I should probably come clean at the start. I broke the law to write this story. Here in northern California, shelter-in-place orders are still in effect throughout the state, and the one covering my residence in Alameda county stipulates that I cannot travel outside the county borders except under certain limited ‘essential’ circumstances associated with food, health, and other such fundamental needs.
Wine tasting is surely not one of those.
But despite similar such orders in place throughout the most populous regions of California, wine country has begun to reopen. Limited reopening was allowed in Sonoma County beginning 23 May, but (strangely) only if the wineries served customers ‘a meal’. Napa followed soon after with a similar measure, but given pre-existing laws that prevent almost all wineries from serving food, nearly every winery was prevented from operating until enough outcry, lobbying, and even a lawsuit combined to result in the relaxation of regulations.
Therefore slowly, and rather quietly, wine country began to reopen to tourists last week. And I decided to go find out what wine tasting in the time of COVID-19 was going to be like.
Last Wednesday I grabbed my mask and hand sanitiser, jumped in the car and headed up to Napa.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her web site. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.