The crushing a result of the COVID-19 pandemic— including recent rollbacks upon reopening in California— is sufficient to make even the most experienced of Temecula Valley vintners want to drown their heartaches.
“ Do you have the bottle of tequila? ” B. J. Fazeli questioned facetiously. “ Give me some thing much stronger. ”
Since the president of Fazeli Basements, he tries to stay in great humor. The mood amongst vintners is bitter-sweet now. Online wine sales are usually soaring, but the surge is not really nearly enough to counteract the loss of main revenue resources: on-site wine sales plus large events, such as wedding ceremonies, concerts, and festivals.
Nearby wineries have lost tens of thousands of guests, and the cancellation of this year’ s Temecula Balloon plus Wine Festival is another massive setback. The event normally pulls upwards of 30, 000 individuals, many of whom are travelers, to the region every year.
Upon May 18, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced several counties could reopen their own economies, lifting stay-at-home purchases that had been in place for about 8 weeks. But the good news was accompanied by a series of new mandates, basic safety protocols, and restrictions.
As COVID cases started to surge last month, Newsom ordered sweeping rollbacks upon July 13. In thirty of the state’ s fifty eight counties, the rollbacks incorporated the immediate shutdown associated with indoor operations for wineries, among other types of companies. Riverside County , where Temecula Valley is located, was one of the 30 affected counties.
“ Where do I begin? I’ ve been a business owner for most of my life— over half a century— and it’ s the 1st time in my life when I are unable to actually make a solid decision mainly because I don’ t understand what will happen tomorrow, ” Fazeli told The Epoch Instances.
“ What’ s i9000 the local ordinance, what’ h the state ordinance, or what’ s the federal code? I have no idea. ”
He could be frustrated that state requires were handed down just in front of two long weekends— 1st, Memorial Day weekend, nonetheless ahead of Independence Day weekend— throwing a wrench in to food preparation and staffing programs.
People to Akash Winery in Temecula Valley, Calif., wear face masks and stay out on the particular patio as indoor procedures are prohibited amid the particular COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy associated with Akash Winery)
“ We were closed totally for almost 10 weeks. However, since we have opened, I believe we have changed three times with various new mandates, ” Fazeli said. “ Effective instantly, you can no longer blah. ”
“ And, every time one of these requires is announced we obtain hundreds of phone calls: ‘ Are you currently open? ’ ”
To meet social distancing suggestions, weddings and large personal events are still prohibited, yet Fazeli is staying afloat by maximizing his outside seating. “ I have good-sized outside patios, so we can handle it, ” he mentioned.
In January and Feb, 2020’ s business leads were auspicious for your pet (along with many other vintners in the area), with income up substantially. But those people hopes were shattered with all the pandemic and statewide shutdown. He’ s lost a lot more than 70 percent of their overall business so far this season.
Fazeli’ s online wines sales are up fifty to 60 percent given that March, but he’ h lost about half of the five, 000 visitors he usually sees in a month. Prior to COVID, some wineries— bigger than this— could draw up to 5, 000 visitors in the week, he said. In-person business represents a lot more income than online business.
In Mar, Fazeli had to lay away from most of his serving staff members, keeping only a skeleton team of essential workers. Given that reopening, Fazeli has progressively brought back more than half of their staff. “ We had in excess of 50, and now we have been at about 30 to thirty-two, ” he said. “ We’ re not employing anybody to staff occasions, because there are no events. ”
Like most winery proprietors, Fazeli applied for, and obtained, federal relief under the Salary Protection Program. “ This took a bit of time, yet we got it, ” he or she said.
Temecula Valley Wineries
Southern California’ s wine country, located between Los Angeles and Hillcrest and about an hour drive through either city, serves a nearby market of more than 23 mil people.
Temecula Area spans a 32-square-mile region between the Temescal Mountains towards the west and the Santa Ana Mountains to the east. This extends from the shadows associated with Mount Palomar to the hillsides above Temecula and Murrieta.
The region has a distinctive microclimate, ideal for growing wines grapes, because of its 22-mile closeness to the Pacific Ocean. The particular Peninsular Mountain Range keeps back the cool sea air, releasing it within the afternoon to create delightful summer season breezes. The 1, 100- to 2, 600-foot elevations also make for cool evenings.
