The coronavirus pandemic has forced many businesses to adapt to new safety rules and regulations fast. Jim Czachorowski, owner of Sierra Vista Vineyards and Winery, creatively accepted the challenge.
Wine in a bubble, anyone?
COVID-19 rules dictate that wineries could no longer serve customers inside and, at times, the businesses completely shut down tasting operations. When patrons were allowed to return they had to be served outside and away from other parties.
That was doable during the summer, spring and fall. But when the weather started getting colder, windier and rainier, outdoor tasting didn’t exactly work out to be the most pleasing experience
Czachorowski began searching for an idea so patrons could still come and enjoy the many different wines made at the Pleasant Valley area vineyard — while staying warm, dry and comfortable.
That’s when the idea of acquiring pods for tasting spots hit him. He purchased several igloo-shaped pods made out of plastic that can be propped up and turned into what look like mini living rooms. The pods are made from clear plastic and allow guests to enjoy the view but also remain in a climate-controlled environment, be socially safe and enjoy the wine experience.
When the innovative winery owner originally pitched the idea to the employees at Sierra Vista, he said he noticed a little doubt but everyone ultimately decided it was worth a shot.
Czachorowski is a classic do-it-yourselfer from Michigan, where the frigid winter season is unforgiving.
He owns Great Lakes Tile and Contracting Corp. in Sterling Heights, Mich., and takes that sense of workmanship into everything he does. From the stone sign that greets customers when they enter the vineyard and winery, to beautifully executed hardwood tables for outdoor wine tasting and new features in the tasting room, Czachorowski’s craftsmanship is on display at every glance around the winery.
He doesn’t cut any corners. While the pods didn’t require construction, the interior and exterior designs didn’t leave any stone unturned and they are cleverly decorated with fanciful themes and appropriate appointments to carry out the theme.
Each of the four pods sit in front of the rows and rows of grapes with a magnificent backdrop of the Crystal Range just beyond for a magnificent view.
“Tiger’s Den,” “Savanna’s Suite,” “Cabernet Chalet” and “Chardonnay Chateau” each have unique qualities and wine specials.
When guests enter the Tiger’s Den, a pod dedicated to the vineyard’s Tiger Lily wines, they step on wooden steps styled like large tiger paw prints. A large stuffed tiger named Lily greets her new friends from one of the couches — she fortunately does not partake in the food and wine consumption.
While each of the four pods has its own special features, they all have comfortable furniture, decorator items, a heater and a guestbook, an idea Czachorowski said came from a vacation he took with his wife. On that trip they looked through a guestbook and were in awe of how many people from around the world had been where they were vacationing.
Prior to entering the pod guests taste Sierra Vista’s award-winning wines and make a selection to enjoy in the pod. Pizza is also available to accompany the wine; guests can also bring their own appetizers.
The pods opened to the public Jan. 9 and reservations have been in high demand.
“The pods have been really well received,” Czachorowski said. “It’s great to be back.”
The pods might be ingrained at Sierra Vista Winery well after the restrictions from the pandemic are lifted.
Air conditioners can be put inside the pods during the hotter months, allowing people to sip wine in the cool air during Sierra Vista’s events. The winery recently installed a new stage that will feature 21 musical acts planned April through October.
Each of the pods is available for 90-minute reservations. Two of the pods can fit up to four people while the other two can fit up to six people. Sierra Vista is located at 4560 Cabernet Way in the Pleasant Valley area. For more details and to make reservations call (530) 622-7221 or go to sierravistawinery.com.