The COVID crisis has taken a toll on many industries and businesses. But any business that relies on revenues from tourism, travel, events and retail sales has taken significant hits.
Sanctuary Vineyards is the Outer Banks only winery/vineyard operation. What was once a small operation that focused on the sweeter wines produced from North Carolina’s muscadine wines has evolved into a full-fledged winery growing most of its own grapes and offering wines produced from the so-called ‘noble’ varietals that are the hallmark of true wine aficionados. Think Syrah, Tannat, Chardonnay and Petit Verdot.
As the vineyard grew so has the rest of the business. In particular, small wineries rely on two major sources of revenue to supplement the hard business of distribution and working their way onto retail shelves and restaurant menus. Those additional revenue sources include tastings and events on site—from concerts to foodie festivals and weddings.
John Wright, the owner of Sanctuary Vineyards spoke to us about the challenges the business has faced during the crisis.
The winery has been basically closed to visitors since the lockdowns began. There were no spring events and tastings have only just resumed, albeit restricted to outdoors at present.
As a result the winery pivoted to ramp up its retail presence. Free shipping and curbside pickup were part of the plan and free home delivery locally. They followed all rules and regulations regarding shipping procedures and customers were not allowed indoors for tastings. The impact was huge.
Wood picnic tables that can hold up to four people have replaced the indoor tastings. Disposable glassware has replaced the traditional wine glass so there is no secondary double use. Customers can come inside to purchase wine and use the restrooms, but everything else takes place outside.
As Wright puts it, outside tastings are actually a great way to experience a vineyard.
So how can locals and fans of the winery help out during the COVID crisis?
Obviously, booking a tasting will help. And for those who have experienced the wine before or like to explore new wines, retail sales from the winey, direct or online would help offset some of the impacts stemming from the virus-related lockdown.
And just as we went to press the vineyard as announced the return of its Acoustic Sunset outdoor concerts every Thursday from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Food trucks, good music, great wine and appropriately spaced seating all combine for a great Outer Banks night.
Sanctuary currently ships to any state that allows out of state wineries to do so. They are offering savings and discounts on the wines and shipping. They’ve also increased their presence on another family owned business—The Cotton Gin—especially on their website.
As you watch the video the vineyard in the background is planted with Tannat, a grape native to France. As Wright explains to viewers, they use no herbicides in the vineyard which has obvious benefits for consumer health, the natural flavors of the grapes and the ecosystem in general.
Current releases Wright recommends curious customers try include the White Pony white, the Morton red, and the more luxurious OBX Nice dessert wine. Wright elaborates on these wines in more detail on the video. This writer also recommends the 2017 Double Barrel. This wine combines Tannat with Petit Verdot for a completely OBX sourced red that balances bolder tannins of the former with the aromas of the latter grape.
Please visit the website for more information at https://www.sanctuaryvineyards.com/. This includes online shopping, local delivery options, events and tastings and any changes as North Carolina attempts to re-open the economy in phases.