Kathy Marcks Hardesty: Reopening phase begins!
From the Vine

Kathy Marcks Hardesty: Reopening phase begins!

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Reopening at last is a great relief. I’m sure most Americans feel the same way, Phase 2 of the pandemic has finally come.

Although there are still many restrictions, our mom and pop restaurants and select tasting rooms are reopening. But it’s a new world order, like nothing we have ever known before. No longer can you simply drop in to your favorite Central Coast tasting room or wine bar to taste current releases before making your choices to purchase. In fact, there is no “tasting” at all. Weird, right?

Nevertheless, at least now you can visit your favorite wine tasting rooms and buy their wines by the glass or bottle. Tasting flights, complimentary tastings, or even a sip of the wine you would like to taste before buying are no longer allowed by law.

The truth is you need to think of a visit to a wine tasting room as you would, enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant. You can only enjoy that glass or bottle of wine if you plan to dine there. And if you’re there just to buy wine, they do prefer that you call to order and pay ahead, then your order is ready for curbside pick-up when you get there.

Lately, many wineries are offering free delivery to locals, but most have limits so do check out their webpages to know in advance. These rules are mandatory at all tasting rooms, but things are changing rapidly, be sure to check out websites and social media to stay in touch with the rules.

Now we all know, not every winery or tasting room has a commercial kitchen, so those that don’t have that professional kitchen must link with a restaurant or food truck. The only way the winery can serve you a glass or bottle of wine is if you buy the meal they are offering. Let’s just hope you like said eatery. I know that will make my decision easier. That said, most of the wine tasting rooms know how to pick caterers that make wine friendly foods.

In all honesty, the wineries with a commercial kitchen usually have a very good chef running that kitchen. Presqu’ile in Santa Maria Valley immediately springs to my mind. They have a very talented chef named Julie Simon, who was born in Paris, France. Raised by parents who were gourmet food and wine lovers, she learned to appreciate the importance of fine dining while very young, and sharing a great meal at the table. Simon joined them last year and has since created an organic garden on the Presqu’ile estate.

Of course there are many rules the wineries and restaurants must strictly follow, but realize this: the rules are constantly changing as the government decides what needs to be regulated. For instance: masks are required upon entry and in any communal areas, although they can be removed upon being seated at your table; most dining is on the patio outdoors so dress in layers; your reservation is maxed out at two hours; parties are limited to six or less guests at one table; there is no bar service, nor tasting flights offered; well behaved dogs must be on a leash; and outside food is no longer allowed so leave that picnic basket at home.

Presqu’ile notes that they have an amazing new menu to offer, which is great to hear. Now they are open this weekend, but please don’t just drop in. Call to see if they have an opening for seating, or even have enough food. At this time I learned they are only opening Wednesday through Sunday for food and wine. Get the full details at presquilewinery .com.

Another excellent Santa Maria choice is Costa de Oro, just off the Eastside of Stowell Road. Winemaker Gary Burk and his wife Theresa own and manage their business. I have been a longtime fan of his locally grown pinot noirs and chardonnays. Burk has paired with Tio Pepe’s food truck for their excellent street style tacos served with beans, rice, and chips. They will be serving food on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, until further notice.

Remember, if you want to purchase a glass of wine or a bottle, you must order food and sit at a table. Even in winebars, you can only order at the bar but you can’t drink there. They will also be open Tuesday through Thursday for bottle purchases, which cannot be consumed on the premises.

With an eye to the near future, they are making plans to bring back their terrific live music shows. The winery is open Tuesday through Sunday, but you should check out their hours at cdowinery .com. I highly recommend joining the mailing list for both wineries so they can notify you of updates to the latest guidelines — which are changing rapidly.

Now that wineries have been given back the green light to reopen, many tasting rooms and restaurants are just not ready. But you can bet they are doing everything they can to reopen as soon as possible. They need you back as a customer as much as we need them for making our lives quite a bit more delicious.

Reach Kathy at kathymhardesty @ gmail .com

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