When asked why wine sales have been surging during the coronavirus pandemic, Vince Robledo, director of sales at Byington Vineyard & Winery, chuckled.
“It’s a tough time,” Robledo said. “People want an escape. They’re looking for those daily comforts in their lives, and wine is such a comforting thing.”
Robledo helps run Byington’s Los Altos Tasting Room on Main Street. During pre-pandemic times, the room essentially served as a local wine bar, with regulars who habitually stopped by for business meetings or after work for happy hours.
But with county and state restrictions on indoor gatherings, the tasting room can no longer offer tastings, because it cannot serve alcohol without offering a dedicated meal service. So far, Robledo has been limited to curbside pickups and bottle purchases.
But earlier this month, the Los Gatos-based winery developed a new subscription feature for the tasting room: a “wholesale club” that will provide wholesale prices of 30% to 50% off retail prices for an annual subscription price of $149. Ten different wines will be available for purchase at any given time, according to a brochure.
The service will allow for patrons to enter the room and browse wine displays. Robledo has removed chairs from the lobby area and put the tables together for more room to place the wine. The tasting room has seen walk-bys, and now they will be able to interact in the space. Robledo is grateful that Los Altos closed downtown streets to increase social distancing and encourage more residents to visit.
“This adds more to the experience, to be able to come in and shop, look at what the offerings are,” Robledo said. “We have our sommelier, who has been here talking through the different wines, knowledgeable staff to guide you to the right wine. It’s more of an experience. We just want to capture the public that is now walking the streets of Los Altos.”
Robledo added that though people are buying more wine – wine sales are up 27% in the United States since March, according to a Nielsen survey conducted in May – they are buying brands they are familiar
"We have noticed that people are not experimenting as much; they’re really sticking to tried-and-true brands that they trust,” he said. “For us, Byington and the Los Altos Tasting Room have been a part of the Los Altos community for three years now. We’re a trusted, known brand.”
The winery’s most popular bottles include Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. While it is possible for people to order wine via delivery or during their supermarket run, Robeldo appreciates that the tasting room’s loyal customers have kept purchasing out of an effort to support local businesses.
“We know they’re still doing this to support us,” he said.
There’s also a sense of anticipation in the air and a desire to return when wine tastings are safe and allowed.
“That excitement is very motivating,” Robledo said. “Until then, we are going to offer everything that we can.”
The Los Altos Tasting Room is located at 366 Main St. For more information, visit losaltostastingroom.com.