California Boutique Wineries are optimistic as “phase 2” includes them in reopening business

Mayo Family Winery and Vineyard is located in Sonoma Valley, one hour's drive north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Courtesy of Mayo Family Winery

For local vintner and winery owner Jeff Mayo, the reopening of business couldn’t come any sooner. Speaking on behalf of Mayo Family Winery and Vineyards, he offered offered some perspective on how COVID-19 has impacted his boutique/family winery specifically.

“Between our two locations, as soon as the ‘Secure In Place’ went into effect, we lost business immediately,” said Mayo. “Typically we have visitors of at least 1000 per week or more (a conservative estimate) and in just one day it went to zero.”

After decades of living in Sonoma, Henry and Diane Mayo founded Mayo Family Winery & Vineyards in the early 1990s. Photo: Courtesy of Mayo Family Winery.

Since the onset of the Coronavirus, wineries have been operating at a slower rate than normal, some by at least more than 60 percent according to Wine America – a national association of wineries. 

This is based upon a recent survey; which also indicated that wineries anticipate a decrease in the purchase of grapes from growers for wine production. With layoffs of workers and canceled events numbering in the thousands, some estimates tally that financial loss just for the month of March (when the virus went into “Secure In Place” ordinance mode) reached $40,439,764.

When Mayo was asked what he thought about the survey stats from Wine America, he replied. “Oh My God, it’s been terrible, drastic,” Much more than that, way over $40 million; I would say in the past three months – since March, just in Sonoma County alone that figure would be more like $75 million.”

Since the ‘Secure In Place’ ordinance, what has this done for the local winery industry here in Sonoma? There are more than 425 wineries in the county. Like Mayo, smaller boutique wineries are the hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19. Other family owned wineries such as Donelan near Santa Rosa have been “locked in,” even though sales of wine have continued via the web site.

Larger and more corporate winemakers are able to make up for the loss. But for the family owned winery as Mayo explained. “No amount of online or curbside sales can make up for that loss.”

Jeffery Mayo, is president of Mayo Family Winery and Vineyards of Sonoma, CA. Photo: Courtesy of Mayo Winery.

This is why as reported by the Sacramento Bee, wineries in adjacent Napa County were petitioning Governor Newsom to be included in the ‘Phase 2’ reopening of businesses in the State of California.

Fortunately for Mayo, his family winery has commercial kitchen is at their reserve room in Kenwood – up valley towards Santa Rosa. During the ‘SIC’ shutdown Mayo has followed the rules. “We can pour wine as long as it is outside, served with food and all the social distancing rules. Servers must wear face masks and gloves when waiting on tables and each table must be six feet apart from one another.”

Mayo and others thought some of the restrictions during the shutdown absurd. “98 to 100 degree weather is uncomfortable for people. Our cellar barrel room is over 3,000 square feet and would be able to accommodate patrons within the current distancing protocol easily,” said Mayo.

And the shortening of hours, having to close at 5 PM is counter-productive, especially since in summer the best of wine-tasting experience for tourists occurs during the evening hours when the valley and its vineyards have that evening-twilight glow. The regular hours have since been restored.

So, when officials announced that wineries would be included in the “phase 2” effort at reopening businesses, Mayo and others were very pleased. This week wineries opened cautiously, as reported by the Napa Register – only there are restrictions. “Yes we are open with social distancing of course,” said Mayo. “If you want to come by and taste please let us know, added Mayo we would love to see you.”

For more information about Mayo Winery and Vineyards visit the winery’s web site or call 707- 938-9401.