How B.C.’s wineries have risen to the challenges posed by COVID-19
Wild Goose general manager Roland Kruger had never seen anything like it. From his home overlooking Highway 97, he watched an endless stream of motor homes heading north in early March. It signalled a much earlier than usual return of snowbirds from warmer climes, one more sign that in just a matter of days everything had changed.By March 11, the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic; a week later, on March 17, the British Columbia government called a state of emergency, shuttering non-essential businesses, cancelling travel and encouraging residents to stay at home.
The fallout from COVID-19 had an immediate impact on every area of hospitality, including the province’s wineries, which had little time to react. Like many, Wild Goose curtailed its tasting room to offer only curb-side pickup, but issues arose both inside the winery and out. “Vineyards don’t care about human viruses. They keep growing—and so do the weeds,” Kruger joked. With the borders closing, Wild Goose’s small team of Mexican skilled workers was initially denied entry into Canada. They were eventually cleared, but then the problem became how to get them here. The winery was also in the process of hiring its summer bistro staff, but when it might actually open was anyone’s guess. (It just re-opened on June 25.) Then there was the logistical challenge of physical distancing on the bottling line.
Like others, Kruger took it all in stride. Now, as wineries are slowly re-opening their tasting rooms and restaurants, we take a look back how the industry rose to this most challenging of times.
That kind of generosity is part of a pattern that’s seen some wineries (including Township 7 Vineyards & Winery, Rust Wine Co., Corcelettes Estate Winery, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Poplar Grove and Foxtrot Vineyards) donate partial proceeds of wine sales to charitable organizations such as the BC Hospitality Foundation. Many others offered free shipping or sweetened their deals with gift card “futures” for restaurants.
All over, wineries have come up with an abundance of ways to conduct business almost as normal—in a time that’s certainly not.