Wine and quarantine, a match we never knew was so perfect until now. Whether you’re an oenophile or an amateur connoisseur, imbibing one of humanity’s oldest and most loved liquids has become a new national pastime. But what do we really know about wine? 

While most of us are aware that it comes from grapes, those outside of the industry are fairly in the dark on the complexities of production, distribution and regulation. As multi-faceted operations, both public and private facing, wineries face unique challenges when it comes to reopening post-COVID-19 shutdown. In this week’s episode of the L.A. Weekly podcast, publisher and host Brian Calle interviews Jamey Whetstone, head winemaker at Napa’s Fresh Vine Wine, to get an inside look into how California’s wineries are fairing and how the industry has been forced to change. 

“It’s eerily slow,” describes Whetstone as he shares how one of the world’s top wine destinations looks like during lockdown. Napa, CA has been through a lot. Devastating earthquakes, merciless fires, and now, a sweeping global pandemic that caused many of California’s industries to come to a grinding halt. “I think we are all fairly resilient,” says Whetstone, but he does fear that the damage done by the pandemic could be lasting. 

“I think a lot of people are going to struggle to get reopened,” he explains. “In terms of what’s not coming back …there are a lot of businesses on a shoestring [budget] that are not making it and not coming back.”

But then there’s that Napa resiliency he talks about. For those businesses that are able to make it out of the past few months, this winemaker envisions good things to come. 

“For those of us that are sticking around and moving forward … I think we are all going to be fortunate,” he hopes. 

While things are still slow in Napa, reopening is just around the corner. However, it won’t be Napa as you know it. Safety regulations and social distancing laws have forced tasting rooms to make some significant changes to the way they operate. 

You’ll still be able to visit your favorite wineries and explore new vineyards, but when it comes to tastings, you’ll have to buy the whole bottle. 

“There are some new parameters,” explains Whetstone. “No tastings, bottle purchase only. We’ll be able to open the wine for you, but we can’t do it by the glass service.” 

Things will look a bit different too, with tasting room associates donning gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment. 

“Kind of like S&M,” laughs Whetstone. He’s in a good mood because he finally got to go out to eat at a favorite local restaurant after weeks of quarantine. 

If you want to experience Napa while it’s quiet, the winemaker suggests taking a trip soon. 

“I would recommend coming up sooner rather than later if you want the place to yourself,” he finishes. 

Whether you’re able to check them out in person, or would prefer to have their bottle delivered, Whetstone’s Fresh Vine Wine is a must to experience. Founded as a passion project with a vision to fill a gap that exists in the current wine aisle – a low-carb, low-sugar, low calories better-for-you wine option that tastes delicious – this label is popular among everyone. It’s a wine that delivers on taste, but without the guilt. 

To learn more about the changes in Napa, and how one label finally made the premium, health-conscious wine we’ve all been begging for, listen to the latest L.A. Weekly podcast in its entirety here: iTunes, Spotify, Cumulus Los Angeles.


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