Temecula wineries, temporarily closed amid COVID pandemic, reopen with health guidelines in place

Current restrictions mean wineries in Riverside County may not be used as wedding venues, at least for now.
TEMECULA, Calif. (KABC) -- Riverside county wineries now have approval to reopen tasting rooms with certain modifications. Social distancing is required, masks are recommended although not mandatory, and customers won't be able to stand at the bar.

"We're excited," said winemaker Joseph Wiens. "We finally get our customers back which we're really excited about."

Wiens Family Cellars in Temecula was closed for nearly three months since COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential businesses were put in place. Wiens estimates 60% of the employees were furloughed but are now back to work.

But the modifications required by Riverside County Public Health means the tasting room won't have the capacity that it did before the global pandemic.

"Before all of this we saw a little over 1,000 or 1,200 tasters over the weekend," said Wiens. "We're expecting maybe half of that this weekend, and we are limited now that everybody has to be in a seat. You can't crowd, so that limits how many you can serve."

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Wiens estimates that online sales of his wine jumped by 300% during the shutdown, but that did not make up for the tasting room being closed for nearly three months.

"We don't focus on distribution. So basically, what we produce we have to sell through our tasting room," said Wiens. "We're excited to get back to normal."

Current restrictions mean he still will not be able to use the winery as a wedding venue, at least for the time being.

"We have one a couple who's had to push (their wedding) back a couple times," said Wiens. "They are planning on an August wedding here, so we're crossing our fingers and hoping to make that happen."

Wiens isn't aware of any wineries in the area that had to close permanently because of the economic restrictions.

"I think pretty much everybody's weathered the storm," he said. "There was talk that if this went longer there were wineries that were getting desperate. But now that we can get the doors back open again, and get people back in here tasting, we should all make it OK."
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