Slow summer on the horizon, wineries plan to adapt

MEDFORD, Ore.– Wineries in Jackson County are gearing up for a potential reopening but are still expecting the summer months to be much slower than usual.

With major events like OSF and Britt Festival canceled, wineries expect tourism to be down. According to Cowhorn Winery in the Applegate Valley, business has dropped dramatically with its’ tasting room closed and restaurants shut down as well. The winery says its already adjusted its budget for 2020 with the expected decline in sales this summer to alleviate any further loss in revenue.

“We have a plan. Plans are subject to change just like anything else and until we are actually open it’s tough to gauge what exactly the consumer will do,” said co-owner Bill Steele.

Steele says they’ve made many changes but have luckily been able to keep all their staff on. The trick is finding new ways to keep business running when everything is changing day by day. It’s unclear when the reopening will happen. Governor Kate Brown stated last week some counties may be able to reopen by May 15 if they meet the state criteria. No matter what though, it’s a waiting game for wineries like Steele’s.

“Our plan is to open as soon as we are legally able to but what will happen after that is subject to – who knows?” said Steele who’s concerned about what might happen if the virus spikes again and they’re forced to close down once more.

Cowhorn plans on meeting all the health requirements and is developing protocols to ensure both customers and employees will remain safe when they reopen. But that’s just one winery’s decision and Steele says right now there are so many different business models each winery will act differently.

Groups made up of local wine owners like the Rogue Valley Vintners have routine newsletters and announcements about what’s being done and Steele is certain best practices will be shared to help everyone successfully move forward.

The trouble is seeing how much business they’ll all get once everything opens and whether people feel comfortable to go out.

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