Virginia wineries turn to online sales to stay afloat during coronavirus outbreak

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) — Across central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, wineries had been gearing up for what is traditionally their busy season. Traditionally, warmer weather is a harbinger of the crowds to come.

This year, that’s not the case.

“It would typically be quite full, quite busy," Veritas Winery CEO George Hodson said, looking out at the rows of empty tables and chairs outside the winery’s tasting room. "Obviously, there’s nobody here.”

Veritas has closed its tasting room to the public in the face of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, it is shifting to the internet, hoping to make up some of its sales online. Other wineries are doing the same, going away from tasting and moving to bottle sales only, if they still sell in-person at all.

“We’re offering 5% off, an additional discount, on all our other discounts," Cardinal Point Winery Owner Tim Gorman said. "We also offer free shipping online for the duration of this crisis.”

The pandemic, and subsequent calls for social distancing, came at the worst possible time, vineyard owners say. The summer crowds – flocking for sips, flights, and a day outdoors – are an important source of income. That's income that goes right back into wine production, which typically kicks into high gear this time of year.

“This is our peak bottling season, but it’s also when things are really getting serious in the vineyard," Hodson explained. "We’re having an early bud break this year, because it’s been so warm.”

The early spring warmth means even more work to be done.

“Mother Nature isn’t taking any time off for COVID-19, unfortunately," Gorman said. “We’re gonna keep working the vines, we have to have wine for 2020, you know.”

Many wineries are offering discounts to encourage people to buy. The Monticello Wine Trail has a complete list of deals offered by its members. The Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail has a list of vineyard, from which you can visit individual websites to check how they're responding right now.