Tasting room fees rise in Sonoma County in pandemic aftermath

The average price for a wine tasting has increased by 44% in Sonoma County compared to rates established before the pandemic, according to data compiled by a wine blog.|

The average price for a wine tasting in Sonoma County has increased by 44% compared to rates established before the pandemic, according to data compiled by the Sonoma Wine Tasting Blog.

The blog, which is written by Eric Schwartzman and hosted at the website for Halleck Vineyard in Sebastopol, reported that an entry-level price for a wine tasting in the county was $25.75 before the March 19, 2020, lockdown. The average has since increased to $37.

Under the pandemic, local wineries switched to holding more tastings on an appointment basis to provide better service and help better manage labor costs. The blog found that 85% of the county’s wineries with tasting rooms have moved to a reservation-only model.

The blog reported that the town with the largest share of tasting rooms that still accommodate walk-ins was located in Glen Ellen at a 44% rate, with seven out of its 17 facilities accepting such guests. The town of Sonoma was next at 30% with 11 of its 37 tasting rooms accepting walk-in guests.

The blog reported that wine tasting prices increased the greatest in Healdsburg, by 74%.

Jackson Family Wines buys another Australian vineyard

Giant Steps winery in Australia's Yarra Valley near Melbourne, which is owned by Santa Rosa-based Jackson Family Wines, has bought a new vineyard.

Giant Steps, which Jackson acquired in 2020, purchased the Bastard Hill vineyard, which has 32 acres of vines planted exclusively to chardonnay and pinot noir.

The vineyard got its name for its steep slope and high altitude, which ranges between an elevation of 982 to 1,312 feet.

“The dramatic landscape of Bastard Hill reflects viticulture at its most extreme,” said Christopher Jackson, second-generation proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, in a statement. “The extremity of the site sets the stage for Giant Steps to continue to tell the story of the Yarra through the lens of transparent varieties, chardonnay and pinot noir.”

The winery owns other vineyards, such as Applejack, which also is located in the Upper Yarra Valley, and the Sexton vineyard in Gruyere, Australia.

Inglenook opens new winery facility

Inglenook, the historic Napa Valley winery owned by Francis Ford Coppola, has completed construction on its new winery cave and will use it for the 2022 wine grape harvest.

Most winery caves are not used for production, but Inglenook revamped its facility to add 120 remotely-controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks within the 22,000-square-foot area. The winery produces fewer than 30,000 cases annually for the luxury label owned by the famous film director.

“Since it was founded in Napa Valley in 1879, Inglenook has been recognized around the world for its innovation and industry leadership. This new production cave is another shining achievement in Inglenook’s illustrious 143-year history,” Coppola said in a statement.

Compiled by Bill Swindell. Submit items to bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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