Texas wineries are operating in uncharted territory as the coronavirus pandemic alters the daily lives of most Texans. Governor Greg Abbott declared a statewide disaster on March 13, and at press time had just issued an executive order that will close all Texas bars and restaurants and prohibit gatherings of over 10 people. These regulations begin at midnight on March 20 and are in effect until midnight on April 3.
While some winery tasting rooms have remained open, they have had to make modifications to their tasting room procedures. These include implementing additional cleaning measures, limiting number of guests allowed, switching to appointment-only scheduling, and reducing tasting room hours. Pick-up parties and other events have been cancelled or postponed. Every day this week, more wineries have announced tasting room closures. Many have adopted a carryout-only business model. The executive order, although it does not mention wineries specifically, will likely force the issue for wineries that have remained open. The Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association has encouraged members to close tasting rooms to stop the spread of the virus.
Wedding Oak Winery managing partner Mike McHenry is managing the rapidly changing landscape. “We are in the business to make Texans happy by growing excellent grapes and creating world class wine that they can enjoy. That is not going to change. The challenges we all face with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic certainly impacts how we operate. It is incredibly difficult to predict how our business will need to evolve in the long term. We are working hard each day to adapt to the changing conditions as things unfold,” he said.
Wineries must adapt to the new realities of doing business during a pandemic. They have already experienced reduced foot traffic, and the economic impact of the pandemic won’t be fully realized for quite some time. How can wineries stay connected with members and make up for lost tasting room sales?
Customer engagement and retention will be critical to ensuring that Texas wineries can weather the hardship that the coronavirus presents. McHenry emphasizes the importance of Wedding Oak wine club members to the winery’s success. “Members of the Wedding Oak Winery wine clubs are incredibly important to our business,” he states. “These loyal customers not only get special perks, but they also provide us with valuable feedback, volunteer to help with bottling, and attend our events regularly. They are a source of inspiration for our whole team.”
Denise Clarke of DC Communications states, “No doubt, trying to build some kind of community with our wine enthusiasts is going to be really important during this time. Whether that’s virtual tastings, Twitter tastings, Facetime chats, or happy hours, building that sense of community is going to be so important after we get through a lot of the logistical challenges that are happening right now.”
Texas wineries are already instituting engaging customer solutions, and we at Texas Wine Lover anticipate more creative responses to this crisis in the near future. From virtual tastings to gifts with purchase, Texas wineries are generating goodwill and keeping Texans’ spirits high through this difficult time.
Note: Governor Abbott’s executive order may impact some of the planned in-person events. Confirm details with each winery.
William Chris Vineyards
William Chris announced weekly Saturday and Sunday virtual tastings on Facebook. A 4-pack of the wines that will be tasted is available on the William Chris website at a significant discount. They also introduced a hashtag (#WCVStrong) to use to stay in touch on social media.
Kuhlman Cellars’ virtual tasting puts the social back in social distancing. The two virtual tasting packages include 2-3 bottles of wine, Kuhlman’s famous almonds, plus an invitation to a live virtual tasting with Kuhlman staff. The tastings will take place at multiple times over the next several weeks. Both packages qualify for free shipping.
Lost Draw Cellars
Gillespie County is in luck when it comes to wine and toilet paper. Lost Draw Cellars will arrange delivery or curbside pickup and include a free roll of toilet paper with a 4+ bottle purchase. No joke!
Update 3/22/2020: Lost Draw Cellars has announced they will ship free during quarantine.
Southold Farm + Cellar
Rather than a pickup party, Southold Farm + Cellar is offering a drive-through pick-up at its production facility. They’ll include a few goodies (cheese and otherwise) so that you can hold your own private cheese and wine party at home.
Southold is also introducing Social Distancing… With A View. They’ll take reservations for people to enjoy a picnic onsite. Wine bottle sales are available. Parties must keep a 6-foot distance while attending, and other safety considerations will be strictly enforced.
Kiepersol is offering not just wine in a drive thru format, but also meat, cheese, sodas, and whatever else you might need. Through relationships with their food service providers, Kiepersol can help you secure most anything with enough advance notice. Watch for social media announcements of virtual wine tastings coming soon.
Pedernales Cellars has scheduled a weekly library release that includes bottles with very limited stock on hand. Wine club members will likely buy out the remaining supply of favorites like the 2012 George Bush 25th Anniversary Reserve Tempranillo. Watch social media for additional opportunities to enjoy the Pedernales deck and to take advantage of shipping specials.