Temecula Valley hosts more than 40 wineries, thirty seven of which are members from the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Organization (TVWA), said spokeswoman Devin Parr.
The local wineries saw more than 1 . five million visitors in 2018, cumulatively. And about 20 % of the wineries reported greater than 100, 000 annual website visitors each. Just before the outbreak, visitation was off the graphs, she said.
Just a handful of Temecula Valley vintners produce wines for low cost distribution. While those wineries are reporting moderate product sales, the rest rely heavily upon visitors to tasting rooms, wines club memberships, and offering wine directly to consumers, dining places, and hotels in the area.
Most host weddings plus events, unlike other wineries in the state where accommodations, dining, weddings, and amusement are not always permitted.
“ Obviously, this makes the circumstance surrounding shelter-in-place orders obviously very difficult for us, ” Parr said.
Vintners Get Creative
Though Parr has criticized the wine market in general for its “ persistent lack of innovation” and poor efforts to reach new demographics, Parr is proud of the way in which regional winegrowers have modified cleverly to overcome this particular year’ s setbacks, shutdowns, and slowdowns.
“ We all acted pretty quickly, plus proactively from the get-go, setting up a region-wide Sip From your own home program, where we prompted wineries to create packages plus discounts on wine plus shipping for consumers in order to sip from home, ” the lady said.
Many wineries are usually hosting virtual tastings plus Q& A sessions along with winemakers. Others have combined with restaurants and small enterprises to host events, for example Paint & Sip evenings, where participants get wines and art supplies and therefore are guided to paint their very own masterpiece.
One has managed Yoga Among The Vines and it is launching a series of drive-in film nights. Another has given bulk wine to make hands sanitizers.
“ We’ ve had to roll up our masturbator sleeves and get really creative. … Obviously, we have seen an enormous negative financial impact due to COVID-19, but I’ mirielle hearing wineries are still dangling in— some even doing pre-COVID numbers, ” Parr stated.
Some vintners are worried that when the overall demand for wines continues to decrease, acres associated with local grapes may be still left to wither on the grape vine.
“ Most wineries are looking at cutting back production, plus there will be a depression within grape pricing and lots of fresh fruit left on the vine, ” Parr said.
“ We have been already meeting with most of the big producers to get a feel meant for what fruit they’ lmost all need to purchase, and how a lot, so that we can share with our own local farm-management companies. ”
Last fall, local farmers produced bumper yields. “ It was cooler, there was rainfall, all of us produced a lot of wine, ” she said. “ Provided the substantial amounts of rainfall we have seen this year, we have been looking at really exuberant development again. ”
An aerial view of the Temecula Valley vineyard upon July 25, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
The ideal weather means another great vintage and top quality grapes, so the association is definitely encouraging all wineries to purchase locally grown grapes this year.
Farmers with larger operations “ are talking about the need for a lot more fruit drop, pruning, plus scaling back, with the objective of about six to eight pounds for each vine, ” Parr stated.
Moving With the Punches
Damian Doffo, TOP DOG and winemaker at Doffo Wines in Temecula Area, said that keeping up with technology has become a saving grace for his on-line wine sales.
Damian Doffo appears in his vineyard in Temecula Valley, Calif. (Courtesy associated with Wine Enthusiast)
Wineries that reacted a lot more slowly to the news from the pandemic— those not providing a full online shopping experience or even that lagged behind upon social media and email marketing campaigns— were the hardest strike, he said.
“ It has just been the rollercoaster since March. They have really forced reevaluation associated with what you’ re carrying out and how, but it also created a lots of opportunity and change— a chance to break out of your comfort zone a bit and change the business model quickly. And, I think, the people which were able to do so have weathered the storm better than other people, ” Doffo said.
“ Before COVID, there were a lot of things that you should have been doing, and so i think that if you weren’ big t doing them, you really compensated the penalty, ” he or she said. “ I saw which the people who were already doing it right things weathered the particular storm. ”
At the starting point of the COVID crisis, their winery couldn’ t pay out any money to laid-off employees because it would affect their own unemployment claims, so Doffo packaged up weekly grocery store boxes to help feed all of them and their families instead.
