May 22, 2020

Winery tasting rooms reopen as state relaxes restrictions

Texas wineries have been struggling like many wineries across our country and the world due to the pandemic.

Governors all over the USA have implemented executive orders shutting down winery tasting rooms due to safety concerns during the pandemic. Online sales of wines have skyrocketed during this time period. Wines sales in grocery stores are up!

However, wine sales at wineries are down even though “drive by” services to pick up wines are available. Loyal winery customers account for most of those sales with virtual wine tasting on ZOOM and FaceBook prompting some to buy wines after seeing/hearing winemakers and sommeliers describe available wines.

Most consumers want to taste unknown wines before purchasing a bottle or two or even a case. As a result, tasting room closures at wineries had a direct impact on both wineries and wine lovers.

Texas Gov. Abbot has announced last Monday that Texas wineries can reopen their tasting rooms with safety restrictions today in time to celebrate Memorial Day. Those safety restrictions imposed by our Governor include:

· Tasting room operate at 25-percent capacity

· NO stand-up service at a free-standing bar like many wineries currently do. Wine lovers must be seated and served at tables spaced at least six-feet apart.

· Table seating is limited to no more than six at a table.

· Winery staff requirements will be similar to those in restaurants which requiring daily pre-work screening for health considerations and staff required to wash their hands regularly.

· Winery staff should meet you at the door to open the door and keep the doors clean. In addition, more intense housekeeping is required throughout the winery tasting room including restrooms!

In order to avoid problems with wineries being overcrowded, I strongly recommend to make a reservation at the winery tasting room similar to what you would do at a restaurant. Winery tasting rooms and restaurants have LIMITED capacity available so reservations are a MUST these days.

Jerry Bernhardt at Bernhardt Winery told me appointments are a MUST for his winery. Patrons will be required to check-in before entering the winery with check-in limiting the number of people on the winery grounds, both inside the winery and outside on the winery grounds. Wine tastings will be held inside the winery’s inside event center and the fermentation room. Both rooms are air conditioned and should be cool and comfortable to enjoy your wine tasting. ALL wine tastings at Bernhardt Winery will be led by either Jerry Bernhardt or his Assistant Winemaker. All wines will be pre-poured to ensure a perfect, intimate tasting. These tastings should be lots of fun and will last approximately one hour. Tables will be cleaned, sanitized, and readied for the next tasting.

The winery grounds will have 60 tables which will be spread out on the north winery grounds. Those tables and chairs will not be allowed to be moved. There will be two concerts this weekend along with a virtual wine tasting Saturday evening on FB starting at 7 pm. The FB virtual wine tasting will feature Antiquity Wines which are only available at Bernhardt Winery for purchase by the bottle. The Saturday afternoon concert featuring Bobby Enloe with Texas Hold’Em will run from 1 to 5 pm this Saturday.

This concert is FREE including table with your reservation and a pre-purchase of at least one bottle of vino per table. The traditional Memorial Day Weekend Concert on Sunday evening from 6:00 to 8:30 features the Texas Troubadour Shake Russell. This concert has a $15 charge for those 16 and older with those younger than 16 FREE. There are also table charges. All concert seat on the Bernhardt Winery grounds is at a reserved table. Currently, there is no general lawn seating so patrons are not allowed to bring their lawn chairs and tables. Due to Governor Abbott’s restrictions, Bernhardt winery is limited to sixty tables with some tables located in the sun and/or off the side stage. As a result, reservations are a MUST with those without reservations not allowed on the winery grounds. For reservations, please call Bernhardt Winery at 936-894-9829 x 107.

Jerry Bernhardt is glad that Gov. Abbot has allowed the reopening of Bernhardt Winery and other wineries throughout Texas with an emphasis on safety and health. Your adherence to the safety restrictions is required with wineries having onus for enforcing such health rules. California and other states still have winery tasting rooms closed.

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