With states beginning to loosen their COVID-19 restrictions, the process of safely reopening may feel like a complicated conundrum for some wineries out there.
Unless you’re Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas, which has a nice leg up when it comes to knowing what’s safe and what isn’t: a medical doctor who happens to make their wine.
Owner and Winemaker Bob Young, MD, MPH, practiced medicine for 35 years, serving as the top state official in Arkansas and Kentucky.
“Navigating the regular ups and downs of inclement weather or fussy bottling lines is one thing, but no one would have imagined a pandemic literally stopping us in our tracks,” said General Manager Jennifer McInnis. “Bending Branch was closed to the public for 7 months, aside from curbside pickup and delivery, and in order to reopen, we had to reconsider all of our winery experiences.”
With a doctor leading the way, Bending Branch has prioritized safety when tailoring its operations to the pandemic:
- All service is outdoors, with tables spaced apart, and by reservation on Tock.
- Masks are required except when seated for tastings.
- Reservations have hard stops so staff can conduct sanitation protocols in between tastings.
- UV-C light and ozone are used to sanitize working areas overnight.
- All guests receive sealed glassware and individual carafes of wine for self-guided tastings to minimize contact. Those are pre-packed and also sanitized with UV-C light.
- At their Wine Club Lounge, they added a couple of cabanas and more tables adjacent to the vineyard.
“Bending Branch strongly recommends that outdoor seatings are the safest way to continue to provide service for the foreseeable future,” McInnis said. “The best advice going forward is to consider how to grow your in-person winery experiences while still being safe to protect your customers and your employees. We will continue to require reservations through Tock, which is integrated into our point of sale, and take advantage of our large outdoor space and vineyard seating for tastings.”