For more than a year know, the world has been forced to adapt to an ever-changing series of lockdowns, guidelines, and disruptions to our daily life in the name of public safety. This article isn't to say what's right or wrong, only to support an industry that has given me so much personal enjoyment and an opportunity to learn, explore, and travel over the past decade. In California, wineries were lucky to have been able to re-open even while bars, breweries, and distilleries weren't - unless they were serving food. For the most part, California wineries were able to escape the worst restrictions by offering outdoor tastings with a few modifications. Unfortunately, with the most recent lockdown orders, wineries were as lucky. Thankfully, winemakers and vineyard owners are among some of the most innovative and creative people that I know and have already begun to introduce innovative ways to maintain their businesses through virtual tastings, interactive video streams, engaging with influencers, and leveraging the support of their wine club members. To help support them further, we've compiled a list of 50 wineries in California and what they are doing to adapt and what you can do individually to help them during this challenging time.

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Napa has a reputation for being snooty and unapproachable but there are some gems that manage to produce exceptional wines while maintaining that approachable atmosphere that makes winemaking special. Wine is a luxury good and to some, that means it has to be something only accessible to the "right people" with the "right pallets". What I enjoy about the folks at Kenefick Ranch is that they are different and that's why I was excited to try Chris's Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon and share the experience with you guys.

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Merlot has gotten a bad name in recent years and much of that stems from the famous line in the movie, Sideways, "If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving". Miles from the movie quite literally changed the popularity of this varietal of wine for millions of American wine drinkers - and indeed created a world-wide impact as well. Merlot isn't that bad but its reputation still suffers in the face of popular red wine alternatives including Cabernet Sauvignon and of course, Pinot Noir.  Let's take a deeper look at merlot and how you can better appreciate it once you get an opportunity to sample it at your favorite winery or wine bar.

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I haven't had too many chances to do restaurant features this year but The Gathering Table Restaurant at Ballard Inn, located in California's Santa Ynez Valley was absolutely worth the experience. It goes to show that you can still offer a fine dining experience in a safe way despite challenges from the pandemic. While their outdoor space would normally be more decorative than functional, there's a certain sense of romance to sitting in a garden with a string of lights above you while enjoying fine wine and food on par with anything you could find in Los Angeles.

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With cold weather and holiday season upon us, certain drinks such as "cream" spirits are back in stock and that warms my heart. While nobody that I know has managed to create an authentic packaged coquito, I am thrilled to see that Cutwater Spirits is continuing to innovate when it comes to rum cream. 

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