For years, Rick DeBlasio has talked about slowing down and interacting with Shady Lane Cellars guests to provide them with a moment-in-time memory that they’ll treasure for years.
In an unusual twist, the COVID-19 pandemic might have set the stage to do just that.
“The safety protocols and social distancing will, of course, make a visit to the tasting room a different experience,” said DeBlasio, the general manager of the destination winery just outside of Traverse City on the Leelanau Peninsula.
“But it doesn’t mean that it will be less engaging. In fact, it will probably be more intentional because there will be more time to talk to people about our wines and the passion that our team puts into making them.”
Shady Lane has shifted to outdoor tableside ordering, allowing guests to sample from tasting flights as well as wine-by-the-glass or bottle service. The choose-as-you-go and ordering from the bar method traditionally featured had to be reassessed for safety procedures, DeBlasio said.
What remains the same, DeBlasio said, is the dedication to world-class wine that is complemented by sweeping panoramic views from a 32-foot covered patio that overlooks the estate’s rolling hills and its 52-acre vineyard.
The expansive outdoor space negates capacity issues that other wineries will experience due to safety measures. Shady Lane Cellars’ staff will be able to distance tables and open up the traffic patterns for guests. Reservations are recommended, but walk-ins are permitted. Groups are limited to six people per table, based on state safety guidelines.
“Everything we’ve done is with the health of our staff and our guests in mind,” DeBlasio said, noting staff will undergo health screening each day and they will wear masks. Hand sanitizers have been placed throughout the tasting room, plexiglass screens have been installed and signs are in place to establish smooth flow for guests.
“We’re all in this together and we’re working toward having a great summer we can all enjoy,” he said.
While the winery could have opened before Memorial Day, Shady Lane Cellars delayed its summer debut until June 1 to provide training for staff and to make sure they could provide an environment to experience the wine and learn from people who are closest to it.
The response from the first weeks has been tremendous, DeBlasio said.
“There’s an atmosphere that still promotes everything we desire, which is an encounter that is second-to-none and something that leaves you wanting to come back for more,” he said.
Cans and summer plans announcements
The spring season wasn’t all about COVID-19 reaction as Shady Lane Cellars staff was busy behind the scenes in anticipation of the exciting launch of the winery’s first line of wine in cans under the new “Brio by Shady Lane Cellars” label. The name springs from the Italian word that means to live life or to perform a task with vivacity.
The cans, which will be available only at the tasting room beginning June 15 and elsewhere as distribution plans are finalized, will feature a still rosé, the sparkling white “Vibes,” and a hard cider. Each can will be a vessel for 375mL, equal to 1/2 half bottle of wine.
“This is really exciting for us because we’ve wanted to do something fun and a little whimsical,” DeBlasio said. “Cans are really coming on, and we have known that people wanted an easier way to take us outdoors when they go camping, hiking, biking or on the water somewhere.”
The first hosted event
Shady Lanes Cellars has embraced social distancing on the patio, and will now make an event out of the new normal with its “Wine Social….Distancing” gathering from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 27 at the tasting room.
The plan calls for a perfect weather as well as great local wine and food pairings. There will be socially distanced wine and food stations from local providers set up across the outdoor patio. Reservations are required and admission is $25. There will be $5 glass pours of non-reserve wines available. Call 231-947-8865 or email Tyler Parks at Tyler@shadylanecellars.com to guarantee access.
Annual shrimp boil planning continues
The tradition of organizing Shady Lane’s low country shrimp boil is also underway, with a 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. July 25 date on the calendar and live music from Holly Keller highlighting the event that is all about friends, family and fun. The reservation-only event is $30 for adults, $15 for minors and includes:
- Hors d’oeurves served at 5:00pm
- Dinner served at 6:30 pm; Shrimp boiled with fresh corn, onions, potatoes, and sausage
- 1 complimentary glass of Shady Lane Cellars wine for guests over the age of 21
Call 231-947-8865 or email Tyler Parks at Tyler@shadylanecellars.com to secure your ticket today.
Visit Shady Lane Cellars website to learn more about Northern Michigan’s leading estate vineyard.