“ We were spending regarding $2, 000 a week within groceries, ” Doffo mentioned.
Doffo hasn’ t hurried employees who don’ to yet feel comfortable coming back to operate, and expects most of them will ultimately return.
“ All of us did reopen with a lighter in weight crew, but … I actually still have the same team, ” he said.
“ You’ ve just have got to roll with the punches. Every thing is extremely fluid, and I seem like we’ re still nowadays of moving targets. ”
Valerie Andrews co-founded Walnut Mountain Winery in Temecula Valley with her hubby, Steve, in 2001. To maintain serving their wine membership members amid shutdowns, they’ ve hosted virtual wines club parties.
“ They have got food to-go that they grab and we do a Zoom celebration. And we still have our raffles and giveaways, games, awards. … It’ s digital, but they seem to really love this, ” Andrews said.
“ Then we have the out-of-staters that normally can’ t make it to the celebrations. Now they can join in off their own home. ” Oak Hill ships out the wine to people members.
When the stay-at-home order was imposed, the particular winery was forced to lie down off all but three workers. But , with the gradual reopening of outdoor seating, along with innovation in offering brand new services, “ we’ lso are back to 38 people upon staff, ” she stated.
“ Our slogan through the all of the COVID continues to be ‘ improvise, adapt, plus overcome. ’ ”
Vintner Steve Andrews co-owns Oak Mountain Vineyard in Temecula Valley together with his wife, Valerie Andrews. (Courtesy of Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association)
Andrews is hoping the COVID crisis will subside simply by Thanksgiving, so the winery may resume hosting weddings plus holiday parties.
“ Somewhere around November or Dec, I’ ll start obtaining worried if I can’ capital t be creative and do the internet business and everything else to get what we’ ve dropped in events, parties, plus larger crowds coming out, ” she said.
“ Daily is a changing, evolving entire world now, so … a person can’ t project exactly what you’ re going to perform. All you can do is task scenarios— worst-case, best-case, plus we’ ll have plans for everyone of those things. ”
Echoing Fazeli’ s emotions, she said it doesn’ t help when brand new state guidelines are introduced just ahead of weekends. “ That’ s usually what goes on. It hits on a Fri when you’ ve simply ordered all the food from your cafe and they say, ‘ Oh, no, you’ lso are closed. ’ ”
Live Songs Banned
Another common complaint amongst winery owners is the statewide ban on live songs performances.
Not only is it harmful to her business, but Andrews empathizes with out-of-work music artists.
“ We are not allowed to get any live music, time period. Not even a harpist. Personally i think horrible for the musicians, ” she said. “ They’ re independent contractors. I actually don’ t even understand if they can get unemployment or even anything— probably not, ” the lady said.
“ The main reason that you can’ t have got any music at your vineyard just for ambiance is because you can find people who take advantage of it. Earning it a concert, there’ s a gathering, after which we have problems. So , since the bad people can’ big t be trusted to follow the guidelines … none of us might have it. ”
The problem, the girl says, is enforcement. The girl doesn’ t believe almost all businesses should be punished mainly because some won’ t adhere to state-mandated safety guidelines.
Company Models Matter
Robert Renzoni Vineyards is an exception to the principle in Temecula Valley, states owner Robert Renzoni. Their winery has been able to deal with the pandemic better than the majority of because it has a different business structure.
“ I never constructed my winery for activities. I never built this to do weddings. I constructed it to be a winemaker, ” he said. “ I would like to be a winery. I want individuals, when they think of our vineyard … to think quality vineyard, quality wine, killer cafe. ”
The wedding scene is just not for everyone. He has seen shows of the reality TV series “ Bridezilla” — “ I’ ve heard the tales of bridezillas. I didn’ t want to deal with things like that, ” he stated.
He wants their customers to know his vineyard is never going to near early because of a wedding. This individual said it was a gutsy move breaking from typical practice in the area, but it worked for him.
