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The Wine Country Tasting Room Is Dead. But Long Live Wine Country

California’s wineries are looking for new ways to reach customers beyond the tasting room, and that includes comedians and pool parties.

Forget standing at a tasting bar. A trip to California’s wine country today means comedy shows, art museums, cabanas at pool parties, and interactive dinners—all with a glass in hand.

“People are no longer willing to just come into a tasting room, pay their tasting fees, try five wines, and move on,” explains Jim Morris, vice president of estate management and guest relations at Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley. “The tasting room experience has become much more than that.”

In the past five years, Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries have seen a shift in consumer behavior: Guests would rather have an experience at a winery or two per day rather than sip lineups of wines at five to eight properties. To capture that visitor’s attention takes more than great wine; it’s about creating a lasting experience that will hopefully build brand loyalty and lead to wine sales. With more than 1,000 wineries in the area, that’s a challenge that has them offering everything from unique culinary pairings to full-scale dance parties—and everything in between.

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