Dan, there’s obviously been big changes in the world over the past month, what’s changed at Gainey?
Some parts of the business have changed dramatically, and some parts really haven’t changed much at all. The greatest changes, of course, have been to our tasting room operations. Our Evan’s Ranch tasting room in Los Olivos has been closed entirely and our Gainey tasting room is only open now for curbside pickups.
On the other hand, our production team has been working normally (albeit with more COVID-19 safety precautions) and is busy getting wines ready for bottling over the next several months. Our vineyard crew will be returning in the next week so they can begin the usual springtime activities of shoot-thinning, suckering, moving wires, etc.
You and your family have been making wines for 36 years, was this the first time you’ve closed the tasting rooms?
Yes and it has been very challenging. And let me take this opportunity to thank everyone who has continued to support us during this difficult time with your calls, emails, purchases and well-wishes, it’s been overwhelming and we really appreciate it.
One of the most difficult parts of this experience is that my staff and I feel really close to a lot of our customers and now we are disconnected. We’re looking forward to reopening and seeing them again.
Speaking of reopening, what do you expect that to look like when it happens?
I don’t exactly know what that looks like yet, but we’re making preparations to be ready with whatever safety protocols are required. We are planning to include a daily professional cleaning of the facilities, stocking of personal protection equipment for our staff, disinfectants, sanitizers, thermometers, etc.
One advantage of being on a ranch is all the space we have here. So whether we are conducting tastings indoors or taking advantage of the beautiful Spring and Summer weather outdoors, we’ll have tables and chairs set up with plenty of distance between them. We’ll be ready to keep everyone safe.
Is there anything particular to the wine business that resonates with you during this crisis?
There are a couple things that the wine business teaches that have been really useful during all this. The first is patience. If you’re a short-term oriented person, the wine business isn’t for you. When you plant a vineyard, it takes three to four years before you get your first harvest and then, depending on what kind of wine you’re making, it takes months or even years before the wine is ready for sale. It takes a long time to establish a reputation for quality and a longer time to establish a reputation for consistency. This crisis is requiring all of us to be very patient. I’m hoping the lessons we’ve learned over the years here at Gainey will help us get through it.
The other thing that the wine business teaches is the primacy of nature. Our wines are completely dependent on Mother Nature and what she decides to give us from our vineyards each year. What has really struck me this Spring is that no matter how much the world of humans has been turned upside down, the natural processes have their own agenda and their own schedule. The hills and pastures have turned green, the wildflowers are blooming, the wildlife is busy with their Spring activities, and our vines have awakened form their dormancy and put out new growth. Life goes on. And seeing that has given us a sense of stability, it has given us direction, and it has given us hope.
Any lessons learned from the crisis?
I think this pandemic has reminded us all that life is short and we’re very interdependent. So as much as possible, we should look after each other and try to enjoy the gift of life. I think wine fits into that philosophy. Throughout our history, wine has played an important role in the human condition and our happiness. One of my favorite quotes is from Ben Franklin,
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
What we’ve been trying to do here at this small, family-owned winery for the last 36 years is to create wines that contribute to the enjoyment of life and each other.