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Wineries were shuttered for months; experts say vintners will lose billions of dollars statewide. Although you might find it more difficult to belly up to a bar in a tasting room — COVID safety guidelines limit the use of indoor spaces — vintners have created lively outdoor activities and added innovative online experiences. Winery lawns or courtyards have metamorphosed into socially distanced spaces. Unlike many businesses forced to move to parking lots or sidewalks, wineries often have lush grounds at their disposal. Vintners took full advantage, adding cabanas, fire pits and music to bring a party vibe to their tastings.

Helena, visitors find flavorful fun on the sidewalks and back streets where string lights, heaters, tents and festive decorations add spirit to the experience. Visitors seeking athletic pastimes can mix wine tasting with horseback ridinghikingcycling or kayaking tours. Feeling lazy? Spend a leisurely afternoon tasting while taking a gondola ride down the Napa River or watching horses graze under the shadow of Mt.

Foodies have lots to choose from. Most wineries also offer virtual tastings, a lucrative business that skyrocketed last year when customers grew tired of being trapped at home. They can be as small as a solo tasting or large enough to accommodate hundreds of participants. Outdoor tastings, of course, require different skills.

For the most part, they are hands-off propositions deed to socially distance customers and staff. There are extensive rules about wearing masks and making advance reservations because capacity is limited. Most wineries host tastings only Thursdays through Mondays or in some cases on weekends. People prefer being outdoors. Few seem to miss buddying up to servers and other customers in this era of disconnection. John and Irene Brunow love the outdoor tasting experience.

Massive wildfires, heavy smoke and degree-plus summer days also took a toll. In late September, the Glass fire broke out, destroying another 67, acres, along with hundreds of homes in Napa and Sonoma counties. Dozens of wineries were damaged. Then the pandemic caused more shutdowns in December and January. Krug, owned and operated by the Mondavi family for four generations, is rocking its tastings with cabanas, cushy furniture and fire pits.

The goal is to offer a high-end diversion, complete with Wi-Fi in the cabanas. Krug, like many other wineries, has needed to devote more time and effort to virtual tastings.

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Most winemakers are struggling. The best way to help? Drink their wines. The Napa-Sonoma area is known for its spring temperatures — think warm days, cool nights and blue skies. Just check the website of your favorite winery and make a call.

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You can hold a solo tasting or gather a group of friends. One winery recently hosted people on a corporate Zoom tasting. Most have several topics available or will personalize the event to your tastes. Zoom-style events are the most popular, but Instagram and Facebook Live events also can be found. When you register for an event, the winery usually ships bottles for the tasting.

Some are full size, others are small. There was a time, as recently as 20 years ago, when wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma valleys was free. But if you want to do Napa on the cheap, one winery that offers free tastings is St.

Many wineries will waive the fee for a tasting flight if you buy wine. Other tips: Wineries are open only Thursday through Monday; some only on weekends. And make reservations in advance. Check to make sure children or pets are allowed. Jessup Cellars : This Yountville winery couples an art gallery with its tasting bar. The fees are waived if you buy two or more bottles of wine. Rombauer Vineyards : You have two outdoor tasting areas to choose from at Rombauer, which has facilities in both the Napa Valley St. Helena and Sierra foothills.

Cline Vineyards is known for its focus on sustainable farming practices. Purchase two bottles and fees are waived. Loxton Wines: Check out the crush during a tour, which will give you a glimpse of the production process. Tastings take place in a scenic picnic area and include wines from nearby vines. Among the socially distant activities that can be coupled with wine tasting are:.

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Horseback riding : Bartholomew Estate, a new Sonoma Valley winery, offers horseback riding and hiking on a trail that winds through mature oaks, redwoods and vineyards. Hiking : Active Wine Adventures activewineadventures. Cuvaison wines usually sponsors hikes during the summer. Cycling and kayaking: Full-day and shorter trips can be arranged with Getaway Adventures. Or you can watch horses graze under the shadow of Mt. Helena while tasting wine outdoors at Tamber Bey Winery in Calistoga. Jay L. Clendenin ed the Los Angeles Times as a staff photographer in October Clendenin primarily covers the entertainment industry, with a focus on portraiture.

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Surviving a nighttime visitor and other beginner backpacking adventures on Santa Rosa Island. All Sections. About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries. Hot Property. Times Events. Times Store. The sun rises over vineyards planted with cabernet sauvignon outside St. Helena, Calif. Facebook Twitter Show more sharing options Share Close extra sharing options. Photography by Jay L. In a private cabana at the Louis M. Nibbles for pairing, as part of the Heritage Lounge Tasting. A masked server at Louis M. Martini Winery. A glimpse of the 10 acres of merlot grapes at the Ledson Winery and Vineyards.

Zina Cunningham, the great-grandfather of Ledson owner Steve Ledson, started the family in the wine business in Ledson produces more than 70 wines from about 20 varietals. Clusters of merlot grapes hang on the vines last fall at Cakebread Cellars. Visitors from Nashville do a wine tasting at Cakebread Cellars.

Co-proprietor Peter Mondavi Jr. A welcome greets visitors along St. Helena Highway in the Napa Valley. A welcome outside Sonoma, Calif. Travel Things to Do. Follow Us twitter instagram facebook. More From the Los Angeles Times. Travel Surviving a nighttime visitor and other beginner backpacking adventures on Santa Rosa Island.

Fun Yountville gal seeking same

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Wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma will never be the same. Here’s why that’s a good thing