Winery owners in limbo amid pandemic | KOB 4

Winery owners in limbo amid pandemic

Casey Torres
Created: June 27, 2020 10:09 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Winery owners in New Mexico are in limbo. Earlier in the week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the state will not be entering Phase 2 of reopening.

Sean Sheehan, owner of Sheehan Winery in southwest Albuquerque, said he thinks the governor is handling the pandemic well, but is still left wondering why wineries not allowed to reopen like breweries.


Sheehan opened his winery five years ago.

“This winery is a dream come true for me, and I can feel that dream slowly slipping away,” he said.

With the pandemic, sales have gone down 70% compared to last year. He also had to let go of nine employees, and only has one part-timer.

Direct sales to consumers make up 90% of Sheehan's business. For Sheehan, selling to restaurants, breweries and large wineries doesn’t cut it.

“Unfortunately, at my winery, I can’t sell wine by the glass or allowed tastings. All I can do is sell retail bottles to people,” he said. “Without that in-person interactions, it’s really difficult to sell wine.”

Sheehan is a board member of the New Mexico Wine Association. His winery is one of 50 wondering what is going on with the public health order.

“We’re really looking for clarification from the governor’s office as far as when or if we might be able to reopen, and maybe why we weren’t included with breweries at the time of the last reopening,” he said.

He said they reached out to governor’s office several times since then, but haven’t recieved concrete answers.

He hopes they can get the green light to have at least a soft reopening, while practicing COVID-19 safety precautions. Sheehan said he isn’t ignoring the virus.

“My wife is an ICU doctor at the University of New Mexico Hospital, and she sees COVID patients every day. The virus and the pandemic are very real to me, very real to my family and very real to the wine industry on the whole,” he said.

Sheehan expects to be OK with his business but worries for the other wineries.

“My fear is that we’re not ever able to reopen, and we may see New Mexico wine die in this state,” said Sheehan.

KOB4 reached out to the governor’s office about why Phase 2 includes bars but not wineries. A spokesperson never got back to us.

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