Patrick Merry bought more than 100 stainless steel tumblers not long before COVID-19 social distancing forced him to end tastings at his Pullman winery.
He planned to let his Merry Cellars customers sip wine for free if they purchased the glasses over Washington State University’s Mom’s Weekend, which would have wrapped up Sunday had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic.
Merry Cellars is not alone. Wineries throughout Idaho and Washington, including those in this region, are open. Customers can stop by to pick up wine, but there is no mingling or tasting, a key way they market their product.
South of Pullman, wineries were gearing up for the 2020 Lewis-Clark Valley Wine Festival, which, like Mom’s Weekend, would have ended Sunday. Instead it’s been postponed indefinitely.
The challenge for wineries is unique. Tasting reduces risk for customers in an industry where the price of an upscale bottle of wine, a luxury good, can easily exceed $50. And it can be difficult for wine enthusiasts to know which ones they will like best, even if they are familiar with a particular winery. A winery’s 2014 merlot could differ greatly from its 2017 version, even if the grapes came from the same vineyard, because temperatures and other factors can change the flavors.
“Especially given the investment is not trivial, we don’t want (customers) to be disappointed,” Merry said.
So Merry and others in the wine industry are getting creative. Merry was shipping out pairs of tumblers last week in $60 packages that included a bottle of Merry Cellars 2017 Crimson Red wine, WSU party favors and instructions for an at-home scavenger hunt.
A $100 Merry Cellars gift card was the prize for customers who found items such as stemware from the winery and WSU flags. Participants were judged on how many objects they found and how well they photographed them.
In Lewiston, Jovinea Cellars is giving its wine club members a free bottle of wine if they do a photo or video review and post it on social media.
“It’s resulting in a fun virtual community event during these times of isolation, said Lisa Grigg, an owner of Jovinea Cellars. “I am learning more about my wine club members.”
As winery owners operate within the new limits, they are paying even more attention to safety. Employees at Lindsay Creek Vineyards in Lewiston are wiping down bottles with peroxide wipes.
Several wineries, including Basalt Cellars in Clarkston and Vine 46 Winery in Lewiston, leave purchases on tables outside locked tasting rooms at a time arranged with customers after they place telephone orders.
“They do not have any contact with customers at all,” said Lynn DeVleming, an owner of Basalt Cellars.
Here’s a snapshot of how to obtain wine from some area wineries:
Basalt Cellars, 906 Port Drive, Clarkston. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Credit card telephone orders only at (509) 758-6442, with 30 percent discount on cases for members.Camas Prairie Winery, 207 Main St., Bovill. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Call-ahead pickup orders available at (208) 826-3222 for wine, beer, snack items and gifts made by local artisans. Online orders at camasprairiewinery.com.
Clearwater Canyon Cellars, 3143 10th St., Lewiston. 9 a.m. to noon and 2-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Curbside pickup and shipping arranged by calling (208) 816-4679 or online at www.cccellars.com.
Colter’s Creek, 215 S. Main St., Moscow. Noon to 6 p.m.,Thursday through Saturday. Prearranged to-go and curbside wine orders only at (208) 301-5125. 308 Main St., Juliaetta. Noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Prearranged to-go and curbside wine and food orders from a limited menu at (208) 276-3342.
Jovinea Cellars Tasting Room, 301 Main St., Suite 106, Lewiston. Noon to 3 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday. Curbside pickup available by calling (208) 718-8650.
Lindsay Creek Vineyards, 3107 Powers Ave., Lewiston. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Credit card curbside pickup available by calling (208) 746-9463. Discount of 50 percent for health care providers and first responders through April 10.
Merry Cellars, 1300 NE Henley Court, Pullman. Noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To-go and curbside pickup. Home delivery in Pullman, Colfax and Uniontown and surrounding areas in Washington state available by calling (509) 338-4699.
Parejas Cellars, 903 Sixth St., Clarkston. Home delivery in Clarkston and call-ahead curbside pickup available by calling (208) 553-1236.
Spiral Rock Vineyard, 25844 Old Spiral Highway. Delivery orders for wine and kombucha on the Palouse and in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley available by calling (208) 791-0912.
Vine 46, Newberry Square, 800 Main St., Suite 6, Lewiston. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Curbside pickup at the back of the building and Lewiston delivery orders available by calling (208) 790-8556 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.