TEMECULA (CBSLA) — In California, the grapes turn everything green as tourism for the wine industry is usually raking in cash. However, over the last few months, the wine makers have had little to toast to.

Doffo Wines in Temecula spent more than two months shut down as the threat of COVID-19 closed many businesses. On Friday, they are open after restructuring their operation once again.

“It was just a rollercoaster of events,” said the owner, Damon Doffo. “When they let the bars open, you could taste inside but when they closed the bars again, now you can’t taste inside but you can taste outside.”

It’s a story affecting wineries all over the state as they try and keep their business out of the red.

“The vines don’t stop growing, [so] the wine doesn’t stop needing to be made,” said Bryan Babcock of Babcock Winery and Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.

He has had to shut down his tasting room now for a second time.

“This weekend we won’t be able to hang in the tasting room, but we’ll be able to put everyone outside,” he said. 

For the few months of the closure, wine sales soared. Nielsen reports a 30% increase from this time last year. But that only affects the big wineries in grocery stores.

Small wineries lost almost half their business overnight with no tasting rooms or local restaurants to sell their wine. But just like any farm, the expenses continued.

Babcock has had to bottle twice during the closure. They’ve adapted, improving online sales and shipping, and then teaming up with a local restaurant to serve food and wine which allowed them to open sooner.

“Everyone was at a point where they were like whatever business they could get they’d take it,” Babcock said.

And that’s what these wineries continue to do — adapt! Even big companies like Justin Winery started offering wine tastings online, shipping ready to taste kits. 

And since the tasting room is still closed Doffo, they’ve even hired more employees to serve guests outside.

“We’ve had to bring on six or seven people in the last two weeks,” Doffo said.

So even though overall sales may be down at your local winery, these families are staying hopeful that wine lovers will still come by, sit outside, and find reasons to celebrate. 

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