One of the hardest days in recent memory was the day we shut down due to COVID-19.
Everything happened so quickly. We went from going full-steam ahead – planning for upcoming weddings, preparing for Lobster Fest, and starting to hire for the busy season – to completely closing our tasting room and grounds, canceling or postponing all events, and transitioning into an online-and-phone-only business model for the foreseeable future…. within a week and a half. We were fortunate to be categorized as an “essential business” (because the grapes keep growing regardless of what else is going on in the world), but though we have kept the gears turning, this transition came with massive changes in how our business operates.
Instead of conducting tastings in person, we started offering “La Vita del Vino” private virtual tastings, where we ship pre-selected packs to all participants and then guide them through a tasting over Zoom.
Instead of welcoming guests to our grounds and making those personal connections face-to-face, we began doing Facebook Live Happy Hours on Fridays at 3 PM PST to stay in touch with our fans and continue to provide the fun, friendly vibe that we’re known for.
Instead of selling wine and food to visitors on-site, we set up never-before-seen shipping savings and wine discounts on the website and through our Outbound Hospitality department to make it as easy as possible for our customers to enjoy V. Sattui at home.
Instead of letting go of all the staff whose departments were no longer operating, our existing employees stepped up to take on challenges outside their comfort zones (and job descriptions) to help the winery: Our Director of Winery Events and our Director of Weddings and Event Management became customer service reps to help the admin team field the increased calls and provide online assistance through the new chat feature on the website, while still communicating with corporations and engaged couples to reschedule their events for when we reopen; our Staff Accountant and Marketing and Promotions Manager stepped in to help run the Wine Club; our Tasting Room Manager utilized his construction roots to strip and re-stain the entire Tasting Room with the help of some of his team; our Tour Manager and Event Operations Manager went to the phones and began calling out for wine sales; furloughed staff came back to work our bottling line (with full masks and gloves to ensure the safety of themselves and our product); and our support staff – who would normally be packing to-go orders in the stock room – built and varnished brand new picnic tables and made a multitude of improvements around the grounds.
Even our President, Tom Davies, got his first weekend off in decades because there was no one here for him to greet and host.
Through it all, we watched the rest of the world try to cope with the same hardships. Between the shutdowns, the layoffs, the shelter-in-place orders, the tears, the reorganizations, the personal struggles, and adjusting to the “new normal” that happened in the blink of an eye… we also saw the best of people – we have been humbled and inspired by our friends, family, and fans who have proven that in times of need, they are here for us. We could not be more grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received since mid-March and we continue to appreciate all the love that’s been shown to us.
As other organizations have reached out asking for assistance, we have shared that love and answered the call. Our team has been volunteering to do deliveries for Meals on Wheels throughout the Napa Valley, bringing much-needed food to some of the most vulnerable members of our community. We have also donated lunches to COVID-testers working at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville. And as other opportunities to give back arise, we continue to expand our outreach and do what we can to help our neighbors and friends during these unsettling times.
We are now entering the third month since the shutdown, cautiously optimistic as we slowly open different parts of the winery as conditions allow. We started offering wine pick-ups and “food to go” from our Food Truck in early May and have graduated to opening the Deli & Marketplace for food and wine sales (check our website for the most current hours of operation) – with appropriate safety measures in place, of course. However, with little idea of when we will be able to reopen for tastings and events, we continue to take this crisis day-by-day, as does everyone else.
We are more “in the same boat” with the rest of the world than ever before, and though these difficult circumstances continue to test our patience, resolve, and grit – we are so proud of our community, our staff, our incredibly loyal customers, and the people who continue to put their lives at risk to support those who need it. As Vincent Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” We will continue to strive for great things through the small actions of helping each other, being flexible, having compassion… and drinking a glass of wine at the end of the day. Until this pandemic is behind us, we wish everyone good health, and look forward to seeing you back at the winery soon!