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Oregon wineries prepare to reopen

Some wineries and tasting rooms in the Willamette Valley will open as early as Friday. Most will require reservations to ensure social distancing.

DAYTON, Oregon — Wineries and tasting rooms in the Willamette Valley are preparing to reopen in anticipation of Governor Kate Brown's announcement Thursday regarding the state's reopening plan. Counties approved would enter Phase One on Friday.

At Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, employees are ready to re-open Friday, pending Yamhill County's approval.

“It's exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time,” said Michelle Kaufmann, Communications Director for Stoller Wine Group. “We want to make sure that we're reopening responsibly.”

Most wineries including Stoller will require guests to make reservations, since space will be limited to ensure social distancing. The state will require all employees to wear masks. Wearing masks won’t be a requirement for guests, but will be strongly recommended. Kaufmann said employees have been busy practicing serving guests under those conditions.

“We're just running drills… feeling what it's like to actually speak to someone when you're wearing a mask for safety,” said Kaufmann. “How do you make a joke when you can't see that I'm smiling? Little things like that.”

The Willamette Valley Winery Association advised calling ahead to check each winery's policies before visiting. Guests can also check the status of wineries and tasting rooms on the WVWA website. Executive Director Morgen McLaughlin said she was proud of how many wineries have pivoted to stay in business amidst COVID-19 restrictions.

“The word ‘remarkable’ is just what sticks out,” said McLaughlin. “The thing that we really want to emphasize is that this is a really slow and safe reopening… follow the rules be kind, be kind to employees.”

Earlier this week, Yamhill County Board Chair Casey Kulla seemed torn when KGW asked what he would tell potential visitors.

“I'm not going to say don't come to Yamhill County because for years and years we've been saying come to Yamhill County," said Kulla. "It's an amazing place to visit, I just ask people to be careful.”

Back at Stoller, the waiting and hoping continued.

“This too shall pass,” said Kauffman. “It's so hard but very soon we'll figure out a new normal and we'll be able to get back together.”

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