Vine to door: Virginia vineyard owner hand-delivers during coronavirus crisis

With the coronavirus pandemic crushing springtime tasting visits at Virginia vineyards, winemakers are taking extraordinary measures to endure the crisis.

Instead of hosting visitors at Chateau O’Brien Winery & Vineyard in Fauquier County, owner Howard O’Brien is bringing the wine to the front doors of customers.

Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority has granted a waiver to allow any business with a liquor license to deliver beer or wine during the COVID-19 crisis. Gov. Ralph Northam has called for businesses to limit customers in an establishment to under 10.

“It’s a big, big benefit at this point, under the circumstances,” O’Brien told WTOP. “It will certainly help ease some of the pain for all wineries in Virginia.”

chateau o'brien delivery covid
The owner of Chateau O’Brien is hand-delivering bottles of wine during the coronavirus crisis. (Courtesy Howard O’Brien)

Though some wineries may already have delivery built into their online commerce, O’Brien is taking matters into his own hands.

“I will personally be delivering the wine myself,” he said. “I’m just trying to work with the situation at hand and try to get my clients what they like.”

A phone call to the winery’s main number, or an email, will put the customer in touch with O’Brien.

“I will go over the wines that are available, with some new releases,” he said. “Shipping or delivery of three bottles or more is free.”

Normally, a customer would have to order six bottles for free delivery, but O’Brien is trying to keep his wine moving.

After the COVID-19 crisis is over, wineries and vineyards wishing to continue deliveries would apply to the ABC, which would process the application within a day, according to an email from the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office.

“This will help take some of the pain way, until everything gets back to normal — and it will,” said O’Brien, applauding the flexibility of Virginia’s government in assisting small businesses.

“We will be strong, with all of us [working together].”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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