Brennan Vineyards is also dipping into library reserves and offering club members an opportunity to receive mystery cases. A BOGO special was also announced. Purchase a case of a single varietal wine and get a second case of a single variety for 50% off. Excludes new releases.
Slate Mill Wine Collective
Slate Mill Wine Collective is offering picnic packages to accompany your to-go wine order. Place orders online and pick up one hour later. Residents of Dripping Springs, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, Kerrville, North San Antonio, Central Austin, and South Austin can get home delivery on Mondays and Thursdays with a minimum order of $50. The Slate Mill Wine Collective team will offer food and wine pairing sessions on Fridays. Certain wine packs available online include an invitation to a Skype tasting. These packs are unique since they include wines from several Texas wineries.
English Newsom Cellars
Distilleries Get Busy
As wineries determine next steps, Hye Rum and Milam & Greene found an immediate way to be useful to local communities in Hye and Blanco, respectively. Both distilleries produced high proof hand sanitizing gel from the byproducts of their spirits production. Hye Hands, a 69% ABV gel, has a delightful spiced rum aroma. At Milam & Greene, distilling byproducts are usually used as a disinfectant in the distillery. Now they’ve been repurposed to create the Heads & Hearts hand sanitizer. Both distilleries are offering the sanitizers free of charge. Contact the distilleries directly to inquire about availability.
What’s next for Texas wineries? “Finding new ways to engage consumers is a priority,” explained Matt McGinnis, President of Big Thirst Marketing. “There is no real replacement for the face-to-face interaction of the tasting room and events. However, people are eager to engage with each other and share their experiences. Heavier use of social media is a great way to stay connected, as well as ensuring the winery newsletter is informative and entertaining. Virtual tastings, online wine chats, video tutorials for wine pairings and tastings, and winemaker seminars are all great ways to spend time with wine drinkers while honoring their social distance. Getting wine in their hands is equally important. The direct to consumer model is going to come in handy here, but it really needs to be augmented with new ways to ship wine to customers. Curbside pickup and free shipping are just the beginning. I expect to see wineries employing new means for home delivery and working with restaurants for carryout orders and delivery of wine with meals.
Wineries with wine in distribution have a number of new opportunities to entice people to stock up on their favorite cases of wine when they are out buying toilet paper. I expect to see new video campaigns, online advertising campaigns, in-store display, social media influencer campaigns, and retail partnership campaigns to spark interest in Texas wine.
The good news is that excellent wines are produced in this state by smart, creative people who will find new ways to keep Texas wine drinkers happy. We will persevere.”
Shipping Specials and Discounts
Many wineries are offering online shipping specials and other discounts. And because so many of us are working at home, you’ll likely be home to receive the shipment! See winery websites for full details on ordering.
Wedding Oak Winery – Free shipping on 12+ bottles through June 30. $10 flat rate shipping for 3, 4, and 6-bottle shipments.
Fall Creek Vineyards – “Keep Sipping with Free Shipping” with 6+ bottle purchase.
C.L. Butaud – $1 shipping on orders of 6+ bottles. Use promo code CLBLove.
Reddy Vineyards – Free shipping on 3+ bottles.
Dandy Rosé – Free shipping on 3+ bottles.
Eden Hill Winery – $1 shipping, any quantity.
William Chris Vineyards – Free shipping with 6+ bottles.
Spirit of Texas Winery – Free shipping on 4+ bottles.
Kuhlman Cellars – Free shipping on orders over $75.
Ab Astris – Free shipping on 6+ bottles.
Brennan Vineyards – Free shipping on 3+ bottles through 4/15/20.
Perissos Vineyard and Winery – Free shipping for 3+ bottles.
Llano Estacado – Free shipping on 12+ bottles through 3/31/20.
Messina Hof – Free shipping on 12+ bottles, $15 flat rate shipping for 3-11 bottles. Free local delivery of orders over $100 within 15 miles of each Messina Hof location.
Bull Lion – 10% off 6+ bottles with code: 6BOTTLE, 20% off 12+ bottles with code 12BOTTLE
Alexander Vineyards – 10% off any order placed online by March 27th with code avwine
Bending Branch Winery – Free shipping on 3+ bottles
Duchman Family Winery – Free shipping on 3+ bottles
Pedernales Cellars – Free shipping on all orders over $100, plus special 3-bottle wine bundles.
Follow #TXWineResponds2020 for winery updates in this rapidly changing environment.