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

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating serious collision in Surrey

Incident happend May 6 at King George Boulevard and 128th Street

Surrey Fire Service firefighters quickly contained a fire on 75A Avenue. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Surrey firefighters extinguish second house fire in Newton

Second fire incident reported in Newton Sunday morning

Surrey RCMP are investigating two ‘suspicious’ fires in Newton Sunday morning. (Shane MacKichan photos)
Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of May 9

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Vancouver Giants celebrated a Justin Sourdif goal Saturday night in Kamloops. Giants dropped a 3-1 decision to Kamloops, a game that clinched the 2020-21 B.C. Division banner for the Blazers. (Allen Douglas/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants drop 3-1 decision to Kamloops

Third-period rally should have come sooner, said coach of Langley-based team

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country’s crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
IHIT investigating after man killed in Burnaby shooting

Police looking for more information on fatal shooting

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

After Bobby Henderson apologized online for his comments to a Toronto reporter, the Langley Rivermen announced that he was no longer team coach and general manager and in fact, had ‘parted ways’ with the franchise in March. (file/Twitter)
Former Langley Rivermen coach and GM apologizes for comments to Toronto reporter

Bobby Henderson blames stress due to the pandemic for his ‘disparaging’ remarks

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read