The Impact of Covid on Williamson Wines

Bill's Covid Interview

In these uncertain Covid times at least one winery is maintaining it's services to its community of customers. A reporter recently asked winery owner Bill Williamson a series of questions about this and we thought to share Bill's answers with you.

Q: What has been the impact on Williamson Wines of COVID restrictions on top of the fires starting in 2017?

A: The fires of 2017 and 2019 taught us that people who have had to change their lives because of a disaster want, more than anything else, to return to normal life.

We made the decision to maintain as normal an operation as possible throughout this disaster while still observing the required guidelines.

While other wineries are closed with their staff on unemployment we have worked hard to stay open. Our staff are serving wine and doing tastings on the sidewalk and in the car park.

Our Pickup Parties, Pig Roast and Lobster Feast, normally one day each of 150 guests, have changed to three days each of 50 guests.

Our annual European and Australia trips have been moved exactly one year out so everyone who wanted to travel with us can retain their tickets and continue to look forward to their trips.

We are supporting our staff, our club members and our community and even though we may not make any income doing it we will continue until we drive "normal" right back up the main street of Healdsburg.

Q Williamson Wines has long differentiated itself by offering complimentary tasting with its "Fridge Foods" program. If I'm reading your website correctly, there is now a charge for everyone, including members, for this tasting. Is that correct and, if so, will that continue to be the case once COVID-related restrictions are lifted?

A: Because our outside seating is limited and we need to distance people by at least six feet we can no longer cater to groups of people congregating around our entrance waiting for a tasting so we require tasting appointments.

Part of our Covid safety protocols is the requirement to be able to track every guest in the event some visitor tests positive. Believe it or not some people make an appointment then no-show leaving our valuable tasting space unused.

To accomplish all these requirements we simply charge $20 per taster at the time they make an appointment. ($10 for Wine Club Members) This fee is then applied to the wine they buy, effectively making the tasting free.

Q: How is Williamson Wines dealing with any capacity limitations and ensuring the safety of visitors during CA's surge in cases, etc?

A: As COVID-19 continues to surge here in Sonoma County we needed to assure that health and safety of both our staff and visitors are our top priorities. All our Tasting Rooms are open for outside-only tastings every day. Proper hygiene and sanitization consistent with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance are enforced, for example:

  • Seated guests remain six feet apart from guests at the next table.
  • Glassware is washed in a commercial glass washer reaching 180°F temperature.
  • Tables, chairs and all touch points are cleaned with sanitizer after every use.
  • Employees undergo daily symptom and temperature wellness screening.
  • Everybody is required to wear face coverings while moving about until seated.
  • Employees use new non-latex gloves after changing tasks to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Employees maintain a six-foot distance from other employees and customers.
  • Group sizes are limited and available by appointment only.
  • We use a no-touch payment system and offer curbside pick-up for all orders.
  • Tasting Rooms close at 6:00 pm in order to be cleaned and fully closed by 7:00 pm.

Q: Have you made any other permanent changes to the tasting experiences you offer? For example, will the "drop in" tastings still take place at 134 Matheson and the "elevated" tastings at 18 Matheson?

A: This is still the same, except that 18 will also provide “fridge food” tastings as well since we have more space there. We have re-labeled the “Fridge-Foods” experience to “Wine & Cheese” but it is essentially the same.

The biggest change we have made is to offer Private Virtual Tastings where we send a tasting package of food and wine to you and then conduct a Zoom tasting with you. Our club members all over the country are loving it. Read more . . .

Q: Is there anything you would especially like me to include with regard to Williamson Wines in my guide?

A: The impact is most obvious in the mind of the people, who are concerned with the mixed messaging. We need to face the actual Covid facts. There is no cure. There is no vaccine. There is only avoidance. To make avoidance work you need to take sensible precautions.

  • Maintain a safe distance of six feet from others.
  • Wear a mask in public.
  • We all have to cough so cover up when you cough.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly and often.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.
  • Check your temperature morning and evening.
  • Remain alert for symptoms and if you feel sick, stay at home and rest.
  • Enjoy a glass of wine outside - some research imply Covid may be destroyed by sunlight.