& STEPS WINE
or more than two years now we’ve been learning how to adapt to Covid. All small businesses, like our little DuCard Vineyards in Etlan, Madison County, were terrified by the uncertainty of whether we would survive and, if so, how we would need to change our operations to be a safe and attractive place to visit. Well, two years later, we’re still here, with thanks to everyone for their support. What have we done that’s new and different? Hiking Lots of people discovered the great outdoors during Covid. With nothing else available, let’s go take a walk in the woods—fresh air, no crowds, good exercise, and more. Well, we just happen to border the Shenandoah National Park, with some of the best hikes around. What a great combination: take a hike, maybe climb a mountain, and then have a celebratory wine flight on our back lawn. No, we don’t have a dress code—hiking clothes are chic as far as we’re concerned. P.S. It works better if you hike first and then come for a flight of wine.
Flights We overhauled how people sample our wines. We eliminated crowded stand-up tastings of small sips of wine at the bar and moved instead to providing a flight of four wines, served while seated at your table, in Riedel crystal glassware, by staff who can focus exclusively on you. A hugely upgraded experience. The tasting room became sort of a drive-through—order and go find a table on the patio or lawn— and we’ll bring the wines out to you. And
Pairing Wine Tasting with Local Hikes PHOTOS BY ERIN GIFFORD
we deliver to your table with the return to indoor seating as well—it’s just a more elegant and high service approach overall. Year-round outdoor relaxation The urge to get out of the house was especially strong during the winter months of Covid—we all felt so cooped up. So we added fire pits, blankets, and space heaters so that, shivering or not, as long as the roads were passable, folks could come out for a change of scenery, fresh air, and a few pops.
Weekdays Hey, during Covid if you didn’t have any Zoom calls on a random Tuesday, it was pretty appealing to get in the car and go out to the country. So we’re now open seven days a week. Frankly, with a smaller crowd—or no crowd—on those days, we can have more one-on-one interaction, talking about the wines and our history, answering questions, and getting to know our customers.
| AUTUMN 2022
Alumni group ‘virtual tastings’ Colleges quickly understood the difficulty of keeping alumni engaged and in the fold for fundraising, among other things. What!? No college football Saturdays and no class reunions! So we were asked to host alumni group sessions with our wines shipped out to participants who dial in on Zoom to taste the wines, hear us talk about them, and answer questions. Hey it’s not the same as the class tailgate in the stadium parking lot, and the Zoom technology was pretty sketchy when we first started, but it turned out to be a fun way to keep the bond alive with the old U crowd. While we hope, of course, that Covid will finally, really, this time, be completely behind us, these changes to our operations will remain, and we invite you to come out and see them for yourself. You know, on a day when you have no Zoom calls. — By Scott Elliff