Right before COVID-19 was on our doorstep, we featured Layton’s Chance Vineyard and Winery in Vienna, Maryland. Business was booming and the upcoming year looked encouraging. Recently, we caught up with Jennifer Layton to find out how things have been for their winery since the pandemic hit and changed so much in all our lives.
Over the past year, William and Jennifer Layton have adapted with the ever-changing COVID restrictions in some interesting ways for their vineyard and winery. “We increased the offerings on our website, created virtual tastings and tastings to-go, which are unique pairings that could be enjoyed at our winery or taken home,” Jennifer commented. “We developed a safe seating system to ensure our tables are cleaned between each group that uses them.” To provide a winery experience for smaller group celebrations, the Laytons also created VIP tastings, which includes a wine tasting and charcuterie.
For the Laytons, some of the changes they are making now will stay. “While I think the pandemic has been one of the scariest times to go through as a business owner, many of the changes we needed to make to remain open gave us new ways to serve our customers,” Jennifer says. “Our distribution sales and online sales increased significantly and now play a larger part in our overall sales strategy.” The couple even created a popular social media show to remotely engage with their fans called “Wednesday Winings” on Facebook Live.
There is one practice that won’t continue. “One practice that we are going to discontinue is the use of disposable items when possible,” she adds. “It is better for the environment as well as from a cost perspective.”
The winery has also added several new wines that will be coming out this year. One is the new Isidore Red, which is a black cherry wine dedicated to farmers, as St. Isidore is the patron saint of farming. Another variety planned for release later this year is Lime of the Vine, a lime-flavored white wine.
Although this past year has been a year of unknowns, many lessons have been learned. “One lesson is that innovation is key. We have to keep pushing forward,” Jennifer says. “Another lesson is that you need to be flexible and meet guests where they are and what type of experience they are looking for at their comfort level.”
Overall, Jennifer says that the winery is doing very well, yet is still ever-changing. “Every day, we discuss how we can serve our customers and guests within the confines of the new normal,” she adds. “It is amazing to look back and see how many innovations have come throughout the year, because we had to push our creativity to the limit.”