YAMHILL COUNTY, Ore. — Despite what we've been going through, the sun still shines, and the grapes still grow. Oregon wine country has quietly been working behind the scenes during this pandemic. With Yamhill County able to open in Phase 1 in May, it's been time enough for Brooks Winery in Amity to formulate a plan.
"We have reservations available online now. It's reservation only now, when we used to be able to do walk-ins. We've spaced the tables so every party is six-plus feet apart. All of our servers are going to be wearing masks, and we have rigorous cleaning standards," explains Jillian Barnhart of Brooks.
Restaurants, more than any other industry in the nation, have suffered the most significant sales and job losses since the coronavirus outbreak began. The restaurant industry will take $240-billion in losses by the end of 2020. 4 in 10 restaurants have closed permanently. 8-million industry employees have been laid off or furloughed around the country, according to Restaurant.org.
It's been heartbreaking for the 30-plus employees at Brooks to watch. Yes, they've had to change their bottling and winemaking practices to stay healthy, but have thankfully kept most all of their jobs throughout this.
"The restaurant industry is super important to us," said Chris Williams, head winemaker. "We've made a lot of really good friends. To me it's been the hardest thing to see is what's happening to the hospitality industry."
Brooks has joined several other wineries in helping their food family.
They're on track to donate just shy of $30,000 to Covid-related charities that help hospitality workers. Part of that came from a special red blend called Storyteller Pinot Noir. It's already sold out. But the money went to World Central Kitchen, a non-profit paying restaurants to prepare meals for those who can't afford them.
Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee, is giving 10-percent of it's $30 2017 Grand Assemblage Syrah to the Portland non-profit Family Meal that helps pay medical bill debt for food service and agricultural workers.
Suzor Wines in Dayton has created a special pinot noir called Ensemble that gives $10 from every $25 bottle, also to Family Meal. Buy off their website, and your first purchase gets you a 10-percent discount.
"Our customer base stepping up and buying these wines and knowing they're doing it for a good effort, it's an important thing," Williams said. "It keeps your community base giving back to who they like to support."