B.C. wineries are open for indoor tasting despite new provincial health regulations. Photo- 50th Parallel Winery, Instagram.

B.C. wineries are open for indoor tasting despite new provincial health regulations. Photo- 50th Parallel Winery, Instagram.

Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Although current provincial health orders prohibit restaurants, pubs and bars from offering indoor dining services, wineries can still host indoor samplings of their products.

According to Miles Prodan, the president and CEO of Wine Growers British Columbia (WGBC), wineries were partially spared by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s latest “circuit breaker” health restrictions because wine tastings are viewed as a retail necessity, not a social gathering.

“You wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on; you don’t buy a wine without having a taste,” Prodan said.

Many of the wineries across the province have a system that requires people to book a sampling reservation in advance. Tasting sessions don’t typically last longer than 10 minutes and participants are only given three 1.5-ounce samples.

“People were there to taste and to get to know the wine and to buy the wine. It’s not as though they were standing around and having a glass of wine,” said Prodan.

When this concept was explained to health authorities, they gave wineries the green light to host indoor tastings.

“Interior Health’s ultimate goal is to keep people from gathering inside, and that’s why they moved all food and alcohol services outside,” he said. “They said, ‘As long as your tasting isn’t sitting down, we’ll permit that to happen inside.’”

In an email to Kelowna Capital News, Interior Health (IH) said that provincial manufacturers of wine, beer, cider and spirits are permitted to be open and provide tastings indoors.

“This must be for tastings only and be served for the purpose of tasting with intention for purchase,” said IH. “Where possible, it is encouraged to do this outdoors. As well, businesses need to have an approved COVID-19 safety plan.”

READ MORE: Similkameen winery co-owned by Dr. Bonnie Henry

After a busy Easter weekend, Ron Kubek, the owner of Lightning Rock Winery in Summerland, said the new restrictions are a “double-edged sword.”

“We’re seeing a lot of people locally that have not been out to our winery and been out to the Summerland area coming to experience all the great wineries,” said Kubek. “We actually had a busy weekend of tastings.”

Kubek added that he was surprised — but not shocked — that indoor wine tasting was permitted.

“I wasn’t surprised in the sense that we really worked hard as an industry last year … wineries, distilleries, breweries are run by entrepreneurial people,” he said. “Those are what the rules are, and we’ll adapt.”

He said that COVID-19 has forced the wine industry to take reservations more seriously, highlighting that the winery has tasting sessions booked right up until June.

“We have tasting fees and make it a true experience rather than just come in, drink, stay or leave,” he said. “We want to make it, so you have a true experience when you come out.”

Despite this silver lining in the restrictions, Prodan said that many wineries across the province feel the pressure of the new restrictions.

“If a winery has a restaurant, they now have to do that outside. There are restrictions in space, weather dependant and not everybody has a patio to move out into,” he said.

According to a WGBC survey from August 2020, 83 per cent of wineries and grape growers in the province have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The survey also found that one in every 10 wineries and grape growers is at risk of closing, with 58 per cent seeing a loss in revenue and 55 per cent have reduced access to customers.

Prodan said that a similar survey was conducted after the province implemented the last round of restrictions — 75 per cent of those who responded were anticipating a loss of income.

“We’re disappointed because of how it’s going to impact all industries, in particular ours, but we understand that it’s something that needs to happen,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

READ MORE: Dining indoors at YLW’s White Spot allowed despite public health orders


@aaron_hemens
aaron.hemens@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC Wine

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Andrew Swanson was arrested Wednesday after he was wanted for an alleged choking assault and for obstructing police. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police arrest Andrew Swanson on warrants for alleged choking assault, obstruction

A member of the public spotted Swanson and called 911 before police came and made the arrest

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth sustains minor injuries in stabbing at Saanich Plaza

Suspect under age of 16 taken into custody, no risk to the public, police say

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
West Shore proud owners of B.C.’s first electric school bus

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

With the help of a $110,000 federal grant, Saanich will be adding 22 new EV chargers for its municipal fleet to reduce emissions from district operations. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich adds 22 new EV chargers for municipal fleet to reduce corporate emissions

Federal grant adds $110,000 jolt to project, installation to be completed fall 2022

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports 1st vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Most Read