Operations

How To Tap Wine Tours For Meetings And Group Events

Posted on June 29, 2013 by - Also by this author

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After five years, wineries know that visitors from our limousine buses produce sales and enrollment in their wine clubs, making us a valued business partner. Our clients are pictured here enjoying two Paso Robles wineries on the tour.
After five years, wineries know that visitors from our limousine buses produce sales and enrollment in their wine clubs, making us a valued business partner. Our clients are pictured here enjoying two Paso Robles wineries on the tour.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- As a provider for many corporate accounts, I know they are always seeking new ideas for group outings. The line between working group and meeting events and setting up actual leisure tours is a thin one indeed, given that many meetings and convention clients are looking for something special beyond the work event.

Operators can assemble the tools to make a memorable event, as I did when I set up an unforgettable wine tasting tour. I created a vision that would be easy to manage. It turned into a trip I could do over and over again with each company believing it was unique to them.

To begin, I selected four wineries in the Central California coast region. This is a two-hour drive from my base city, Bakersfield, Calif. I chose the wineries based on the quality of the wine, uniqueness of the facility and the willingness to work with us. Don’t get discouraged when the selected venues seem less than enthusiastic about your idea. You will have to prove the relationship before you will be in a better negotiating position. Like any relationship, it will grow and improve with time.

At first, I was bound by strict rules. No winery wanted us to come after 3 p.m., fearing the passengers would all be drunk. I had to send a check in advance to secure the date and time. Today, any of my host wineries will take any of my groups at any time, and we pay by invoice. They also will open the winery early or stay late and serve dinner in a cave where wine is aged in barrels. After five years, wineries know that visitors from our limousine buses produce sales and enrollment in their wine clubs, making us a valued business partner.

Once the wineries were selected, I asked all four tasting room managers to recommend a caterer. Three out of four referred me to Cahoots Catering Co. of Paso Robles, Calif. Upon calling the owner of Cahoot’s the first time, he wanted a minimum headcount of 30 people. He asked for a deposit with my order and payment in full one week before the event. Today, my chauffeurs deliver a check to him at the side of his BBQ rig when we arrive. We developed a pre-set lunch menu of “Santa Maria style tri-tip beef,” a cuisine style unique to Central California. Also included is chicken, a vegetable lasagna, Santa Maria style beans, garlic bread and a dessert bar. The price is based per-head, and I mark up the price $10 per person. So on a group of 25, I am making an extra $250 for a phone call to set up the date and time.

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