California Winery Opens A Lounge For Chauffeurs

Posted on March 23, 2011 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

ABOUT PHOTO: Ehlers Estate winemaker Kevin Morrisey knows how to court clients and get on the good side of luxury limousine providers with his chauffeurs’ lounge.

SUMMARY: The boutique Ehlers Estate Winery in the Napa Valley region gives luxury chauffeured transportation companies a big incentive to bring customers.

ST. HELENA, Calif. — EHLERS ESTATE WINERY added another touch of class to its 43-acre chateau-style historic property last month by opening a lounge for chauffeurs who can relax and wait while their clients taste the elite establishment’s fine wines.

The lounge consist of a painted, converted trailer behind the winery that blends in with the bucolic surroundings, and inside offers chauffeurs and charter drivers an air-conditioned environment stocked with bottled water, snacks and magazines; features a flat screen TV and Wi-Fi; and provides an ideal spot where chauffeurs can refresh themselves while transporting all-day, wine-swilling clients during the hot summer months.

“The bottom line is that these guys are our customers, they’re not just somebody’s drivers,” said Kevin Morrisey, winemaker and general manager of Ehlers Estate, in an interview with LCT. “They deserve the best we can give them. We’re kind of having fun with it. It’s kind of the way I like to approach everything we do here. If we take care of our customers, they will be more satisfied and will be back.”

The lounge at Ehlers Estate is open throughout tasting room hours, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Tastings at Ehlers are by appointment only.

So far, the lounge is getting several chauffeurs and drivers per week, with many more expected during the Spring and Summer peak seasons, Morrisey said. About 50% of the winery’s customers arrive in chauffeured vehicles in groups of 2-8. The winery is not set up to handle large charter bus groups.

“We mostly see limousines since we get the more sophisticated customers who have been to Napa and know what it’s like to be driven and taste wine,” said Morrisey, adding that Ehlers wine come from 100% estate-grown grapes. “They like to buy and collect wine and to meet new people and sample new wineries.”

Touring wineries in limousines also is the safest and most enjoyable way to enjoy such excursions, and Morrisey wants the winery to more actively promote the use of chauffeured transportation.

All the credit for the lounge idea goes to Maria Newman, a winery sales manager, director of consumers and sales managers, who recently observed how chauffeurs were using a meager employee lounge at nearby winery, Morrisey said. “It turns out the chauffeurs loved it, being able to get out of the car, stretch their feet out, use a laptop computer and watch the basketball tournament.” Newman then figured out how to convert a mobile unit into a lounge and decorate and paint it to match the ambiance of the winery estate.

ABOUT EHLERS ESTATE WINERY: The prestigious Napa Valley winery, just north of downtown St. Helena, is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon “1886.” The 43-acre estate’s contiguous vineyards surround the historic stone winery built by Bernard Ehlers in 1886. Winemaker Kevin Morrisey produces fewer than 8,000 cases of critically-acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc each year — all organically farmed, using biodynamic practices.

Ehlers Estate is a unique winery because it is held in trust by the LEDUCQ FOUNDATION, a non-profit international organization with offices in Paris and Boston that has given more than $200 million in grants to international cardiovascular researchers in 16 countries over the past 12 years. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale of Ehlers Estate wines goes to the Leducq Foundation.

Guests can enjoy two different personalized, seated tasting experiences at Ehlers Estate: Visitors can taste all four Ehlers Estate wines for $25 per person or enjoy the Food & Wine Pairing for $50 per person. The Food & Wine Pairing includes a tour of the estate and biodynamic vineyards, a barrel tasting and a pairing featuring seasonal gourmet small bites prepared by the estate’s chef.

Information: (707)963-5972 or by visiting; www.EhlersEstate.com.

Sources: Martin Romjue, LCT editor; Ehlers Estate Winery

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