Cheers! Wine Consultants

By Dan & Krista Stockman


We love to travel, especially if that travel involves visiting wineries, which we happen to fit in to just about every vacation to the exasperation of our children.

As we thought about how we wanted to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, we immediately knew we would travel to wine country – without the kids. The only question was which wine country?

We went to Napa and Sonoma counties in California for our 10th anniversary and would love to go back. We were in Washington a couple years ago but didn't get to visit nearly enough wineries. We're saving our return to France for our 25th anniversary. Ultimately, we decided on Oregon, a state we've never visited, but we know has fabulous wines.

Of course, when we made these plans almost a year ago there was not a global pandemic. We found a great place to rent right on the Willamette River and started reading up on which wineries we should visit. Of course, we wanted to visit Portland, do some climbing and visit the coast as well. As usual, we had a lot to pack into just a few days.

As COVID-19 seemingly took over the world, we debated whether we should move forward with our plans. Some days it seemed like the worst idea in the world to get on an airplane and travel across the country. Other days it sounded like the best idea ever – we needed to get away.

In June, with our final cancelation date closing in, we decided to go for it. We would take precautions; we would bring lots of hand sanitizer and gloves and masks and glasses, and we would find a place to hunker down and relax in Oregon.

Traveling in a pandemic is certainly different. It's not just the masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing reminders. When we arrived in Portland, we found many stores and restaurants closed, and those that were open had strict guidelines. Coming from Indiana where restrictions were quite a bit more relaxed, it was nice to see people taking the pandemic seriously, even if it did mean we missed out on some activities.

The wineries in the Willamette River Valley have certainly been affected by the pandemic as well. Many require reservations in advance and have limited seating with tables spaced far apart. Some only serve outside. All require masks when you are away from your table.

For some wineries, the pandemic has been a struggle, while others have found ways to make the wine experience even better. Wineries that rely on retail and restaurant sales have seen profits plummet. But wineries that had a strong customer base of local wine drinkers saw sales skyrocket as they moved to curb-side pick-up options in the spring. Wineries that already had a thriving online sales platform also saw sales skyrocket, others quickly created an online side. Nationwide, alcohol sales were up 26 percent from March-June 2019 to Marc-June 2020, according to the Nielsen Corp., and some of Oregon's wineries were the beneficiaries. Others are left with storage rooms filled with case after case of wine.

Over the next few weeks, we'll share our wine visits with you. We have some great stories to tell and can't wait to revisit them – even if in our memories.


Wineries forced to adapt to survive pandemic