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

Sean Hart, 34, unexpectedly left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility in Saanich on Nov. 6, 2020 and has now been missing for six months. (Photo courtesy Penny Hart)
Search continues for Saanich man Sean Hart six months after his disappearance

Support from community, police keeps his mother hopeful

Police stopped, then let go this man and his large collection of cans during a stop Monday morning on Resthaven Drive. Police had received a report of a possible theft, but let him go after he had returned the property, which he believed was his to take after being left out in public. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Report of theft, balancing act on Sidney street draws curious onlookers

Incident happened just before 8:30 a.m. opposite of Vancouver Island Regional Library branch

Daniel Foster, last seen in downtown Parksville on Saturday, May 1. (submitted photo)
RCMP seek help locating missing Victoria man, last spotted in Parksville

Daniel Foster, 43, seen via surveillance camera using an ATM

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Victoria Police Department looks to identify a person of interest after a Friday night stabbing. (VicPD handout)
Police seek person of interest after Victoria stabbing

Friday night assault leaves one with potentially life-altering injuries

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Most Read