store, it also continued with increased sales.

Winemaker Bill Zimmerman noted that a lot of the winery’s business decisions have come through the tasting room. That is a change as personal interaction has been depleted.

“When you have customers coming to the tasting room, you always have the verbal interaction. And now we’re starting to sell more wines in liquor stores and grocery stores,” he said. “We need to start changing.”

That means changes are being determined now to the winery’s some 50 labels to help tell the story that would usually be shared by an employee at the tasting room.

Although it changed how Shade Mountain looked at how it does sales, Zimmerman doesn’t feel the shift in how business is done will change production marks.

“We’re in fine shape, barring a disaster, which is possible with COVID,” he said. “It scares you to think about it and we try not to think about it. 

“We’re a small family business — and we, our family — runs our tasting room and our sales and production … our bottling and vineyard work. 

“So as long as our family stays healthy, we’ll be fine.”

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