If New York City restaurants can require their indoor dining guests to provide proof of vaccination, why can’t wineries? Mask mandates are already back in place for Napa and Sonoma counties here in California, but they should be accompanied by requirements to show proof of vaccination status if visitors want to come inside tasting rooms, where they will need to remove their masks in order to sip and spit.

One winery has already taken this step, as I learned from a friend who is working at Inglenook as we exchanged text messages this past weekend. Of course, their website is making it hard to miss that fact, as this is the first thing you see when you visit.

Current landing page of Inglenook’s web site

This friend of mine, who works indoors with guests, was thrilled at the news, and I can understand why. Hospitality and service industry workers are perhaps only exceeded by health care workers in their risk of COVID exposure simply in the course of doing their jobs.

If I worked indoors at a winery (or a restaurant) I’d want my employer to require proof of vaccination from the people who walk inside. Outside visitors pose much less risk of transmission, it seems, so those who are unvaccinated can simply do their wine tasting outdoors, provided such facilities exist.

I reached out to Inglenook to get some more background on this decision, and despite working with their PR agent, I couldn’t get anyone to talk with me. Their PR agent provided me with the following prepared statement, however:

In the interest of public health and safety as the global pandemic continues, we are requiring guests to present a certificate of vaccination and wear masks when they visit our estate. All tasting parties will be seated at least six feet apart and we have several lovely options for both indoor and outdoor tastings. All safety precautions and best practices recommended by local and federal health experts are being observed at Inglenook.

According to the person I spoke with, the winery is reporting overwhelmingly positive responses to this move. I’d be surprised if they didn’t get some hate mail over it, but many are already dealing with grumpy customers who don’t want to wear masks, so I’m sure it’s par for the course.

Napa restaurant La Toque also has a similar notice on their website, indicating that they are only allowing guests that can prove they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 to enter the restaurant.

The La Toque splash page.

I’m not entirely sure how the restaurant is going to be able to substantiate claims that people have recovered from COVID, but they’re clearly trying to do right by their employees and customers.

Wine Country has the opportunity to be a leader in public health and safety. More wineries should follow Inglenook’s lead.

It remains to be seen whether other California wineries (or restaurants) will follow suit. I reached out to the Napa Valley Vintners Association to find out if they were aware of any of their other members instituting such policies, and I was told they were even unaware that Inglenook had taken this step.

This issue, of course, raises the question of whether wineries should require their employees to be vaccinated, too. In my opinion, that would be a rational and reasonable policy. I know that as a consumer I would be more likely to patronize businesses that had such policies, especially businesses where I need to take off a mask in order to eat and drink (or taste) indoors. If I were an employee of such a business, I’d feel much more comfortable coming to work each day with such a policy in place.

Wine Country has the opportunity to be a leader in public health and safety. More wineries should follow Inglenook’s lead.

And the rest of us should get vaccinated and keep wearing our masks indoors until Delta and Lambda and all the rest are truly vanquished.

But don’t stop drinking wine!

Main photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash