Cañon City winery making major changes to rebound from COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:14 PM, Mar 03, 2021

CAÑON CITY — As the pandemic continues, local wineries are adapting and re-thinking their operations in efforts to rebound and keep their doors open.

Like bars and restaurants, wineries have faced extended closures and restrictions in light of the pandemic. Forcing them to make major changes to survive.

"All of our tastings are seated, reservations are strongly recommended, opportunities to order food from our food partners and our customers stay here for up to an hour and a half," said Larry Oddo, Owner of CEO of the Winery At Holy Cross Abbey.

With wineries relying upon tourism, in-person events, and tastings to operate, Oddo says it's been challenging at times to get customers. What's made it even more difficult, is the recent crop freezes.

"We are in a precarious situation right now with getting our grapes for the 2021 harvest. 2020 wasn't an issue for us, we decided how much we were going to produce based on the sales level during the pandemic and what fruit was available from our growers. 2021 is going to be a little more problematic in that there was a major freeze event last fall that killed a lot of the vines and they won't be producing this year. We'll be getting creative in how we source fruit, but it's a work in progress," said Oddo.

Resulting in them having to potentially get their grapes out of state. In the meantime, the winery is adapting to the new normal by using Cares Act Funds to improve its outdoor seating for tastings and comfort.

"We built some poly-carbonate sheeting enclosures to block the wind and protect us from the elements. As you can see there is space there and there so there is constant airflow coming," said Oddo. "Since there is a wind blowing through here we have these heaters that are infrared and provide about 20 to 30 increase in temperature."

Oddo says his customers have welcomed the changes.

"I'm enjoying this heater because even though I'm from Colorado, it's still cold," said Ray Castillo, Colorado Springs resident.

What's helped them during the pandemic is utilizing digital marketing and online sales.

"Shipping alcohol is expensive but it's a barrier to a lot of people so offering those shipping incentives has really helped build our director consumer market and we're up 200 percent in online sales," said Oddo.

Moving forward, they're going to continue pushing online sales and encourages those who can't see them in person to visit their online store.