Willamette Valley wineries and tasting rooms see big boost as COVID-19 restrictions end

Oregon Wine Country is seeing a much-needed boost after nearly a year of restrictions.

Posted: Jul 2, 2021 7:07 PM

WILLAMETTE VALLEY, Ore. -- After a tough year of COVID-19 restrictions and wildfires, Oregon Wine Country is seeing a boost in revenue.

King Estate Winery says reservations are required to get an accomodation.

"It started with the Olympic Trials and then continued on this weekend. We're almost at capacity tomorrow," senior communication director Jenny Ulum. "We don't want people to come all the way here and discover that we're full, not because of the pandemic -- that's lovely because we longer have the occupancy requirements -- but just because we're so busy."

Pfeiffer Winery said they are also seeing an increase in customers.

"We can't keep up with the events," said Pfeiffer Winery owner Danuta Pfeiffer. "We have all sorts of wedding receptions, bachelor receptions and birthday parties."

MORE: EVENT PLANNERS BUSIER THAN EVER AS COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS LIFTED

During the pandemic, wineries in the Willamette Valley were struggling to stay afloat.

"We lost some revenue," Pfeiffer said. "We were doing curbside and delivery, struggling to stay alive."

Ulum said the wildfires were even more devastating than the pandemic.

"The pandemic was difficult for tasting rooms and restaurants," Ulum said. "I would say the wildfires were even more devastating because they required us to shut down. We couldn't go work out in the field due to the smoke."

Pfeiffer said their winery had to get creative to accomodate their customers during the wildfires.

"We've got some pretty creative winemakers,"said Pfeiffer. "So although it was a pretty challenging year, we came out with some pretty nice wine."

Coming out of the pandemic has also created new challenges, including a labor shortage. Pfieffer Winery said they had to hire a new team of workers.

"We have a brand new team that is ready to work and ready to go, but at first it was a struggle," said Pfieffer.

King Estate Winery also said coming out of the pandemic has created similar challenges but they are planning to open their restaurant soon along with their other accomodations. They said they have hired a new chef and are preparing the kitchen.

"We have an outstanding kitchen and an outstanding menu," Ulum said. "We're eager to get that reopened and it's coming."

Tasting rooms in downtown Eugene are also seeing a boost in sales.

"This year, we have a lot of people showing interest," Oregon Wine Lab owner Mark Nicholl said. "Last month was a really great month for us."

Wineries also said the extreme heat from the past weekend didn't create any setbacks in terms of the vineyard grapes.

RELATED: OREGON FACING EXTREME HEAT THIS WEEKEND

"The grapes are fine," said Ulum. "They can withstand the heat. The timing of the heat was really good from a vineyard perspective."

Pfeiffer said because the heat didn't persist long, it didn't have a big impact on the condition of the grapes.

"Fortunately it didn't last, it was only a few days," said Pfeiffer. "Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio are considered cold-climate grapes. If it gets too hot, they tend to clam up. But when we went out into the field, the grapes looked fine. It was still early enough in the season."

Both Pfeiffer and King Estate said they anticipate a busy summer.

"The summer is our peak time," Ulum said. "We will be able to welcome people back with full food and wine tasting service."

Pfeiffer Winery also weighed in.

"People can't wait to celebrate," Pfeiffer said. "We have plenty of space; indoors, outdoors, in our tasting rooms, our Friday Night Burgers and Blues are sold out every week. We even had to expand to have music out here on Sundays"

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