With California’s Covid-19-related restrictions in flux based on the state’s current health situation, all businesses are having to quickly adapt to the “new normal” and find ways of both attracting customers and ensuring they feel safe. Wineries, in particular, have been having a challenging time, as they have also had to navigate often contradictory state and county rules—sometimes about whether they can operate at all. Currently, wineries are required to cease indoor tasting operations, but can sell alcohol if it’s paired with a served, seated outdoor meal made in an on-site kitchen or through a partnership with a food-preparing business; they may also be able to sell sealed to-go beverages, if they meet the food service threshold. Reservations are required for all guests.
To address these rules, wineries have gotten creative; Sonoma’s Jordan Winery, for example, offered guided vineyard hikes in the summer (with to-go picnics), and is now offering themed “Paris on the Terrace” wine-paired meals outdoors. Over in Napa, the latest trend is wine cabanas—private, purpose-built structures that allow couples or small groups to stay physically distanced while they get their wine on. Here are three top wineries that have launched wine cabana experiences to help visitors safely enjoy the best of Napa Valley.
Photo : Courtesy Domaine Chandon
The first French-owned sparkling wine producer in the US, Domaine Chandon (which is now owned by LVMH) has been delighting visitors with its bubbles for over 40 years. To address the current climate, the winery is offering things like seated tastings paired with chef-prepared meals, picnics on the lush grounds (complete with mini-bottles of bubbly), and two-hour experiences in the just-launched Summer Cabanas. Available for up to six guests per cabana, the tastings include a seasonal wine country-style lunch (think artisanal cheeses, skewers, salads and dessert), paired with bottles of Chandon’s étoile Brut and étoile Rosé. Around £70 per person.
Photo : Courtesy Louis Martini
Louis Martini Winery
Built in 1933, Louis Martini Winery was one of the first five wineries in Napa Valley to open after the repeal of Prohibition. Under the direction of architect Howard Backen, the historic spot wrapped-up a 10-year restoration project in 2019, which focused on integrating the indoors and the scenic grounds (there are now 30-foot-high glass walls framing the barrel cellar, for example.) Guests can now further enjoy the outdoors by booking the two-hour experience in one of the private cabanas set in Martini Park. The upgraded picnic-style tasting features a basket of treats like truffle popcorn, wild mushroom pizza, duck rillette, cheeses and sausage made with the label’s Napa Valley Cabernet—all to pair with five Martini wines, including the Gnarly Vine Zinfandel and the famed Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon. Around £75 per person for non-members, around £64 per person for members.
Photo : Courtesy Charles Krug