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Vintners In California's Wine Country Bracing for Big Coronavirus Impact

ST. HELENA (KPIX) - Vinters like Napa Valley's HALL Family Wines owner Kathryn Hall are bracing for a big hit.

"The streets are empty, the wineries are empty. The mood here is a real concern," said Hall via Skype.

She owns five wineries in wine country, and the region has been forced to close their tasting rooms.

"The tasting rooms are important, not just because of the revenue, but also because that's how most people get to know us for the first time, they'll stop in at the winery," said Hall. "They may join the wine club, also, a very important part of the operations here so the impact will be without a doubt, very significant."

A creative way HALL Family Wines is coping is with virtual "sip ups" for wine club members and friends to enjoy glasses and bottles in isolation.

For the first time, it is selling its wine online at a 10% discount, with $1 shipping.

HALL's vineyard and cellar crews are still working on production.

The winery's 100-plus employees are offered paid sick leave related to COVID-19, and encouraged to use their paid week of volunteerism to help local charities.

The annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff, the winery's biggest charity event of the year which has raised more than a million dollars over a decade, has been canceled. But Hall says they will still continue to make donations.

And while we don't know how long the shelter-in-place will last, California's wine country knows resilience after catastrophe. In recent years, it has dealt with the devastating wildfire season and subsequent power shutoffs, and the 2014 earthquake.

"There's a certain confidence that comes from having gone through hard times and come out on the other end," said Hall.

Hall says at this point, she hasn't had to lay off any employees.

"In general, I hope everyone will continue to support small business in particular, and I guess I'd also say don't stop drinking that wine," she added

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