How a Wine Country Wedding Venue Met the Pandemic

At Abbey Road Farm, shrunken guest lists and social distancing cannot stop true love.

By Margaret Seiler October 3, 2020 Published in the October 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Abbey Road Farm

Like Virginia and Sleater-Kinney, Oregon Wine Country is for lovers, with many wineries and vineyards doubling as popular wedding venues. At Abbey Road Farm near Carlton, most weddings were rescheduled to 2021, but some went ahead, with slashed guests lists and distanced receptions. We asked Kristen Baxter and James Rahn, director of events and director of winemaking, respectively, what it’s been like. 

Baxter: I was able to host a handful of small weddings when we were in phase 1, and before that we hosted maybe a half a dozen little intimate ceremonies that were 10 or less people. [Those first weddings] were basically the couple, their officiant, a photographer, the parents on both sides.... We couldn’t even serve any food or beverage, so it was really just the ceremony, and they took pictures, and they were on their way.... I think they just sort of realized if they wanted to get married this year that was what they were
going to have to do.

Rahn: We were shut down for a couple of months, and then Kristen’s misfortune of not having events meant we were able to move out of our small tasting room and take over the event space, so we could accommodate a lot of people and we could socially distance. It was actually quite a blessing for the tasting room side of things. We were busy from the get-go. We had plenty of people who wanted to be social, who wanted to drink in public. We didn’t do a lot of flights. People just wanted to come out, buy a bottle, and sit on the lawn.

Baxter: When we moved to the first phase of opening I hosted maybe four or five events for up to 25 people, which felt a little more normal, and then starting August 1 we can now host events up to 100 people. [Even at 100, a lot of couples] were supposed to have larger guest counts, so they’ve cut their guest counts way back.

Rahn: Since Kristen’s had some events, we’ve moved back [into the tasting room], and we’re building shade structures and things like that to make outside even more accommodating. Before it was very up close and personal, you got to choose your different flights, and now we have very standard flights. It isn’t exactly the business model I want for my tasting room, but because of COVID the less amount of close proximity and talking, the better.

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