Wineries and breweries taking a financial hit from COVID-19 find ways to sell and promote their products
Wineries and breweries are adapting to what may be the new reality for quite a while because of COVID-19. Shuttered tasting rooms, where visitors would normally gather to sample and buy products, are giving way to curbside pickup and virtual happy hours. Trimming staff isn’t an option for many establishments trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, and not every winery or brewery is equipped to switch over entirely to shipping, deliveries or curbside pickups.
“It’s been hard,” said Carly Morabito, marketing director at Belhurst Castle and Winery in Geneva, which closed until further notice March 21. The historic hotel and winery overlooking Seneca Lake last year garnered worldwide recognition when international marketer Wine Enthusiast named Belhurst its favorite wine hotel in the U.S.A.
Shuttered for now, Belhurst posted March 21 on its Facebook page: “As a small business, the past week has been hard. We said goodbye to employees — from servers, bartenders and cooks to housekeepers, front desk representatives, wine & gift shop sales associates and more. We said goodbye to people who depend on their hourly shifts to make a living. That’s the hardest part. When you feel like the walls are closing in and you can’t do anything. But the walls are not. We are not. We’re moving ahead in the best and only way we know how. Together …”
Belhurst continues to book for future events.
“We’re trying to stay positive,” said Morabito.
As the coronavirus has spread throughout the country, the first concern is and must be for individual health, wrote Wine America President Jim Trezise in an industry newsletter this week.
“But millions of Americans also depend on employment for their financial health, emotional health, and the well-being of their families,” Trezise wrote.
“We pray — we know, this will end,” said Andrea Colaruotolo-O'Neill, marketing director at Casa Larga Vineyards and Winery in Perinton.
Casa Larga switched to contactless shopping options that include delivery, shipping and curbside pickup. People can order from home, online, by phone or by email.
“We are hopeful and prayerful for a quick end to this virus and pay tribute to all of the people working the front lines of this battle,” Colaruotolo-O'Neill said in an email. “We can all do our part to stay contactless, end the spread and flatten the curve."
“It is a scary time for all right now and we want you to know that We Are All In This Together,” posted Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards on its Facebook page. Hazlitt — with wineries in Hector, Schuyler County, and at Red Cat Cellars in Naples — is an all-online store for now, with curbside pickup, shipping and an “Order & Hold” option in which an order can be held at the winery until the customer is ready to pick it up.
Many wineries and breweries are instituting or ramping up similar services to get through the COVID pandemic. With bars and tasting rooms closed and April onsite events canceled or postponed, websites and Facebook pages are the go-to spots. A few examples: Inspire Moore Winery in Naples is posting updated lists of its wine selection for ordering via email. At Arbor Hill Winery and Grapery and Brew & Brats at Arbor Hill in South Bristol, you can order wine and gourmet food products and place takeout orders from Brew & Brats for curbside pickup. Heron Hill streamlined its ordering process with a Shop-Now button and has at-home tasting kits available for purchase online.
Craft breweries are coming up with clever options, from new releases to virtual beer parties.
April 7 is National Beer Day, and you can find ways to celebrate with local breweries such as Young Lion Brewing in Canandaigua, Naked Dove in Hopewell, Twin Elder Brewery in Victor and others posting details on their Facebook pages and websites.
“These are certainly unprecedented times for local craft beer,” posted the New York Beer Project, which has a brewery in Victor. “Our industry has been rocked to its core by recent events, but we remain strong and unified — all of the heartfelt comments and posts we've seen from you all over the last two weeks have solidified that, and we're genuinely grateful.”
New York Beer Project will celebrate this National Beer Day with its OnevStrong release, and a virtual “cheers” on April 7 — ”where together we will raise a glass to celebrate our strong Craft Beer Community, and to thank you for your love and support.”
“This beer was brewed for everyone who is trying to #StayVStrong during this difficult time, and our hope is that this delicious, complex New England IPA will put your mind, if only temporarily, at ease,” posted the brewery.
Need a little levity in dark times? Check out Heron Hill Managing Partner Eric Frarey in his cozy at-home lounge pants and slippers talking about Heron Hill’s 2019 dry Rosé with refreshing notes of strawberry and tart cherry. How about a live stream — #QuarantinedWithDean! — with brewmaster Dean Jones, at the Genesee Brewhouse in Rochester?
The wine and beer industry may see some relief from the recently passed CARES Act — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Provisions include a forgivable loan program to help keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic and economic downturn, as well as employee retention tax credits and other supports.
Meanwhile, work in the fields and vineyards continues uninterrupted, guided by Mother Nature and the need for agriculture.
“While it has been disappointing to discontinue services in our tasting rooms just as we were ready to enter into our busier spring season, we are heartened to know that we can continue to sell wine to-go and thankful that wine production is recognized as an essential service,” Heron Hill’s Eric Frarey told Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. “Agriculture continues according to its normal seasonal schedule while our vineyards teams focus on activities like pruning, trellis repair and maintenance, and tying vines.”
This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Daily Messenger: https://mpnnow.com/subscribenow