Okanagan wineries allowed to open doors again for taste testing: ‘It’s very nice’

It’s summer staple in the Okanagan: Sampling wines.

For a while, it appeared tasting the latest offerings of red, white and sparkling would, like other aspects of society, fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, though, the provincial government announced it was rescinding a closure order that affected businesses selling food and alcohol.

For Okanagan wineries, that now means allowing the public to personally sample their wares.

READ MORE: Small Okanagan winery’s 2017 Syrah wins 2019 B.C. wine of the year

“We’re really looking forward to opening; we’ve missed the customer contact,” said Debra Hardman, co-owner of Deep Roots Winery in Naramata, which won B.C.’s 2019 wine of the year with its 2017 Syrah.

Deep Roots, which had been open just for bottle sales and pickup, will open its doors for tasting on Friday, May 29. It will also be releasing its new vintages that day as well.

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Asked how business has been the past two months, Hardman said it was quiet at the store, but that online sales have been busy.

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Deep Roots says it’s best to book ahead for testings, but that walk-ins will be accommodated.

READ MORE: B.C. sets mid-May target to reopen restaurants with coronavirus precautions

Elsewhere, in Kelowna, Ancient Hill Estate Winery opened its doors for tasting on Tuesday, May 19.

“It’s very nice,” Ancient Hill owner Richard Kamphuys told Global News of reopening, “because everybody has been stuck at home doing their part, trying to do their part in flattening the curve and now everybody is raring to come back out again, I would say.”

The pandemic was a financial hit, said Kamphuys, with Ancient Hill losing at least half of its business.

“[Wine sampling] is very important because the main source of income for any smaller winery is the tasting room,” said Kamphuys, adding it’s “very important that this is opened up again.”

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In opening for tastings, Kamphuys said the winery will be employing safety protocols, such as physical distancing.

“We have a very large patio and garden area, so it’s very easy for us to do tastings in a spread out manner,” he said.

Asked how business has been this week, Kamphuys said it’s trickling in slowly, but that the winery was never closed entirely, as alcohol was considered an essential business.

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“We could still sell wine to whoever came in and we were maintaining social distance as well,” he said.

“We could not do tastings, but we could sell the wine straight up.”

Now that wine seekers can visit for tastings, Kamphuyz said, “they’re very happy that things have turned the corner and that things are moving in a more normal direction again.”

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