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Winery Tasting Rooms Move Outside


December 4, 2020 – Tourism has been a catastrophe everywhere thanks to the wretched virus but for California wineries, there’s been the added disaster of the worst fire year in history.  The Glass Fire alone, which consumed almost 1,000 structures in the Napa Valley and beyond when it ignited near St. Helena last summer, ruined any chance of tourism recovery when lingering smoke kept visitors away.

The smoke has gone but chilly weather is the next challenge facing the wineries.  Like restaurants everywhere they are being creative and offering guests cozy shelters and safe tasting experiences. 

At Markham Vineyards, St. Helena, visitors enjoy covered outdoor patio lounges with fire pits and heat lamps.  Their outdoor tasting room experience meets and exceeds best practices for physical distancing to ensure the safety, comfort and enjoyment of guests and employees.


Markham is one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley founded in 1874 by Jean Laurent of Bordeaux.  The old stone cellar was built in 1879 and continues at the heart of the operation today.  While Markham has always had a love affair with Merlot, its repertoire includes excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Rosé of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  Tasting choices include:

Sips & Chips

A twist on the standard cheese and wine pairing, Sips & Chips pairs custom-crafted flavored potato chips prepared by local chef David Nuno with four distinct wines ($45 per person).

A Taste of Place

The new Marked Parcel Series tasting offers a trip through Napa Valley in a glass—an immersive connection of taste with place in four estate wines ($55 per person).

Markham Classic Flight

Keep it classic but make it custom. Create your own tasting flight featuring four wines that celebrate key districts and vineyards within Napa Valley ($35 per person).

Virtual Wine Tasting

Host a virtual party and let Markham do the work. A private guide will select options like the District Series Appellation Tasting including three wines ($113 plus shipping), or a combination of wines you choose. Book a date and schedule wine delivery for a fun, fact-filled virtual holiday party or family get-together from your own home. 

In case you are wondering why they are serving potato chips instead of canapés or platters of charcuterie, it’s because there’s a Napa County winery ordinance prohibiting the majority of wineries from serving food.

If being cooped up has you stir crazy, you’ll be warmly welcomed in the Napa Valley and other wine regions of California and you’ll be getting people back to work.  A few tips on what to expect in general:

All wineries are receiving visitors by appointment only right now. So, always call ahead.

  • Some outdoor tastings are in tents, some are on covered patios, dress appropriately and recognize it could be chilly or wet.
  • Face coverings are required when entering or moving to or from your dedicated tasting space.
  • Some wineries require a signed waiver.
  • Most reservations are limited to small groups, up to six.
  • Check winery web sites for tasting hours.
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