After a two-month hiatus due to Stay at Home orders, wineries can resume in-person tasting with proper protocols in place.
WALLA WALLA, WA – After having closed tasting rooms for almost two months to on-premise wine tastings and consumption, Walla Walla Valley wineries in both Oregon and Washington can resume in-person tastings with detailed safety measures in place. On May 27, Walla Walla County was approved for entry into Phase 2 of Washington’s phased reopening. Earlier in May, wineries on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley in Umatilla County were able to reopen for in-person tastings under Oregon’s first phase of reopening.
The Walla Walla Valley as a whole is adopting the carefully phased approaches laid out by both Oregon and Washington to ensure the health and safety of winemakers, tasting room teams, production workers and Walla Walla Valley wine enthusiasts who are eager to engage with wineries once again. In addition, many area wineries are adopting the Peace of Mind Pledge, created by Visit Walla Walla and supported by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, promising to prioritize health and safety above all else throughout the reopening process. You can read the Peace of Mind Pledge in its entirety here.
Like restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms must observe social distancing requirements to reopen. These requirements include:
- Guest occupancy must be 50% of maximum building occupancy. Outdoor seating is permitted but must also be at 50% capacity.
- Ensure tables or seating areas are spaced at least six (6) feet apart so that at least six (6) feet between parties is maintained, including when customers approach or leave tables.
- Limit parties to five people or fewer. People in the same party seated at the same table do not have to be six (6) feet apart.
- No bar seating; bar seating is to be closed off to prohibit use.
- Minimize the number of staff serving any given table.
Additional recommendations for wineries include encouraging the use of masks by consumers and recommending reservations or calling ahead to taste. More guidelines can be found here.
“As we gradually reopen, a commitment to safety is vital,” says Robert Hansen, Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. “By adhering to guidelines from the state, and additional best practices from partners like the Washington Wine Commission, Washington Wine Institute, Oregon Wine Board and Washington State University’s Hospitality Program, we believe the wineries of the Walla Walla Valley will be able to safely conduct business, and begin sharing wine country with consumers once again.”
As the wineries of the Walla Walla Valley adapt their operating procedures to comply with safety regulations, the experience of the in-person tastings will look different, but the quality of wine and wine country ambiance will remain intact.
“We are happy to welcome guests back to our wineries and tasting rooms, and ask for patience and understanding as individual businesses figure out how to navigate this new terrain,” shares Josh McDaniels, Board President of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and CEO and Director of Winemaking for Doubleback and Bledsoe Family Winery. “Some wineries and tasting rooms may need more time than others to reopen, but consumers should know that we are keeping the safety of our guests, employees and community top of mind while continuing to deliver the unparalleled wine country experience the Walla Walla Valley is known for. We’re all in this together and are very pleased to return to in-person tasting experiences in the Walla Walla Valley.”
About the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance
The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance is a nonprofit wine industry membership organization whose primary mission is to build an internationally acclaimed Walla Walla Valley wine brand among consumers, media, and trade by providing marketing programs on behalf of member wineries, vineyards, and partners. The Wine Alliance functions as the leading informational resource for consumers, media and trade interested in learning more about the Valley’s wine industry.