“ This particular whole thing hasn’ t actually hit me personally, or like a company, as hard since others that I’ ve heard, ” he mentioned. “ I have 9, 1000 square feet of outdoor space. Our restaurant is definitely fully outdoors, and has been, so we were able to adapt. ”
Robert Renzoni draws wine from the barrel at Robert Renzoni Vineyards in Temecula Area, Calif. (Courtesy of Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association)
During the shutdown, Renzoni made use of his time meant for renovations and other “ wet day” projects that would are already more difficult with the winery completely open.
To ensure ongoing satisfaction among his wines club members, Renzoni bending his discounts.
“ We’ re still offering a ton of wine, whether it be within the restaurant or people coming to appreciate tastings on the front outdoor, or people ordering on-line, or just calling in wines to-go. We’ ve fared fairly well, surprisingly, ” he said.
When Renzoni had to reduce tasting area capacity to meet social removing guidelines, he discovered that despite fewer customers, he has been selling the same volume of wines.
The more intimate setting, plus a reservation system, meant that will wine consultants were able to save money quality time with visitors, and the ones visitors ended up buying a lot more wine.
“ I recently found that with 25 percent from the staff and 25 percent from the clientele, I was doing the exact same numbers , ” Renzoni said.
In 08, a widely circulated newspapers article had portrayed Temecula’ s wineries as a “ Disneyland for adults, ” most widely known for drunken bachelorette celebrations, Renzoni said. The story furthermore suggested Temecula Valley wines was subpar, leaving nearby vintners more than a tad bitter.
The reviews had been unkind, he said. “ They politely said your wine sucked and ‘ I’ d rather go to Napa where the wine is severe. ’ ”
“ I used to be born and raised within the wine business, so I’ m a wino. I truly have wine in my blood vessels. My family has been in the wine market for 134 years. I’ ve been making wines on and off since I was six years old … so for me personally, I almost took this personally, ” he mentioned.
In the early 2000s, Renzoni admits, “ the panorama was more developed compared to wine. ”
Today, he admits that, local vintners have perfected the climate, the ground, and the finer points associated with wine-making. They have earned regard among wine connoisseurs, plus their competitors in Napa Valley.
In recent years, many Temecula Valley wines, including Renzoni’ s, have received consecutive 90-point or higher ratings in Wines Enthusiast magazine, a major standard in the industry.
The Younger Crowd
As a vintner, Renzoni is excited how the younger crowd has developed the taste for wine. “ It’ s really captured on with the American lifestyle and the youth of today— the millennials. … It’ s very hip to imbibe wine, ” he mentioned.
But he’ s less thrilled with the trend associated with young people renting limos plus party buses and appearing noticeably drunk to go vineyard hopping. It’ s not really the kind of atmosphere he desires.
He is grateful intended for locally based Grapeline Excursions, which shuttles thousands of people to enjoy the wine country encounter, and TVWA’ s Accountable Partners Program, designed to motivate limousine and party coach companies to help curb irresponsible drinking.
In 2010, reality TV display “ Real Housewives associated with Orange County” brought glitz and glam to the Temecula Valley wineries when it shot on site.
But behind the attractive image is the reality associated with running a farm, Renzoni mentioned, which sometimes means getting up at 3 a. meters. to tend the winery. Most people don’ t view the painstaking process of crushing, barreling and bottling, and getting older.
“ They don’ to see the blood, sweat, plus tears behind the scenes. They just see the luxury of the wines being poured into a cup, ” he said.
It’ s that hard work that lots of vintners are now worried is going to be for naught if the market is hit too hard.
Fruit of Wrath
Many vintners, which includes Renzoni, were chagrined that will Newsom’ s three Plumpjack wineries in Napa Area were still open at the begining of July when he purchased other wineries in the condition to stop indoor service.
During the time, Napa County was not over the state’ s list of areas subject to closures. Newsom do, however , later close interior service at his wineries.
Various restaurant owners Renzoni provides talked to are nearly ready to revolt against the rollbacks and fully reopen, he or she said.
“ Let’ s say you’ lso are completely terrified of COVID, well, here’ s some advice: Stay home, ” this individual said. “ I think it must be at the point where the chief excutive should have made a declaration saying we are not closing down again, but if you happen to be fearful of the disease, after that stay home. And, for you people who don’ t … God bless ya. Good luck. ”