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For weeks, while Virginia has been locked down, the state’s wineries were forced to close their tasting rooms and grounds to visitors. Most continued to sell wine, sometimes at a deep discount, usually shipping bottles or offering curbside pick-up. Some went further, delivering as few as three bottles to a customer’s door for free, and hosting virtual tastings.
But as of May 15, many wineries will be allowed to reopen to visitors—sort of. After weeks of drinking pinot grigio within your own four walls, you might be tempted to take a drive and have a vineyard picnic. But it won’t be as simple as in the past. (Then again, what is?)
The website Virginia Wine in My Pocket has a handy list of wineries, updated constantly, with each one’s reopening date and policies. Still, you’ll want to check a winery’s website before heading there. Many Northern Virginia vineyards are still closed to on-site consumption, including ones in Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William counties.
Like every Virginia business that chooses to open, wineries will have to adhere to certain rules about cleaning and social distancing. (You will, too, such as wearing a mask at times.) Here are some of the other changes you might find:
Many wineries now require a reservation, to limit the number of visitors. Some are also imposing a time limit on how long guests can stay.
You may need to pay for that reservation. While most winery reservations are free, a few are selling packages that include the wine. When Barrel Oak Winery reopens May 16, for example, you will be asked pay $295 a couple for four hours in a private space, but get that $295 back in beer or wine that you can drink on site or bring home—plus, you’ll get a face mask. Meanwhile, Pearmund Cellars is requiring patrons to buy a $50 gift card for a reservation; the gift card can then be applied to a purchase of wine.
Indoor tasting rooms will be closed. You can hang out on a winery’s patio, picnic tables, or grounds—and you may be allowed to go inside to order wine or use the restroom. But even if the skies open up and it starts to rain, you cannot stay indoors.
Tastings may not be possible. Some wineries plan to sell full bottles only. Others may do pre-poured flights, in disposable cups, if you want to sample a variety of vintages.
Group sizes will be limited—and you may need to leave the kids at home. Even pre-pandemic, some wineries discouraged groups larger than eight or ten people, and did not allow children. Now, more may enforce bans on large groups and temporarily close to children.
Bear in mind that if you live in the DMV, and are still under lockdown orders, driving out to a winery for a picnic is probably not considered an essential trip.
This article has been updated since its initial posting.